Growing my Career with Internal Mobility

Tammy Tong, Regional Global Account Manager

I joined Palo Alto Networks in May of 2016 as a Major Account Manager. I was so excited to join the cybersecurity industry, one that drew me because of its global mission and vision. The leadership team in this region was compelling, looking at how the strong management team in Greater China would help my professional career and knowledge. Building my reputation, gaining experience, and deepening my knowledge under the tutelage of Adrian Chan’s and Wickie Fung’s leadership has provided me with so many opportunities. It’s hard to explain how grateful I am for this opportunity, and how much I have learned from them since joining almost four years ago. 

It wasn’t just about learning new things when I joined here. My managers and support system know both my strengths and weaknesses, helping me develop my strengths, and mitigate weaknesses to make me a stronger sales professional. With Wickie’s advice, I built my industry knowledge, while he partnered with me to close deals that supported our client’s infrastructure and goals for protecting their data. 

It wasn’t all work, though. The leadership team builds an environment that created a sense of fun, momentum, challenge, and appreciation. All of us are work-hard play-hard, but underlying this is our commitment to integrity and execution. When I was working for HK team, Wickie also assigned me to be “CEO” of the team – Chief Entertainment Officer. If you focus too heavily on work every day, especially in an industry as high pressure as ours, it becomes heavy. The burden can be difficult – the threats we face each day get bigger, more difficult. But that doesn’t mean we stay serious – in fact, it’s so important to create an environment that lightens the burdens we all face in our drive to the mission. After every quarter, we find a way to connect more personally with each other, and my role as Chief Entertainment Officer is to find a way to connect us on this level more often. 

Apart from working for the Hong Kong Team, the leadership team with individuals like Adrian Chan help us build momentum within Greater China. Because of the retail industry and customer business needs, I am often pulled across Greater China and surrounding APAC countries. It’s given me exposure to new cultures, experiences, and professional capabilities. I’ve been driven to collaborate around the region, identifying the best possible solutions for our customers seeking answers to the complex cyber threats facing them around the world. 

Starting my 16th quarter at Palo Alto Networks, with management support, I joined the Globals team here, now working as Regional Global Account Manager for Greater Chinese global accounts. In this transition, I can feel our company’s commitment to inclusion, knowing that they care about our career development, progression, and incorporation of more voices at every level and background. Each new opportunity I earn, I feel as though there’s an entirely new job to learn. This position is a lot different from my previous role, giving me exposure to new opportunities and people who can build my own capability and development. 

Today, Palo Alto Networks has already been an industry market leader and I’m proud to be a part of the team. It’s truly a disruption driven environment, and it’s amazing what we can accomplish together, with our incredible coworkers and products. 

But my success wasn’t an accident. I have been successful for a lot of reasons – and some of the keys to my success are many. For me? It comes down to communication and collaboration. These skills are so important to the team, and through that comes the feeling of inclusion, and the opportunity to identify the best strategy and solution. No solution is created without contributions from different perspectives. Success is never attributed to an individual, instead, it’s the strengths of a team that create the best result.

My Palo Alto Networks Journey

Amy Finer, Territory Sales Manager

I started my journey with Palo Alto Networks in April 2019, and I can, to this day, remember the feelings of excitement and gratitude I received the call from HR telling me I was being offered a role to join the Sydney sales team. Not only was I excited to be joining the fastest growing, most innovative cybersecurity company in the world, I was also looking forward to joining a team whose values I knew would align with mine.

My background

I grew up in a very multicultural environment – my mother is Swedish, my father is British but spent the majority of my childhood in Brussels, Belgium before moving to the UK to study. I graduated with a law degree and spent some time working in the legal industry before I gained a few years experience selling legal services to law firms. With limited experience selling Cybersecurity technology, I often get asked why I got into cybersecurity and how I managed to secure a role as a Territory Sales Manager role with Palo Alto Networks in Australia, especially as I had no local sales experience and what this transition has been like.

My  journey to joining Palo Alto Networks

When I arrived in Australia early 2019, I was determined to find a role within a company I could see myself working at for the foreseeable future. Deciding what is right for you is not always easy, but I knew, especially after my law degree, that I wanted to work in cybersecurity. Not only did I have a good understanding of governing privacy laws and the consequences of not adhering to these laws, but I also understood how the threat landscape was changing and the challenges this presented to organisations around the world. 

Palo Alto Networks was an organisation I had been following for a while, and making each day safer and more secure than the day before was something I wanted to be part of. As soon as I touched down in Australia, I applied for a “Customer Success Manager” role through the Palo Alto Networks careers page. I was not a good fit for that position, but I nonetheless received a call from the recruitment manager who wanted to discuss a sales role she thought I was more suited to. I was nervous when I started the interview process as I had previously been rejected by another organisation due to my lack of local sales experience. In essence, concern was that I had no existing relationships or customer base I could leverage to hit the ground running. 

I was however, pleasantly surprised when I was told that Palo Alto Networks actively look to hire personnel with different backgrounds and experiences as diversity brings new ideas to the organisation. The recruitment team here at Palo Alto Networks recognise that people buy from people and that successful sales professionals are likeable, hard working, passionate individuals who align to the organisations’ values. Having gone through a lengthy interview process, the local management team felt that my legal and previous sales experience made me a good fit for the role and believed in my ability to build a fruitful territory without an already established network. 

Working at Palo Alto Networks 

As a nontechnical person, I knew that embarking on a career in a fast-paced, security-focused, male-dominated industry would be challenging and remove me from my comfort zone. It was, however, the challenge I was looking for when I applied to Palo Alto Networks and it has been the best career move so far! 

The daunting first month of learning was made fun and easier thanks to the amazing onboarding process and ongoing training provided. It was clear from day one that culture and diversity are so important at Palo Alto Networks – the team comprised of people from different walks of life which was something I really loved. Everyone was so welcoming and I immediately saw a collaborative working culture where everyone would be happy to help whenever they could. The team I joined was, and still is, led by a supportive, passionate manager who wants nothing more than to see his team succeed and enjoy success together. Happiness at work is fundamentally essential and working with positive, collaborative, reliable peers makes the Sydney office a happy place to walk into on a Monday morning. 

Having had no experience selling to the Australian market before joining Palo Alto Networks has not prevented me from being successful in my role. In essence, reality is that selling in Australia is very similar to selling in the UK and whether or not you will be successful has more to do with your work ethic than having an established network of customers you can approach. If you see a job you want to apply for but feel like you might not be a perfect fit, then still apply. You have nothing to lose and it may result in a job offer.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Nitzan Peretz

Software Engineering Manager, Tel Aviv, Israel

My role in Palo Alto Networks is leading a team that develops Cortex XSOAR, a cutting-edge solution for the Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) market. This technology is all about enabling our solutions to complement the customers’ efforts in securing their organizations. In this role, I work to continuously improve our products and help organizations become much more efficient when protecting their data.

Palo Alto Networks is the world’s leading cybersecurity company, which means that every day I work with a team of professionals that are, hands down, the leaders in the industry. We work with and develop top-notch technology, which is something that I love about my work: I learn every day, and I face new challenges all the time. And most of all, I’m super happy to see my clients enjoying the product that my team and I are creating. Working in cyberdefense, you feel you are working for the good guys, helping to protect data, shaping the future, using leading technology, and expanding the possibilities of cyberdefense. 

The most meaningful and important part for me is to hear feedback coming from the field, to hear that our product is life-changing for them. I consider myself lucky to work in a role that’s both my hobby and my passion, where I can build a product that helps so many people.

Seriously Fun

Anyone who’s interested in working here has to love being in a dynamic environment. We are moving fast and making progress within a short time, driven by the evolution of the industry. We’re always in front of the newest emerging technology, which is an exciting opportunity for a software engineer. 

But you should also know that just because cybersecurity is a serious business, it doesn’t mean we can’t lighten the pressure by having fun with our coworkers. You have to want to work with hardcore professionals who LOVE what they’re doing. We are having fun every day! For instance, we started using Demisto internally, not only for security purposes, but for other things such as employee onboarding, managing clients requests, and tickets, keeping track of platform bugs … and take a look at this: One of the employees even organised his wedding with Cortex XSOAR! Super cool, right?

Plus, this dynamic ambiance is perfectly balanced by a culture that is inclusive and believes in a healthy work environment. Our offices in Tel Aviv are stunning, with lots of extra perks! For instance, I love sports, and I get to play for Palo Alto Networks’ own basketball team, go to the gym, and even do some yoga right here in the office. We work hard but also play hard.

Growth Opportunities

You don’t have to come from a security background to work here — I didn’t! Diversity in backgrounds and perspectives is an important part of our work, and no matter what your previous experiences might be, if you raise a valid point, your voice will always be heard.

Palo Alto Networks knows how to get the most of its people by encouraging innovation and ensuring a comfortable environment for learning, growing, and implementing. In our team, we have the chance to explore and choose the best technologies, build the best design, and implement according to high coding standards in order to accomplish the company vision. 

As a Software Engineering Manager, I get to experience so many aspects of the product — sales, customer success, and, of course, engineering. All of that leads to a comprehensive understanding of the company that can open my career path as I develop professionally and my interests evolve.

In my role, I get to grow in a number of ways: in my applied engineering skills, in working with great technology, and in learning every new technology that is relevant for us. This enablement will remain a valuable asset for me in the future, whatever my next step is. I’ve gained management skills by learning from all the opportunities a big and agile corporation has to offer. For instance, we have been attending most of the industry’s conferences around the globe, allowing us to meet face to face with our customers and develop relationships across the board with prospects and other vendors. That is one of the perks of working in a larger company that pushes you to continuous improvement!

In all, this is a place where each individual feels he or she can make a difference. I absolutely love what I do and the team I work with, and I’m excited to come to work every day!

For the Aspiring Women in Technology

Sonal Sethia

Service Delivery Manager

There are times that I believe women are held to a higher standard than men. We’re expected to juggle multiple roles every day: a great mom, a loving daughter, a supportive spouse, a career ninja, just to name a few. And with all of this, we’re expected to balance the rigors of the workplace: upcoming deadlines for projects, acing battle cards with a competitor, and driving results at every customer interaction. 

On days that I’m struggling to keep it all under control, I remember the advice offered by Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo. She points to a strong network of support from others in your life as the key to success. But she also famously disagrees with the idea that women can “have it all.” She believes we’re always going to be making sacrifices, either at home or at work — and that’s OK. I am mindful of my own choices and know that there are sacrifices behind each choice I make. And my own community of support makes it easier to wear my various hats and accomplish as much as I do.  

Equally important is finding an employer that supports women in the workforce. I’m fortunate that I work for a high-tech company that not only actively recruits women and values the diverse perspectives women bring to the industry, but also encourages a healthy work-life balance because they know this balance ultimately results in happier, more productive employees. Not every company operates this way, and it makes me appreciate my job even more.

The Winding Path to Happiness

As a young teen, I was always interested in technology, and the desire to pursue computer networking as a career option got stronger over the years. I started as a Technical Support Engineer for a telecommunications giant. It seemed I was on the fast track to success, but I soon encountered difficulty on my career journey when I was laid off from one of my first jobs. 

I still remember that day vividly: Our entire department had been outsourced, and the newbies, myself included, were the first ones to be let go. Devastated, I spent an hour in my car, crying my eyes out. But after that initial shock, I got my things together, drove home, and immediately planned my job hunt. Within a month, I landed my next job, the one that helped me identify my passion for operations and defined my career. 

I spent the better part of my career delivering customer-focused services to large technology organizations. When I had the opportunity to apply my expertise and experience in the cybersecurity industry, it felt like the natural next step. Today I’m with a company that values my contributions and fulfills me every single day. When I look back, I feel grateful to have been faced with that difficult challenge early on. I learned an important life lesson through that experience: We rarely unlock our true potential unless we are challenged with some kind of obstacle or are forced to overcome adversity. What’s more? I think it’s there for each of us. When you look at someone across the table, you might see someone successful. But what you forget is that they might have had their own moment in their own car, crying their eyes out. 

Bringing More Women to the Table

There is a massive shortage of cybersecurity professionals today, and the fight against bad actors, who come from disparate backgrounds, demands a wider variety of people to better our chances of success. Encouraging people from diverse backgrounds and with varying levels of expertise will increase creativity and lead to better business outcomes. Women are natural multitaskers and bring such highly valued traits as empathy and team building to the workplace. Augmenting our workforce with women at the decision-making table will make us better at what we do. 

Women should know that their skills and perspectives are wanted and needed in technology, and although it can be challenging at times, it also can be very rewarding. For me personally as the mother of small children, I know that the work I’m doing in cybersecurity will affect their lives as they grow older, and I find that enormously satisfying.

I also can attest to the guilt of passing on “mom duties” to take care of job responsibilities — it’s very real and can be all-consuming. I recommend that any woman interested in a career in technology should find a supportive group of other moms who are in the same boat — women struggling with work-life balance — with whom they can share common experiences and seek advice. This can be hugely therapeutic. 

For women just starting out in technology, I know how it feels. It’s not the easiest of paths, but it’s getting easier. Here’s what helped me:

  1. Identify a mentor or mentors, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them for direction. Make it a two-way street and offer your own assistance and feedback when it’s appropriate.
  2. Periodically do a self-analysis. Jot down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, just as any company’s marketing department would. Read a lot, and seek ways to enhance your skills in order to convert those weaknesses into strengths.
  3. Keep an eye out for opportunities that showcase your potential. Women can be extremely self-critical and are more likely to underestimate our own impact. Advocate for yourself and brush up on those negotiation skills.

The strongest asset in my career is my ability to solve problems. I am a fixer and an extensive planner, and I’m persistent in reaching my goals. I am also highly competitive and want to be the best version of myself. Identifying my strong suits early on has helped me navigate my career and excel. I’ve also been fortunate to have worked with other strong women who have exemplified that work-life balance and have been career champions, guiding me along my journey. 

It can sometimes feel like you have to be a superhero to succeed at home and at work, but when things get rough, I remind myself of these words from my favorite superhero, Wonder Woman: “You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.” And when you’re feeling like everything is falling apart? Know there are others here waiting to lift you up. 

Cream of the Crop

Eric Baum

Regional Vice President, Cortex (West)

I’ve been with Palo Alto Networks for a year, and I already know this is the best possible move I could have made for my career. I’ve worked in cybersecurity leadership positions since 2001, with seven different organizations, but none of them compare to Palo Alto Networks in terms of the quality of its products, people, and market position.

Career Growth

Since joining, I’ve held two different job titles, both within the Cortex business unit, which is part of the company’s efforts to secure the future by detecting and proactively responding to cyber threats. Within five months of starting with this company, I received an opportunity to move from my senior director position to a Regional Vice President role. 

I’m by no means unique in my ability to achieve career growth here. I’ve been with several companies that would talk the talk — touting their commitment to helping their employees’ career growth — but in reality, those companies didn’t walk the walk, and as a result, people’s careers became stagnant. For example, in my current role, I’m responsible for filling open sales positions, and I recently promoted an internal candidate into a senior sales position. In my experience, that kind of thing doesn’t happen often with other companies, but it happens quite a bit here. When people express their goals and work hard, there are a lot of opportunities to grow, and any time an internal candidate applies for a position with me, no matter where in the company they’ve been working, I take that seriously. 

It’s very possible for someone in an entry-level role to move quickly up through the organization. We’re relentless about helping our customers achieve success and staying ahead of cyber threats. There’s constant innovation here and never a dull moment — everybody’s moving. If a person demonstrates that kind of initiative, agility, and enthusiasm, no matter where they are in the organization, they will get the chance to be heard and supported. 

One Team

One of the things I love most about working for Palo Alto Networks is the collaborative culture. We don’t do silos here. If the job has to get done, we’re all jumping in to help. We don’t play politics or backstabbing, and we don’t focus on hierarchy. You’ll never hear, “That’s not my job.” Everyone’s simply working toward the same goal — to protect our digital way of life — with healthy urgency, and that’s an environment I find truly satisfying. 

From my experience in sales, many organizations focus only on individual accountability, so when people don’t achieve their numbers, for example, there’s a lot of finger-pointing about how that person isn’t good at his or her job, or it’s someone else’s fault because the product doesn’t work. But what I’m finding out at Palo Alto Networks is that we have mutual accountability. So a salesperson may have a quota, but the supporting departments work in a collaborative way, without jumping to blame, to rectify any issues and work toward the common goal together. And when everyone works together for the betterment of the company, their own individual brands rise to the top as well. 

No one here is above stepping in and helping out, no matter what their title, which is an attitude that comes from the top down. In fact, our president recently set up a District Manager Advisory Board, where frontline sales managers can collaborate and share important information with each other and other departments throughout the organization. The company president, having been in that role himself, understands the importance of a frontline manager, and for every call, he rolls up his sleeves to personally help. This level of collaboration and leadership is not typical, and the benefits of it for those involved as well as the company as a whole are compelling.

It’s nice to wake up and want to go to work. Given my passion for cybersecurity and a healthy workplace culture, there is no better place that I feel I could have landed. 

Stay Ready

Laramie Mergerson, Majors Account Manager, Cortex

When I joined Palo Alto Networks, I honestly didn’t expect to stay longer than a year. But the opportunities that have been offered to me and the investments made in me by some of our current and former executives showed me that the people here valued my abilities and wanted me to succeed.

When I first started here, I was an inside sales rep, which was new to me after years selling in the field. I needed to learn about cybersecurity and master our products and market in order to move up. But my commitment to learning and taking on new responsibilities led to my being able to continually move up inside the company. That has inspired loyalty to the brand that has allowed me to see many different parts of the cybersecurity industry that I didn’t expect to encounter.

For example, I was given an opportunity to stretch my abilities and was the first employee to take on a special assignment with our current Vice President of Business Development, which revealed many different aspects of the business to me. After that, I was selected in the first cohort for a new hybrid position working with Palo Alto Networks’ Major and Global Accounts. After a very successful year in that role, I was promoted as the first sales rep covering Major Accounts in Texas for Cortex, our detection and response platform that utilizes collected data to stop cyber attacks. That’s a lot of firsts! These opportunities have not only given me a high level of work satisfaction, but they’ve shown me that there’s still plenty of room for me to grow and learn with this company.

Something else I’m really proud of and personally enjoy is having the opportunity to take some of my black customers to events that are tailored to their interests — many of which received a response and attendance rate of around 90%, which is almost unheard of in sales. To see the smiles and appreciation from my customers and watch our relationships grow over the years has been exciting and fulfilling. I look forward to nurturing these relationships for years to come.

Keys to Success

I ran a marketplace startup for a few years before coming to Palo Alto Networks. I believe it was this experience, more than any other prior role, that prepared me for working here. In fact, I’ve found that wearing different hats in order to achieve results has been a tremendous asset to me throughout my career because it has made me versatile and demonstrated my willingness to take on new responsibilities.

Additionally, I spent time in the military early in my career and played basketball at high levels. I believe both of these experiences have contributed to my success as well because they taught me about working with teams and having a “no excuses” mentality that is all about results, both of which are key to success in sales.

At the end of the day, I feel any experience can be valuable if you are always looking for opportunities to learn and challenge yourself. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was to be ready when your number is called. You might only get one shot to prove yourself. The black community has a saying, which I fully believe: If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. I’ve made it a priority to stay ready, and I believe that has helped me to achieve career success.

Head in the Cloud

Vinay Venkataraghavan

Cloud CTO, Prisma Cloud, R&D

I started working in security when it wasn’t glamorous. I just love math — so much so that I earned my degree in math and computer science at Southern Methodist University. I went on to earn my master’s degree in computer engineering, specializing in security protocols because I was fascinated by cryptography and how it involved using math to solve real problems. My thesis actually dealt with the validation of security protocols.

I graduated and got a job in Silicon Valley for a security company. That was 14 years ago, in a time when no one really thought all that much about cybersecurity. Now companies are investing a lot into this industry, and there are so many careers opening up that didn’t exist before. 

For a few years, I worked for a startup that built large-scale, distributed storage systems for enterprises. I got to help the company reinvent I/O virtualization, which was groundbreaking at the time and was really exciting for me. From there I joined another firm that built a Software as a Service (SaaS) application that would allow enterprises to move their workloads from on-premise environments into the cloud, which, again, was ahead of its time. So I’ve been fortunate to have worked for forward-thinking companies and help develop what we now know as the public cloud. The work I have done throughout my 15 years is what I get to leverage at Palo Alto Networks today.

I actually had an opportunity to join Palo Alto Networks right from the beginning, when it was a brand-new startup, but at the time I was enjoying the work I was doing and I wasn’t ready to go. But while I loved that work, if I had it to do over again, I would have joined Palo Alto Networks sooner, without question. We’re working on technology that is going to change how enterprises function. It’s going to be part of their core, a crucial piece of the puzzle, and that’s not something many companies can say. For someone just starting out in their career, to be part of that journey is just incredible.

But job satisfaction and the ability to come in every day and make an impact are what’s most important to me. The ability to learn new technologies, build products, and have them actually be used by customers to secure our future is what drives me. It’s what I’m passionate about. And that’s why I come to work every day. I can achieve all that at Palo Alto Networks. 

The Importance of Cybersecurity in the Cloud and the Careers that Come With It 

I am the Principal Cloud Architect at Palo Alto Networks, but I think of myself as the cloud-native and container-native security evangelist. Pardon the pun, but in this role, I’m developing cloud security products from a “high level.” My goal is to make our products more cloud-native, which involves working with many of our products, including Prisma, our cloud security platform, which includes  RedLock, a threat-detection and security analytics platform, and Twistlock, a software suite for securing cloud-native applications. 

In the last couple of years, many chief information security officers (CISOs) and IT departments at major corporations around the world have been mandated by their top executives that large percentages of their business need to be migrated to the cloud within a couple of years. What we often see is that these are well-entrenched enterprises that up to this point have stored information in on-premise data centers. They see migrating to the cloud as an opportunity to be far more agile and have infinite capacity, just a few clicks away. But they don’t realize how much complexity is involved with making sure their assets stay secure — they understand the need for cybersecurity in the cloud, but they frequently take for granted that the cloud is secure, and that isn’t always the case. And with the proliferation of smart devices consuming more of our daily lives — and the cloud — every day, that’s an assumption we cannot afford to make.

That’s where Palo Alto Networks comes in. Our employees act as security advisors to educate our customers about why they need a partner like us to provide security in the cloud, and help them understand the full range of tools we offer through our platform to help address their security needs. I also work with cloud service providers to ensure that our products not only integrate seamlessly with theirs but that we adhere to a shared security model that enables enterprises to confidently transition to the cloud, and that our products can be smoothly integrated with theirs. 

I develop prototypes and proofs of concept and demonstrate them for our marketing team so they can understand and highlight the work we’re doing. And at times I’m writing white papers or presenting webinars about our products and cloud security. While this may not all be in a day’s work, I am fortunate to be part of the entire lifecycle of our products, from conception to creation and beyond, and my job is never dull. 

Whether you’re seeking a new career, contributing to the migration and security of the cloud, or building the architecture to get us there, now’s the time to start exploring. 

Culture of Empowerment

KP Unnikrishnan (Unni) , Vice President, Marketing  (Japan & Asia-Pacific)

I had the privilege of hearing Nir Zuk, the founder of Palo Alto Networks, speak at an event in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC) when the company was still a startup. When I heard him talk about wanting to change the world, create disruption, and do something different from what the industry had traditionally been doing. It was very motivating and inspiring! 

In my brief conversation with Nir, he laid out his vision for the company, which had at that time a negligible presence in APAC. A few months later, when someone from Palo Alto Networks reached out to me for an opportunity in marketing, I remembered his inspiring talk and vision to disrupt the cybersecurity market.

But I did have a couple of concerns: Was this another exciting startup story that would fail to prove itself in the market? Would the vision of the founders get translated to action? Was the senior management serious about the company’s worldwide expansion plan, and how soon would that be achievable?

I had several meetings with the leadership team to understand the goals and the plans. By then, I was impressed by what I learned and observed about the company’s products, vision, and culture. And so I bit the bullet and came on board.

A Safer Tomorrow

I have two daughters, and I constantly think about their future. Working for Palo Alto Networks is rewarding in that respect. First, this is such an inclusive and diverse company that I feel reassured about the future we are building for young girls like my daughters. It’s really important to me to work for a company that believes anyone should be able to participate and be respected and empowered in the workplace. 

We live in a world where everything is automated. When my daughters are ready to enter the workforce, their entire lives will be digital, and I want them to be safe. Today, they’re still young enough that they can jump into things without thinking about security. They just assume they are safe. I have to constantly remind them of what I do and how we can’t take our safety for granted. I’m proud to be working for a company that is working to ensure a safer tomorrow for them.

I really enjoy the work I do. I look forward to starting work each day — it’s about doing your part to make a change. I want my daughters to see that it’s important to work hard and challenge yourself, but also that it should be meaningful and fun. I’ve never had the Monday morning blues since joining this organization. Every Monday, I wake up ready to get started. I want them to see that that’s possible for them as well.

A Day in the Life

As Vice President of Marketing, my work encompasses so many different activities. It’s about getting the Palo Alto Networks brand and demand out into the market, and that means more than marketing in the traditional sense — it’s also about education. It’s our job to help people understand the need for security in the digital age and how we can help with that need. That education extends to working with our partners, those who are selling or making systems that utilize our cybersecurity products, to help them understand how our products work and why they’re important. 

It’s also our job to ensure that customers are fully utilizing our products. We are not a company that wants to sell you something and then disappear. We are consciously working every day to make sure customers see the value in our products, get the maximum functionality out of those products, and trust us enough to continue using them. 

Another part of my work is being involved with training programs for new hires, and I talk to them about our philosophy, our workplace culture, and our marketing efforts. It helps me to be connected to almost everybody who comes on board, and that’s fun. I’m so happy to be in a position to help Palo Alto Networks grow and to help people’s careers grow as well.

Since I started here six years ago, Palo Alto Networks has experienced impressive growth. When I look at how far we’ve come from when I started — when we had just a handful of employees and very little brand recognition — to where we are today, I’m really proud. When I first came on board, there were only three of us on the Marketing team, and in my time we’ve grown to where the marketing team in the theatre is over 30.

As a company, we are a dominant player in the market, and because of that and the fact that the entire Palo Alto Networks team is passionate and energized about what we do, we are constantly meeting people who know about us and want to work with us, and that is great. 

No Job Is Too Small

Although we’ve grown by leaps and bounds, the company culture hasn’t changed. Sometimes when a startup grows, cultures get diluted and new leadership will cause that initial startup spirit to erode. But even as we’ve gone through a leadership change, those good aspects have remained. It makes me feel confident about my choice to work here. 

This is not a company where you follow a narrow, prescribed job description and work in a silo. Instead, everyone rolls up their sleeves and does what’s needed. No job is too small. I love that approach. I come from a culture where you get the job done first and then decide who gets the credit, so for me, that really resonated. 

In this organization, people are empowered to try new things. We aren’t punished for making mistakes, and we aren’t limited to our specific roles. It’s not a place where corporate leaders create new policies or procedures without input and say, “You can only do it this way.” 

Instead, we have fantastic synergy where we all know our mission, and we are encouraged to follow those “Eureka!” moments and go make new ideas happen in order to accomplish that mission. It’s not about the job title. You wear the Palo Alto Networks team hat first. That’s the priority. Then comes your department, and after that comes your particular role. Titles aren’t as important as doing whatever needs to get done.

Obviously, there are company guidelines and a strategy to follow, but within that, we are empowered to do what’s right for the customer and the business, first and foremost. Because of this approach, we’re all a really strong team, and we have so much respect for and trust in each other. There’s such a strong culture of camaraderie, respect, and integrity. People are always making the effort to work harder, be better, do more. 

“Inclusion and diversity” have become buzzwords in the corporate world, but it doesn’t always mean those companies walk the walk. Palo Alto Networks takes action and makes it part of the culture. That’s why the word “inclusion” is one of our company values. In practice, this means that no matter who you are, how young or experienced you are, or even how new you are to the company, we all play an important part of the work being done. We all can make an impact. And everyone within the organization holds themselves accountable.

And we’re all committed to continuous learning. The industry and the market are constantly evolving, so the way you might have done something five years ago to be successful may not bring you success tomorrow. You can’t be content with the status quo. The onus is on each person, as an employee, to stay educated and ensure you have the tools and knowledge you need. I tell my team, “Your career and your destiny are in your hands.” You can’t blame others if you aren’t where you’d like to be. You have to take the ownership — ask for what you need, find solutions to problems, learn what you need to know, and carve out your own role. 

My View from the Cybersecurity Frontlines

Ryan Olson, Vice President, Threat Intelligence (Unit 42), R&D

When I was a kid watching Star Trek, I used to imagine that someday in the future, life would be like that: People walking around with small computers, instant communication devices, on their chests that would give them access to any information they needed. I think a lot of us did. We’d fantasize about having devices that could obey our every command and, at any time, we could just ask them to give us any information we wanted. But in those episodes, there were few moments in which security threats arose — where the communication channels those devices used to retrieve that information were threatened. No one ever asked about the system’s firewall. We just took for granted that it was all secure. That might not have made exciting TV back then, but none of us would want to be on the Enterprise under a cyber attack.

My colleagues and I who work in Threat Intelligence for Palo Alto Networks are often thinking about the technology of the future, and we still get excited imagining all that’s possible. But it’s our job to understand that as we move closer to that space-age future of our imaginations, we also become more vulnerable to cyber threats. We are constantly working to anticipate the threats to come, understand how they operate, and share what we know with the cybersecurity community in order to make the digital world safer. 

My Journey to Threat Intelligence

I wouldn’t say I was predestined to work in cybersecurity. I had been interested in technology and planned to begin a career in programming while I was in college. But in 2003, the National Security Administration established the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense to address the (correctly) anticipated shortfall of cybersecurity professionals that could present a serious global threat. Each of the designated schools offered a scholarship for service (SFS) program: If you agreed to work for the government for two years, the NSA would pay for two years of schooling to train you in cyber defense. At the time I was considering earning a master’s degree, and although for personal reasons I didn’t end up participating in that SFS program, I got excited about a career defending computer networks, so I eventually enrolled in a master’s degree program in security informatics at Johns Hopkins University. 

When it was time for me to do my summer internship between the two years of the program, I was fortunate to find a great opportunity with a security intelligence company. I spent an entire summer learning malware analysis, which led me to my current career.

The Knowledge Leaders

Unit 42 was started in 2014 by Palo Alto Networks’ Chief Security Officer at the time, Rick Howard, and myself. Rick is one of the smartest people I know, but his greatest talent is his ability to boil complex ideas down into simple, understandable terms. The idea for Unit 42 was to take all of the data we were collecting from our platform, in particular the WildFire malware analysis system and use it to not just create new prevention controls for our customers, but to better understand how adversaries are targeting them. With a stronger understanding of the adversary, we can build better products but also expose threat actors in the public and educate the world about their tactics. Our team consists of malware and threat intelligence analysts who look at our collective data to understand how adversaries launch their attacks, what tools do they use and how do they change over time.  Then we share this information through our blog, white papers and other channels. In some instances we can go from uncovering a threat to publishing information about it in less than 24 hours. We move as quickly as possible to capture the critical details of the threat and share them with those who can use it to defend themselves.

This runs counter to the way many companies do business, which is to hoard information so that competitors can’t get hold of it. For us, there’s obvious value in sharing this information because our primary goal is to make it harder for the bad guys to win. If a bad guy has been launching attacks for three years, he’s doing the same things repeatedly because it keeps working. But if we write a report about it and publish it for the entire world to see, it stops the cycle of the attack, making the world safer for all of us. 

As part of our global efforts, we founded the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) several years ago. This consortium of 25 cybersecurity vendors operates under the idea that a rising tide floats all boats. We share important threat intelligence with each other explicitly so we can all translate it into protection controls in our various products. What I love most about my work is the astounding amount of cooperation that I get from other organizations. When we need help or we need to alert customers to a problem of some kind, everybody immediately jumps in because they want to go and help. We all realize that we’re on the same team, fighting the same fight. 

But there’s additional value for Palo Alto Networks in publishing this information: It demonstrates to the world that we are knowledge leaders in cybersecurity, at the forefront of the industry. Unit 42 is one aspect of the careers available in our industry, and sharing information is a crucial part of our work. Although people may not immediately know our company name the way they do others in the technology space, we are the biggest enterprise security company in the world, with 60,000 customers globally. So I think it’s important to point out to anyone who is considering a career in technology that working for Palo Alto Networks really enables us to have an enormous impact on worldwide security, and that is incredibly rewarding.

Welcome for a Working Mom

Debbie Nguyen, Director, Product Management

As someone who is results-oriented and prefers a fast-paced environment, I know that coming to work for Palo Alto Networks in April 2019 was the right choice for me. Nonetheless, it was a bit of a transition. I have a degree in marketing and began my career in market research before transitioning into product management, first in the payments realm and then in human resources technology. My background was heavily focused not only on bringing global products to market but also on improving the customer experience. I stepped away from the workforce for a couple years after my sons were born, and then I went back to work in product management for a cybersecurity company.

All of my experience has included an emphasis on privacy and data security, so in that respect, working in cybersecurity at the enterprise level made sense to me. But unlike my colleagues, many of whom have considerable technical expertise, my expertise is in the customer experience and the application of human behavior enabled by technology.

When I first came on board with Palo Alto Networks, it was intimidating for me — aside from being in a department dominated by men, I was also surrounded by these highly technical minds and lacked that knowledge myself. I was nervous. But over the last 13 years of my career, I’ve developed the ability to quickly comprehend the customer’s perspective and where it ought to be, and I soon realized that this is a valuable perspective that I could contribute, and before long that feeling of intimidation went away. That’s one of the things I appreciate here — that the environment encourages people from a variety of backgrounds, with a wide array of skill sets to join the team. It’s because they realize that diversity is what ultimately adds value to what we can offer our customers.

A Human Touch

Focusing on the customer experience isn’t typically where the priority is in cybersecurity. There’s a perception that customer experience discussions are “fluffy,” that it’s too touchy-feely with its focus on how customers feel and what they want. But what a lot of people don’t know is that it’s a science that involves collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative feedback. And it’s also an art, knowing how to talk to customers to arrive at the root of what problems they need and want solved. Sometimes they don’t know it themselves, so you have to know how to get it out of them, which isn’t easy.

But Palo Alto is different and transitioning to make customer experience a priority. And we know, from industry trends, that companies are no longer just competing on technological features and functionality; they’re competing on experience.

As consumers, we all gravitate toward the apps that are easy to use, right? We engage with those apps that connect with us and speak to us emotionally. That’s the level of engagement we want for enterprise products, and that’s what I’m working on. So I get to be on the forefront of this transition to a more customer-centric focus, which is really exciting. I get to influence the ways in which we can improve the customers’ experience, get into their minds, understand their needs and motivations, and translate those things into features and functions that we haven’t even thought of yet. We are working to anticipate their needs and design a delightful experience for them, which is encouraging and empowering.

Diverse and Included

There are a lot of other companies that say, “We promote diversity and inclusion,” but they don’t really practice it. I never really felt the concept of inclusion until I came to Palo Alto Networks. Not only was I given an opportunity to join the company without an extensive network security background, but bringing a woman into this male-dominated field brings a different perspective, and this company saw the value in that. My manager has been a huge advocate of diversity and inclusion, and he has demonstrated this repeatedly. For example, many women have the experience of being talked over in meetings, but here, my manager is sensitive to that; there have been times where someone began to talk over me, and he stepped in and said, “Okay, I hear what you’re saying, but hold that thought please and let Debbie finish sharing her ideas.” I really appreciate a leader consciously thinking about these things.

In my fourth week with Palo Alto Networks, I volunteered to lead a customer journey mapping workshop, to share some of what I knew about this concept with the more technology-focused members of the team. As a new member on the team who clearly didn’t have the technical expertise that they had, I was nervous about leading , although I felt it was important to talk about this idea of looking at things from a more customer-based perspective. As I said before, this isn’t often a top priority for everyone, and it seemed clear that I didn’t have everyone’s full attention or buy-in. But my manager addressed it right away. He announced that this was an important subject, but that if these team members didn’t plan to participate, they were welcome to leave. The fact that he was willing to do that for me told me he had my back, that he saw value in what I had to say, and it gave me a wonderful sense of inclusion, empowerment, and support.

In my time with this company, I’ve seen a real desire to add to the diversity of the team, which includes encouraging more women and moms to apply. Cybersecurity can be an intimidating industry for women to enter, but it really is a great thing for us to have them because it provides a much-needed perspective. As we launch products and think of new ways to solve customers’ problems, we need to have those insights into the needs and values of ALL our customers, so the more perspectives the better.

It’s also important to say that I appreciate being given a chance to share what I knew here, even though I wasn’t the obvious candidate. At Palo Alto Networks, the managers here are willing to provide the training and resources we need to feel comfortable in our positions. There are boot camps, white papers, textbooks, and a wealth of people willing to share their expertise and help you to be successful.

So for women, my advice is not to be scared of a challenge. Instead, face it head on, like a bull! Women, especially us moms, prioritize relentlessly. We are master multitaskers. We have the ability to go broad and deep, that’s just how we’re wired. For example, when I’m planning to take my boys on a trip to a museum, I’m thinking, “Okay, what do I pack for snacks? Should I pack backup clothes? What time should we leave? Should we eat before we leave? What else do I need?” Our minds are always thinking that way so we can ensure we have a successful trip to the museum. It’s a lot of planning and prioritization. And each of those choices can make a big difference — like if we don’t have snacks, they’ll be grouchy later and it will ruin the trip.

Translate that to the technology world. If you want to ship this product, you need to get all the stakeholders aligned with it, because if we don’t, the customer will call us later with issues. If it’s not effective, they’ve paid millions for it and now we have a major problem. So what happens to our brand, and to their loyalty? And what happens to our company’s longevity? So thinking about all those pieces is truly valuable. This is the value a woman, a mom, can bring! So leverage those skills and bring them into the technology world, because it’s very much needed.

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Palo Alto Networks is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity in our workplace, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ancestry, color, family or medical care leave, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, protected veteran status, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or other legally protected characteristics.