Trailblazing Your Path

Yumei Peterson, Strategic Program Manager (WW Shared Services)

Yumei

Plano Office next to a wall mural painted by employees during a Women’s Network Connections event.

In December of 2017, I moved my family from New Mexico to Texas to start a new chapter of my career at Palo Alto Networks for many reasons: best-in-class technology & solutions that customers loved; hyper-growth company & industry; and let’s be real, an amazing compensation plan & benefits. 

4+ years and three promotions later, I can honestly say that I am on a career journey of a lifetime. A journey that led me to be first the person in three brand new roles for the company.

Being in a brand new role has its challenges as I ventured into the great wide unknown, but I’ve found there are also invaluable learnings and priceless “first” moments where you get to be a part of the company’s history.  Above it all, one of the most rewarding aspects of trailblazing a career path is creating new possibilities for others who will follow behind . It’s an immense joy and blessing to set a firm foundation for this newly forged path for others to join in with their unique contributions to unlock all the potentials of this path and forge new ones. 

I am sharing a few of my learnings along my career journey to give hope and encouragement to those who are on their own career journeys!

Change  Brings Opportunity 

Change is the only constant in life and it rings particularly true in the workplace.  Yes, change can be uncomfortable and overwhelming with many uncertainties to consider. What is also true is that change always brings a gift in the form of opportunity.  Don’t be a bystander waiting for the wave of change to settle down, instead look for new gaps and needs in the business caused by this change where YOU can be the solution. 

As I look back at all three of my promotions, one common thread is that they were all during times of change in the business: we had a new VP join the organization, the company created a new program, and an unexpected leadership change.  These were moments in time where my hustle met opportunities, which resulted in dream jobs for me. Expect and embrace change to seize the opportunities at hand.  

Collect Skills, Not Titles

Consider these 2 statements, and see if you can tell the difference: 

  • In 5 years, I want to be a ______________.
  • In 5 years, I want to be able to do _____________.

When I first entered the Corporate world, I was set on becoming a sales manager and that was my goal.  Through the guidance of all my incredible mentors, I was able to change my outlook on my career path and decided to seek opportunities based on a new goal of learning new skills.  The way this played out in my career journey was:  

Started in a sales role -> transitioned into a sales operations role -> then got back into sales -> ventured into a sales enablement role -> built programs from the ground up -> now I am in a strategic program management role in sales.  

Through all of these dynamic experiences, I developed new “muscles”, gained new knowledge, widened my worldview, expanded my network, and became a jack of many trades.  What’s next? I don’t know what it is yet but I know it will be something that stretches me to be the best version of myself.

What Are You Waiting For? Dive In!

The best way to demonstrate that you can do something is to do it.  You don’t need the title of a manager to be a leader.  I am a leader because that’s who I am, not because someone told me to be.  Don’t wait for an invitation to show the world who you are, just dive in and be you! 

Not sure where to start? I have a hint for you.This is a place overflowing with opportunities to lead, be creative, make a difference, meet like-minded people, and have fun. Did you guess it?  It’s the Employee Resource Group! Get started by joining or volunteering to serve as a leader of an employee resource group that best aligns with your passion & interests.

When I first entered the Corporate world, I didn’t know a thing about professional skills such as networking, mentorships, or personal brand.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn these skills through various programs provided by the employee resource groups.  Until one day, I decided it’s time for me to dive in deeper and give back by serving as a leader in various groups.  Beyond the “cube”:  

  • Led the first Career Development Program for early-in-career sales professionals at the Plano office
  • Serve as the Plano site leader and advisory committee for the Women’s Networks Group
  • Co-founded the Toastmaster chapter at the Plano office, served as the President of the past 2 years, now starting a new role as an Area Director
  • Mentor to local university students and early-in-career professionals

I know, this is a classic MO of an overachiever.  I just can’t help it though; this is who I am and these “beyond the cube” engagements fill me with inspiration, motivation and joy!  When you do what you love, it’s not work anymore, it’s fuel that keeps you going. 

It’s All About the People

Most importantly, none of this is possible without the resilient support of my family members, friends, mentors, sponsors, peers, and amazing leaders.  Your career journey is not meant to be traveled alone.  Good company along the way who can point you in the right direction, keep you accountable to your goals, encourage you when you want to throw the towel in, or just “seat” with you as you regain your strength is the most important part of your journey.  I am sincerely grateful for the countless individuals who joined my journey along the way.  I know I wouldn’t be here without all of you and I will give back to help others. 

The key to beginning and maintaining fruitful relationships is for you to be authentically you. Not who you wish you could be, not who someone wants you to be, but just you being unapologetically you.  When you put your true self out there, the most amazing humans will emerge onto your path. When you find these kindred spirits, hang on to them and cherish them.  Life is more fun when you can share with the humans who accept you just the way you are because my friend, you are enough.   

Today, I choose to continue my career journey at Palo Alto Networks for the same reasons I joined the company plus one more; our company culture that thrives on the passion, creativity & dedication of the people.  I am proud to be a part of the Palo Alto Networks family where anything is possible together!