In my role as Project Manager for Palo Alto Networks’ People Team, I assist with guiding a number of employee initiatives, including corporate responsibility and rollout of Reflektive, but I’m chiefly responsible for our Performance Elevation initiative. Through this program, I am deeply involved in helping our employees chart their own career paths, by overseeing a program that encourages them to set and achieve goals and take advantage of personal and professional development opportunities.
Additionally, as an employee who joined Palo Alto Networks as an intern and has experienced my own considerable career growth since joining this company, I have seen firsthand the opportunities available here to learn and grow in your career. In my case, my internal mobility into my current position began with a simple conversation.
I joined Palo Alto Networks as an intern in our Talent Acquisition department, which deals with new employee recruitment. I was fortunate that the company was incredibly flexible and willing to let me work part-time as I completed my college classes. And when I graduated in 2018, my enthusiasm for this company, the work, and learning all I could about the business helped me to earn a full-time position in Talent Acquisition Operations.
After about a year, I got to thinking about what next step I might like to take in my career. Project management appealed to me. Rather than being task-oriented, it would enable me to see the big picture, work with different people and teams to accomplish milestones, and enjoy the fact that every day would bring something new. It was a skill set I knew would be valuable throughout my career and give me great visibility among high-level executives.
So I took the first step and contacted someone on our People Team and expressed my interest in project management and in developing skills such as public speaking and leadership. Then I asked if I might have the opportunity, pending my manager’s approval, to shadow one of the People Team’s project managers to see whether this was a role I really wanted to pursue.
Without hesitation, they agreed, and my manager was completely supportive of this idea. So when the department was later reorganized and the Project Manager role on the People Team became open, I was fortunately positioned to take it on, which I did in 2019.
I suppose you could say I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But I’d also carved out that path for myself, and with the incredible support I received from both my original and new managers, I landed right where I wanted to be.
In my role as Project Manager, I primarily oversee Performance Elevation, which involves leading weekly meetings of a cross-functional core team of about 20-25 people. My job is to manage the project plan, obtain status updates, ensure we’re meeting deliverables, determine our resources, and communicate with the executive team or stakeholders about how the project is going.
Since taking on this role, my leadership and confidence have grown so much. I used to be so nervous, I would never have been able to lead a meeting without sweating, but now I do this every week! I’m able to voice my opinions with confidence, work with a wide range of people, and steer them in the right direction. My overall comfort with leadership and my ability to accept new challenges are certainly due to my project management position.
I’m able to say, both from my own personal experience and from leading Performance Elevation, that Palo Alto Networks is a company where career growth is completely employee driven. I know it can feel intimidating to approach a manager about wanting to move into a new role, and in some businesses, a manager might even treat such a conversation with contempt. But here, there’s an overwhelming amount of support for employees to grow and take on the positions that best suit their talents and interests.
My advice to anyone who’s interested in taking the next step in their career or who is concerned about whether this company offers growth opportunities is to be clear and transparent. I’m so glad I spoke up and expressed my desire to move into project management — that conversation led me to where I am today. I think the key is focusing on where you want to be, enthusiastically taking on learning opportunities and new responsibilities, and talking to people. At this company, I’ve seen that people are more than willing to sit down and talk to you about what they do, so reach out and ask questions! Pick people’s brains. Ask about job shadowing or whether you can do informational interviews. Focus on where you want to go, not what you want to leave behind. Ultimately, when you’re doing the work you want to do, you’re more likely to give it your all and bring value, which benefits both yourself and the company too.