Head in the Cloud

Vinay Venkataraghavan

Cloud CTO, Prisma Cloud, R&D

I started working in security when it wasn’t glamorous. I just love math — so much so that I earned my degree in math and computer science at Southern Methodist University. I went on to earn my master’s degree in computer engineering, specializing in security protocols because I was fascinated by cryptography and how it involved using math to solve real problems. My thesis actually dealt with the validation of security protocols.

I graduated and got a job in Silicon Valley for a security company. That was 14 years ago, in a time when no one really thought all that much about cybersecurity. Now companies are investing a lot into this industry, and there are so many careers opening up that didn’t exist before. 

For a few years, I worked for a startup that built large-scale, distributed storage systems for enterprises. I got to help the company reinvent I/O virtualization, which was groundbreaking at the time and was really exciting for me. From there I joined another firm that built a Software as a Service (SaaS) application that would allow enterprises to move their workloads from on-premise environments into the cloud, which, again, was ahead of its time. So I’ve been fortunate to have worked for forward-thinking companies and help develop what we now know as the public cloud. The work I have done throughout my 15 years is what I get to leverage at Palo Alto Networks today.

I actually had an opportunity to join Palo Alto Networks right from the beginning, when it was a brand-new startup, but at the time I was enjoying the work I was doing and I wasn’t ready to go. But while I loved that work, if I had it to do over again, I would have joined Palo Alto Networks sooner, without question. We’re working on technology that is going to change how enterprises function. It’s going to be part of their core, a crucial piece of the puzzle, and that’s not something many companies can say. For someone just starting out in their career, to be part of that journey is just incredible.

But job satisfaction and the ability to come in every day and make an impact are what’s most important to me. The ability to learn new technologies, build products, and have them actually be used by customers to secure our future is what drives me. It’s what I’m passionate about. And that’s why I come to work every day. I can achieve all that at Palo Alto Networks. 

The Importance of Cybersecurity in the Cloud and the Careers that Come With It 

I am the Principal Cloud Architect at Palo Alto Networks, but I think of myself as the cloud-native and container-native security evangelist. Pardon the pun, but in this role, I’m developing cloud security products from a “high level.” My goal is to make our products more cloud-native, which involves working with many of our products, including Prisma, our cloud security platform, which includes  RedLock, a threat-detection and security analytics platform, and Twistlock, a software suite for securing cloud-native applications. 

In the last couple of years, many chief information security officers (CISOs) and IT departments at major corporations around the world have been mandated by their top executives that large percentages of their business need to be migrated to the cloud within a couple of years. What we often see is that these are well-entrenched enterprises that up to this point have stored information in on-premise data centers. They see migrating to the cloud as an opportunity to be far more agile and have infinite capacity, just a few clicks away. But they don’t realize how much complexity is involved with making sure their assets stay secure — they understand the need for cybersecurity in the cloud, but they frequently take for granted that the cloud is secure, and that isn’t always the case. And with the proliferation of smart devices consuming more of our daily lives — and the cloud — every day, that’s an assumption we cannot afford to make.

That’s where Palo Alto Networks comes in. Our employees act as security advisors to educate our customers about why they need a partner like us to provide security in the cloud, and help them understand the full range of tools we offer through our platform to help address their security needs. I also work with cloud service providers to ensure that our products not only integrate seamlessly with theirs but that we adhere to a shared security model that enables enterprises to confidently transition to the cloud, and that our products can be smoothly integrated with theirs. 

I develop prototypes and proofs of concept and demonstrate them for our marketing team so they can understand and highlight the work we’re doing. And at times I’m writing white papers or presenting webinars about our products and cloud security. While this may not all be in a day’s work, I am fortunate to be part of the entire lifecycle of our products, from conception to creation and beyond, and my job is never dull. 

Whether you’re seeking a new career, contributing to the migration and security of the cloud, or building the architecture to get us there, now’s the time to start exploring.