Reach for the Career You Want

By Dilruba Malik, Software QA Manager

Diruba

My background is proof that if you work hard, reach for what you want, and refuse to become derailed by obstacles, you can have the career that you desire. Today, as an Engineering Manager, leading a highly talented software QA engineering team with Palo Alto Networks, I feel I am living the dream I have held since I was a child. 

I grew up in rural Bangladesh, where education is a privilege, not a right. But I had a dream that I would someday become an engineer. This goal would by no means be easy to reach, but I had learned early on that I would have to persevere and work extra hard if I were to achieve this goal. I put in many hours of studying, which helped me to take and score well on my college entrance exams. 

Just as I was beginning my studies at college, I had to move to the U.S. with my family. I didn’t speak any English, so here I was at age 21, working my way up from the bottom once again. Because I then had to support my family, I had to take a series of odd jobs, at times earning only $5 an hour, and I worked both day and night so that my younger brothers could complete their education. 

My first job in the U.S. was at McDonald’s, which gave me a great opportunity to interact with many Americans each day, which helped me to quickly pick up the English language. Eventually, I earned a promotion to assistant store manager. And though I had experienced a setback on the journey to reach my goal of becoming an engineer, I didn’t become discouraged — I knew in my heart that it would happen, but it just might take longer than I had wanted. My hard work paid off and I was accepted to Georgia Institute of Technology, where I earned an electrical engineering degree, all while continuing to work and support my family.

After years of hard work, I graduated from Georgia Tech, and I went on to secure engineering roles with several multinational companies, from Microsoft to Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, and, in May 2020, my current role with Palo Alto Networks. I also have been fortunate to be involved in Women in Tech, giving talks and sharing my story to hopefully inspire other women who face challenges. I have a great opportunity through this network to show others what is possible through vision and hard work.

Since joining this company a year ago, I feel I am where I belong. This is a company that welcomes and celebrates the many differing cultures and experiences that our employees bring. I have been welcomed wholeheartedly by my colleagues, despite (thanks to COVID) never having met them in person. In the short time I’ve been here, I have been empowered to introduce many new processes and allowed to bring positive changes that were inspired by my past experiences. This is a company where anyone can voice any concern without hesitation and always feel that you are working together as a very committed and engaged team. 

My experiences have taught me to appreciate what I have, to make do with very little, and to treat everyone with respect by understanding each individual’s unique challenges. You never know what someone else is going through or how a little support and encouragement can be just what that person needs to achieve their goal.  

As someone who still finds inspiration in challenge and pushing myself to the next level, I am happy to have found a role with Palo Alto Networks, a company that encourages this mindset and offers every employee the chance to take on new responsibilities and push boundaries to see what’s possible. And it makes every employee — no matter where they come from or what they’ve experienced — feel included and welcomed.