A Seat at the Table

By Aneesha More, Senior Customer Success Engineer, Cortex

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I grew up in Mumbai with the goal of studying engineering and becoming a hardware designer. I was fortunate to earn a bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecommunications in India — an opportunity that few women in India get to experience. In 2017, I moved to the United States to earn my master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus. Upon graduation, I was ready to put my skills to test in the industry. I soon realized that getting a job wasn’t going to be that easy.

I was told by many that companies are more likely to hire if you are referred by an employee. I reached out to a friend who was working at an exciting cybersecurity company named Demisto and asked if he knew of any open positions. He suggested that I come to interview there. I was a little uncertain about entering an industry that I had little experience in. But I did my research and was fascinated by this product. I learned that in only three short years, Demisto had made huge strides in the area of cybersecurity automation. 

During my interview, I could see that they were extremely talented people, and I could also hear the passion in their voices. This made me even more excited. As I cleared the different stages of the interview process and was offered the job, I was thrilled about working with this amazing team on this dynamic product. I feel extremely grateful that my friend referred me to this role, and I have never regretted for one moment that I didn’t stick to electrical engineering.

Inclusive Culture

I was hired in August 2018, and seven months later, Demisto was acquired by Palo Alto Networks. I was apprehensive at first. After all, I had just joined Demisto, a company I loved, and I was worried about being able to keep my job, whether my team would remain intact, and whether the product would change. But, very soon, I realized that my current team and managers would remain the same, yet with Palo Alto Networks, we had a much larger presence and endless potential, so this incredible, small team now had an opportunity to shine on a much larger scale. 

Not only that, but the workplace culture was wonderful. The company had a true commitment to inclusion and diversity. As an early-in-career woman of color in tech, I appreciated the efforts being made to increase diversity and to discuss a lot of the issues people like me faced each day, which was extremely empowering. I could see how much the company’s leaders cared about their employees. 

For a while, I was the only female engineer on the Cortex XSOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) team. But even though the number of females has slightly grown, I definitely have, in the beginning of my career, been the only woman in the room during meetings and conferences, and I have experienced exclusion — albeit unintentional — which was difficult to navigate at first. But as I gained confidence in my work and the more I started talking, the more comfortable I felt asking questions. I think a lot of women worry about asking questions, but I felt like it was my moral responsibility to ask so that others would feel comfortable doing so as well. That was when I started making a place for myself. In my mind, if I’m asking a question worth answering, I have a presence on the team. I’m not fading into the background. I have a voice.

As I became part of Palo Alto Networks, I continued that practice. I was fortunate to have a lot of amazing mentors on the team (who happened to be men) who were extremely helpful and encouraging, and who happily answered those questions and taught me everything I know today. They made a real effort toward being inclusive, which is representative of how this company operates. In fact, my current manager invited me to be part of the hiring team, which I saw as a deliberate effort on his part to show that he cares about diversity on the team — having a woman engineer be a part of the interview process tells the candidate how we want our team to look, and that to me is very special. 

Though I don’t think anyone in tech sets out to exclude women, I think the gender gap happens early on, when recruiters are reaching out to new job candidates. Companies seek referrals from current employees they trust to fill open positions. So if there’s a majority of men, they will probably mostly know other men to refer, so the cycle continues. It’s hard for women to make a dent in that network. That’s why I think it’s so important for women to network with each other more than they do — and why we need more of us to share stories about our experiences and show what’s possible.

Nearly 50% of the world’s power is held by women, so without women in cybersecurity, think of the potential we’re missing! Women are multitaskers, with a temperament that enables us to navigate difficult situations calmly and respectfully, and often we can engage one on one with customers in a different, more empathetic way. In a role such as mine, which involves dealing with customers, those talents are crucial. Yet women often lack the confidence to apply for these roles. 

In fact, what I’ve seen is that if a job posting lists 10 qualifications, men who may not meet all 10 requirements are still more likely to apply anyway than women are. But you can’t get hired for a job you don’t apply for! So I encourage more women to seek out these roles and to be confident in their abilities. Believe in the value you bring to the workplace — this is a company that I know from personal experience will welcome it. 

**The Cortex Customer Success team is looking to bring in more diverse talent. Please check out our careers page for remote opportunities as Customer Success Manager, Customer Success Engineer, and Customer Success Architect roles. If you have a passion for technology and working with customers on cutting-edge products, we want to talk to you! We are hiring Cyber Ninjas all across the United States.**