Cloudflare CEO pledges to double 2020 internship class

Internet security company Cloudflare has pledged to double its Summer 2020 internship class, and make the entire program remote if necessary, in response to cancellations of internships programs across the country due to COVID-19.

Yelp, Funding Circle, StubHub and other companies have terminated their internship programs and hiring, citing the uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on the economy and health. Others programs are in flux, and some are honoring programs and moving remote.

Cancellations show the virus’s impact on not just our current workforce, but our future one, too. For students entering a workforce at a potential economic downturn, the funnel into new jobs becomes especially important.

While Cloudflare’s internship program is traditionally finalized by late fall, Prince says that a flurry of emails came in from worried students once the pandemic hit the U.S: Will the internship be canceled? Will they be moving remote? How will start dates work? And what about that flight to San Francisco for on-boarding?

Keeping the program was a “no brainer” says Prince, but he said he made the decision to double the program’s size when he saw and TechCrunch’s coverage that cancellations were happening across the country.  

“Every company is in a different position. And if this had been a banking crisis, or this has been an agricultural crisis, there wouldn’t be that much that CloudFlare could do,” Prince said. “But because this has been a crisis that’s forced us all to rely more on the internet, that is our business at Cloudflare.”

Now, Cloudflare’s program will include roughly 100 students with one mentor dedicated to each student. After reaching out to the employees to see who would volunteer to mentor, CloudFlare was able to increase the team size.

The other reason that Prince is open to allowing remote interns is because his remote staff is currently at a “high level of productivity.” That proven success gave him confidence to recreate the experience regardless of where the student is based.

The hires will be across nearly every department, with a focus on bringing on more engineers.

Prince does, however, recognize that the uptick can potentially create a difficult learning environment for students looking for a close-knit employment experience.

Another downside is that the company usually flies new hires over to San Francisco for on-boarding, and that will now be done remotely. And, at the end of the summer, the entire company convenes for an intern presentation. While the presentation will take place, with double the people and no place to host, they will look different.

Prince is calling on other companies in financially stable situations to increase intern headcount, as well. He said he’s game to collaborate with other internship trackers, like, to pass on worthy resumes once Cloudflare fills its summer cohort.

“The strongest teams are the most diverse teams, and I think that for us the silver lining of this remote work is that it has opened up our ability to maybe select some interns that wouldn’t have been willing to move to SF, or Austin, or London, or Lisbon,” he said.

“The worst experience if you’ve ever had an internship is that you got lost or forgotten about,” he said. “So the real limiting factor for us is to find people that can serve mentorship positions.”

“The world is running effectively the biggest work from home experiment,” Prince said. “It’s going to be an experiment for us, and hopefully a great experience for interns as well.”

And of course, if COVID-19 is no longer a threat come summer, Prince says that students will have the option to work remotely or come to San Francisco.

More broadly, Cloudflare has no plans for layoffs and is continuing to hire through the pandemic.

Cloudflare, which debuted on the public market in September, launched soon after the financial crisis of 2008. Prince had run out of money and asked his mother for loans. Michelle Zatlyn, the co-founder of Cloudflare, was part of one of the few Google internship classes that didn’t get return offers.

So, with few options, Zatlyn and Prince worked on a school project together in business school. Their project ended up becoming Cloudflare, and their other classmates went on to found Thredup and Rent the Runway.

For the co-founders, “options drying up” was part of the founding story of what is now a billion-dollar business. So when it came to seeing other interns in the same place, Cloudflare felt right at home to help.