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Spotlight Series: Tiffany Moeller, Engineering Manager, Trust & Safety Engineering, at Cloudflare

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Inspired by women in tech and her nonprofit work, Tiffany, an Engineering Manager at Cloudflare, emphasizes human-centric engineering, mitigating harm, and fostering inclusivity. Read her interview to learn more.

As the Engineering Manager for Trust & Safety Engineering at Cloudflare, Tiffany brings nearly a decade of expertise in the Trust & Safety field, with a particular focus on child safety advocacy.

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Her career trajectory was shaped by early engagement in establishing a safe house for trafficking victims. Tiffany subsequently spearheaded the development of Trust & Safety tools and processes at a prominent childcare marketplace before founding a child-safety tech startup, after which she found her place at Cloudflare.

With a diverse career path, Tiffany offers a distinctive perspective on engineering, prioritizing the human aspects of technology, and emphasizing the importance of mitigating harm to vulnerable populations.

What first sparked your interest in working in the tech industry?

As a career changer, working in the tech industry wasn’t a childhood dream or even a high school ambition. It wasn’t until several years after I finished my studies in counseling at university, that the idea of having a tech career captured my imagination. Looking back on the winding path that led me from that point to being an engineering manager at Cloudflare today, I’ve found that at every major milestone, there were women in tech ahead of me who inspired my journey.

I was working in customer support at a tech company when I met Helen, a business analyst slinging impressive SQL queries and statistical analysis in R like it was nothing. On finding out that she had initially been hired into the same role I held, I assumed she must have studied something quantitative in university to make her transition from customer support possible. Then I learned that she had studied Spanish! If she could build these technical skills and move into an entirely different field after school, why couldn’t I? Before this revelation, I had never thought much about the tech industry, but meeting someone so similar to me in tech, opened a door I hadn’t even known existed.

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So I dove in. I immersed myself in books, online courses, workshops, and mentorship, and quickly found a passion for solving problems with my developing technical skills. An important point to note is that at the same time I was also volunteering in nonprofits aiding exploited children. I was teaching art at a residential safehouse serving minors and became aware of the dark side of technology used too often to facilitate exploitation.

However, I didn’t connect my work in the nonprofit sector and my work in the tech industry until I read a Women in Tech blog published by Thorn. It featured one of their data scientists, who wrote about her use of machine learning to fight child abuse on the dark web. This example propelled me deeper into the tech industry. I was driven by the profound impact technology could have in fighting against sexual exploitation, the effects of which I witnessed firsthand.

Other women who played significant roles in my journey include Alice, one of my data science instructors, Lisa, a leader in AI for social good, and Jen, an engineering director at Cloudflare. Along the way, I found men who became strong supporters of my career growth, but I attribute my initial decision to enter the tech industry to these women.

What qualifications have you found most useful to hold as a member of the engineering team?

The most successful engineers I’ve worked with have demonstrated both a curiosity about technical implementation (and the ability to quickly acquire new skills) but also possess a broader curiosity about the bigger picture. They can dive into the details and explore the inner workings of a system but are intentional about building a strong understanding of the context of their work.

What is the problem we are solving and how do certain implementation choices impact that outcome? Because the industry is evolving so rapidly, curiosity paired with an ability to learn quickly is an essential combination.

How can companies support women in the tech community better?

I think one of the best ways a company can generally offer support is through flexible working hours, work-from-home options, and parental leave policies. These policies can benefit everyone, not only women and mothers but also broaden the thinking and inner workings across teams.

I’ve known women who were in love with their career and surprised themselves by wanting time off after having a baby while others were surprised at how excited they were to return to work and interact with other adults again. Starting a family is life-changing in ways that we can’t always anticipate even for ourselves. After having my first child, I was incredibly grateful for the flexibility and support offered by my manager at Cloudflare during and after that major milestone.

People are complex and while everyone’s experience of starting a family is different, it is never an easy task to grow a family while simultaneously growing a career. Companies who thoughtfully craft corporate policies supporting people in this position will likely find it easier to both attract and retain women, especially mothers.

Another great way companies can support women is through internal employee resource groups (ERGs). At Cloudflare, our women-focused ERG, Womenflare, serves as a supportive community where women can connect, share experiences, and cultivate career growth through mutual support and mentorship.

Is there any advice you would give women in tech considering a career in engineering that you wish someone had told you?

  • Don’t self-eliminate from a career in engineering based on your background.

Software engineering is more about problem-solving than anything else. There is no magic required–you don’t need to have been a child prodigy–you just need to have a drive and ability to learn. Skills and experience in critical or systematic thinking, communication, and empathy can be built anywhere and are immediately transferable to a career in engineering.

  • Find something you are passionate about and see how engineers are contributing.

I have distinct memories from when I was growing up, of my dad and brother building computers together and working on technical projects that I had absolutely no interest in. Personally, as a young person dreaming about a future career, I found myself drawn to work I thought would help make the world a better place–for example, a marine biologist studying endangered species or a therapist working with children–but I didn’t have a sense for the ways software can be leveraged as a powerful force multiplier in the field of social or environmental impact.

Everyone has a different “why” behind their motivation for work, but I suspect in most cases, a career in software engineering can align with that motivation in a very powerful way. Acknowledging and pursuing my “why”, rather than attaching myself to a specific company, role, or tech stack, has helped me advance my career in ways that align with my personal mission.

  • Connect with people who are ahead of you on your career journey.

There are amazing and inspirational people doing world-changing work in software development. Many of them would be happy to have a conversation or give you a glimpse of their day-to-day work, especially as you are considering an engineering career!

In starting my tech journey, LinkedIn was a powerful tool. It helped me connect with many people I could not have met otherwise, especially other women in tech, who generously helped me understand the breadth of work in their fields. This insight was critical in focusing the direction of my continued education and career development.

 

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