How Cloud Academy stays aligned at scale with Pulse

We interviewed Stefano Bellasio, CEO and Founder at Cloud Academy. Stefano explained why they adopted Pulse and how people at Cloud Academy are benefiting from using Pulse.

We founded Cloud Academy Inc. in 2013, in the US. We started with the idea of teaching people tech skills in a different way. Today Cloud Academy is the #1 Tech Skills Management platform, used by Fortune 500 companies worldwide to assess, develop and validate their tech skills. We work primarily with enterprise organizations in the US, EMEA, and Asia but our customers are in many industries, from tech to pharma and banking. They bring to Cloud Academy their entire IT organization and take full control of their skills while developing their people.

In a world where companies need to constantly build more software and digital services, Cloud Academy helps them develop and retain their tech talent, letting them build career paths, measuring their skill gaps, and running programs at scale for upskilling on cloud, software and data skills.

When we started Cloud Academy in San Francisco we seriously thought we would have ended up really having just two locations: Switzerland (for our engineering team) and San Francisco.

We couldn’t be more wrong!

That was 2013 and by 2016 we were already onboarding people in several states across the US. We couldn’t simply find everyone we needed in San Francisco for our content team, and the same quickly happened for Sales and Customer Success. All of a sudden we found ourselves hiring people for fully remote positions. It makes me laugh thinking that we did that without even realizing it.

Fast forward to today, we are getting closer to 200 people in our team that are truly globally distributed. We operate in about 7 countries, with the US, Canada and Switzerland being our biggest centers, but we have just one office and everyone else is fully remote. By the end of 2021 we will likely have even more countries (and time zones!), we are adding more people in EMEA and continuing our growth in the US.

How did Pulse get adopted by Cloud Academy? Can you share more about the problems that you needed to solve?

When you start hiring people remotely and you pass 50 people in your organization, you need to start paying more attention to communication. Not just the CEO, everyone all of a sudden needs to keep the company informed on what’s going on. It can be that new product feature the team has been building without Sales knowing that or constant feedback our customers give us that nobody in marketing and product knows about!

These episodes start small and you usually try to fix them on the fly, but at some point, they really create large issues for the entire company. I can tell you that there is nothing worse than having 50-100 people not knowing what your company is doing and why.

I think that it was around 2015 when we realized that we really needed to put more effort into our communication and find new ways to talk to our people. We had people in California and people in Switzerland, 9 hours in between them and… a different culture. We tried Basecamp and we used it for quite a few years. Then we jumped on Slack as it became more popular.

In 2019-2020 things got more complicated. We had many more enterprise customers, more demanding customers, and a lot of new people joining us across all departments. We started using Pulse because we felt the need to simply communicate more and more frequently while avoiding something “fast” and easy to forget like a Slack message.

Since then we’ve been relying on Pulse to communicate with our people and it’s is improving quite a lot the visibility that everyone has in what we do and why.
I think the thing that I love the most is that it allows everyone to “talk” to the rest of the organization.

What were your initial use cases with pulse? Can you make any examples?

So, we release 700+ new courses every year in our library and about 100 new features on our platform. At some point it was really a struggle to let everyone in Sales/Marketing and Customer Success follow that, asking questions on when that was going live and how to introduce that to customers. We were scheduling more and more meetings. Which is honestly what everyone does, but it was still not efficient and not scalable.

A few months ago we introduced a new big feature for our Enterprise customers, a new organization system to onboard and manage their people in Cloud Academy. Our Product team used Pulse to collect feedback across the CS and Sales teams and then we kept them up to date on the migration process for all our customers. If something was wrong or not expected, they could let our product people know quickly and vice versa.

Everyone in CS (in the US and UK) was constantly aware of the new batches of customers to migrate and was following the updates we were making to the product to communicate regularly with our customers.

Once you brought the product in what were the first people’s reactions? How was the general response from the employees?

“Another tool, really?” Joking, that is always the reaction! I think people wanted to understand its value and why spending time, again, on another tool. Once they saw they could write and update everyone quickly, in one place, they started using it more and more.

At the end of the day, people like to see value in what they do and how they spend their time, I think that showing how Pulse could help them was the most important aspect of introducing it.

Which are the teams that use Pulse the most right now? For which use cases?

I’d say it’s pretty good. Product and Content teams are using it the most, but that’s because they are the ones that need to be closer to the rest of the organization.

Most of the time it’s about new features we are building, they use it to communicate ETAs and new functionalities, but also to collect feedback across the rest of the organization.

What are the most helpful features of Pulse?

Streams. I love the idea of following specific areas of the company and being constantly up to date, even if I don’t work with that department very often. It builds a rhythm and it shares that with the rest of the organization.

What are the other internal tools that you use to communicate at Cloud Academy along with Pulse?

Slack is definitely the main one for us together with emails.

Who would you recommend Pulse to?

I think that a company of our size and above does really need something like Pulse. If you are remote you need something to keep everyone aligned, and if your people are in different time zones and from different cultures, you truly appreciate the difference it makes.

I would suggest it also to companies where there are multiple teams distributed, like having your Product team or Sales team in multiple locations. Improving internal communication is a game-changer for the business and so it is asking everyone to start using Pulse more.

For which companies do you think it works? For which it doesn’t?

Clearly distributed and global companies are the best fit for something like Pulse. It’s really the basics of what you need to do to keep everyone aligned. I personally think that every company, even with people on the same floor or office, needs to use something like this once they pass 50 people.

If you either don't have a strong written culture or you don't want to have one at all, then Pulse isn't the tool you need.

On the other side, if you're truly looking to level up your company alignment, create a remote-friendly culture and enable your people to do their best work by giving them the info they need, then Pulse is the obvious choice.