Improving the Customer Experience

Lakshmi Premakumari, Senior Manager, JAPAC Technical Support

I am a technology professional with over 20 years’ experience in the networking industry with the last two spent at Palo Alto Networks. In my current role at Palo Alto Networks, I am part of the APAC (Asia-Pacific) Global Customer Success (GCS) management team that oversees support operations and ensures that we have a satisfied customer base in APAC. 

During my high school years, I was fairly clear that I would choose a career in either technology or administration. Back then, computer programming was just beginning to become a fad, and coding courses were newly introduced into the school curriculum. I used to enjoy having the ability to solve problems in a logical manner in my programming classes. One thing led to another, and I wound up pursuing my bachelor’s degree in engineering, followed by a career in computer networking.

Career Transition

I spent most of my career in quality assurance and management roles, within product engineering organizations. I have enjoyed being part of new product initiatives (NPI) and projects that help to deliver tangible products to the market. 

However, over the last few years, being in Singapore, I realized that I needed to be closer to the customer to get a real taste of the business. This made me pursue a Master of Business Administration degree, simultaneously scouting for opportunities that were different from what I had been doing before. The Tech Support role at Palo Alto Networks seemed ideal to help put me in close contact with the customer and also to get an understanding of business drivers in the industry. 

Fast-paced — that’s the best way to describe Tech Support. Customers expect problems to be solved pronto, and this demands urgent action. I have huge respect for my colleagues who continually take calls from customers — customers whose emotions are somewhere within the spectrum of confused, desperate, frustrated, or angry. Members of Technical Support have to maintain their own composure, calm down the situation, and then go about troubleshooting technical problems. It requires a demanding combination of excellent technical and communication skills. 

This is where work-life balance is important. When work takes up so much of our time and mindspace, it is hard to not call it an integral part of our lives. On an average day, most of us spend more than 70% of our waking hours at work. This means that work has to be taken as part of life and not contrary to it. To keep an inner balance, I try to follow a routine that involves reserving early morning hours for yoga and meditation. I also squeeze in a walk or work out after work, whenever I can. Outside of spending time with my family, I have a variety of interests like playing games, reading, and contributing to certain social causes. I try to be genuinely present at work during working hours and with family during off-work hours, though I must admit that there are unavoidable encroachments into both. 

Women in Tech Support

As a professional, I hardly ever identify myself with being a female worker – rather the focus is always on the task at hand. However, it is no secret that there are fewer women than men in tech support professions. Knowledge-centric professions are great levellers for women in the workforce, as they remove the requirement for physical prowess and technical support roles should be no different. Unfortunately, job requirements for technical support roles usually detail a need for shift timing and weekend work. This may be a deterrent for women who are technology savvy but unable to commit to schedules that are outside of traditional working hours. Conscious action by companies such as ours, with carefully worded job descriptions and supportive policies for employers, can help us have more smart women take up this role. 

Due to the obvious competitive advantage that a diverse workforce brings, there is conscious effort around the world, to have greater participation from the female workforce in all levels of the organization. In this environment, the female professionals should not miss out on opportunities due to lack of self-confidence or initiative. Research has shown that the female employee is more likely to doubt herself and her contributions as compared to her male counterpart. As female leaders, we need to be introspective and consciously rise above these self-defeating doubts and not trivialize our value. The entire leadership team, irrespective of gender, plays a vital role in supporting this. Looking forward to seeing great female talent and leadership blossoming in our organization!