A conversation with Cloudflare’s global head of recruitment, Scott Tomtania

‘Listen, listen, listen. The world is a fast-changing place.’
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· 4 min read

Scott Tomtania never planned to pursue a career in HR. After graduating from East Carolina University’s MBA program, he worked in sales until he was recruited into the search profession. Nearly two decades later, he’s the global head of recruitment at IT services firm Cloudflare, a position he has held since 2017. In a conversation with HR Brew, Tomtania shared his views on how HR leaders should think about the racial makeup of teams and what they can do to make the field more inclusive for the next generation.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What is the best policy change or update that you’ve made in a place you’ve worked?

During Cloudflare’s interview process, we have [the] candidate meet someone that would be outside of their team [and] typical workflow, and this intentionally adds another layer to ensure that diverse groups and…thinking is part of the entire consideration of Cloudflare…And it’s served us really, really well.

Surveys suggest about 10% of HR professionals are Black. How do you think HR should be thinking about the racial makeup of people teams?

I firmly believe that the most productive, the most successful companies have to be diverse, because we have to reflect the market that we serve…to be able to do that, our teams also have to be diverse, so that we can gain a clearer understanding of what those segments of the population are. Along with that, the best place to start is the HR team. We can help the entire company become diverse if the HR team is diverse, and I’ve been really, really fortunate that that’s exactly what we believe in [at Cloudflare] and building our teams first. So, when I’m building my own individual team, I think about how I can build a diverse team so that I can lead the way in the organization.

What should HR leaders do to ensure they’re creating an inclusive environment for the next generation of HR leaders?

The number one thing I would tell HR leaders…is, first: listen, listen, listen. The world is a fast-changing place. Prior to 2020, most companies were in an office environment, but it’s changed very rapidly. So, being able to clearly listen to what our employees are saying or what others are saying is very critical.

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The next one I would add to this is being flexible. In the face of a lot of uncertainties, it’s very, very important for us to…not pretend to know the answer to everything—be very flexible and adapt very quickly.

Another one I want to share to people leaders is: Be the example…I feel that business decisions are inherently people decisions. So, how we lead our functions sets the tone for how others will lead the functions, regardless of the policies that we implement, and regardless of all the bells and whistles that we add to a company, we have to lead by example first.

In what ways does the HR field need to change?

I think really ensuring that we are truly embodying the vision of the company, while also clearly listening to the changing times and adapting to them…people take one HR principle and feel like they can apply it everywhere…But what if we were to really reimagine how we can build a future of HR so that we can help companies achieve what they’ve never been able to achieve before?

We need to do a very good job growing the next generation of HR leaders…It feels like there is a gap between the leaders who’ve achieved what they need to achieve and the next generation of HR leaders…What I’ve done in my own personal life is to try to pay this forward. So, I take a number of folks on, some of them have asked me if I can mentor them, and I spend some time mentoring them. And sometimes I spend an hour just sharing some knowledge back to them, so that I’m also building the next generation, not just at Cloudflare, but also outside.

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