Using Data to Improve Our Customers’ Experiences

Matt Warburton, Director of Marketing Data Science

Working in data science wasn’t a career that I ever aspired to, although technology has always been a part of my life. In fact, when I was growing up, my mother worked for IBM, and I still remember the first computer she brought home. 

Before taking this job, I had worked for several companies doing market research, community management, and product management. Just prior to joining Palo Alto Networks, I was co-founder and VP of Product & Marketing for three years for a startup called Shocase, which was winding down its business. I knew someone that worked for Palo Alto Networks, and he reached out to me and said, “I’m looking for a junior version of you to come in and handle market research.” 

It was great timing for me to transition away from the startup, so I told him, “I know someone who’s not a junior version of me but is the real version of me! Why don’t I work as a consultant for you on whatever you need until you find someone full time?” 

So I did some consulting work for a couple months, as an independent contractor, and eventually I became a full-time employee, and I really love what I do.

What is Data Science? 

When I first joined Palo Alto Networks, my team did traditional market research into consumer behavior with regard to cybersecurity. We used the basic tools of that trade — surveys and focus groups, that kind of thing. We still do that, but we’ve taken it a step further. As new members of the Marketing Data Science team, we combine our market research with data science in order to better understand the customer experience.

Like a lot of companies today, Palo Alto Networks utilizes technology to capture data about our customers. Obviously, as a cybersecurity company, the data we’re capturing typically pertains to the type of business they have, how they’re using and storing their sensitive information, and how their internet security is managed. Historically, our marketing data science team has been charged with building a variety of predictive models — lead rank scores, account rank scores, churn models, etc. 

But now, under the Marketing Data Science umbrella, we’re all part of one team, so we can work together to ensure that the market research we collect is fed into the models the data science experts are building in order to make them as accurate as possible.

As part of this, we use a customer feedback, measurement, and management system called Medallia.  We collect feedback across key touch points that customers have with Palo Alto Networks. These include surveys about onboarding, relationship, customer support, professional services, and customer success — every interaction we have with customers from the beginning — and we use that information in the data science models to determine the impacts of those interactions on customer value. 

So what we’re really focused on is taking the customer experience to the next level. Everything we do revolves around helping people make better decisions, and taking better care of our customers. It’s about not only nurturing potential customers, but also ensuring that existing customers are happy, and their environments are better protected. 

And that’s what makes me excited to come to work each day — that challenge of doing new and different things. I like to solve problems and take on challenges, so this job is really a perfect fit. 

Company Culture

I had always been aware of cybersecurity before joining Palo Alto Networks but I wasn’t really aware of the ins and outs of the industry. I have a personal connection to it because I’ve been a victim of scenarios involving hackers — in situations when I took for granted that my personal data was safe, but it wasn’t. So the fact that we as a business can come in and solve those problems and protect people’s sensitive data and make customers more confident in interacting with others online, that’s extremely important.

I would say the biggest transition for me was moving from a business-to-consumer (B2C) company to a business-to-business (B2B) company. Before I joined Palo Alto Networks, I’d worked for a lot of different companies, but mostly they were B2C — selling products directly to individual consumers — and C2C, which is consumers selling to consumers. It’s a very different process to engage with business customers versus individual consumers. Here, we have a physical product that we’re building, and we have a Sales team that needs to sell these products, but it’s not like it’s something where they can pay and we hand it to them and we’re done. It’s a long lead cycle with a lot of people and processes involved, whereas in the companies where I’ve worked, it was more like, “Here’s my website; please go there to buy my product.”

Overall, I definitely had to get up to speed on what, exactly, the company does and how a B2B company works, and that was a bit of a transition. Fortunately, a lot of very generous people were happy to walk me through the details about how our products are different from those of our competitors. I think that the people here are very dedicated and smart, and they work together well. Even if you’re not working in the same group or department with them, they’re always very collaborative. They always want to help you. If you reach out to somebody with a question, they’ll respond to it. I really appreciate that collaborative nature.

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.

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. 

Not Just a Job – Journey of Growth and Opportunity

JoAnne Lucero, Associate IT Project Manager

Growth, innovation, support. If I was told to pick three words that accurately describe my journey at Palo Alto Networks thus far, those would be it. I started my journey with Palo Alto Networks a little over three years ago and I am grateful for my decision more each day. 


I first joined as an Executive Assistant. At that time, I was a fly on the wall to the inner workings of IT. I observed how each domain operated, how projects added value to the day to day activities of Palo Alto Network employees. I saw the momentum, the growth, and the innovative direction IT was heading and knew I wanted  more involvement. I spoke with my manager about expanding my role without compromising my responsibilities and the support I received was nothing short of amazing. I started by refining my professional development plan and starting a trial stretch role as a Scrum Master. It was difficult to juggle the tasks from two different roles, but I was excited for the opportunity to see where this job could take my career.    

As a Scrum Master, I was the facilitator of projects and worked to remove any roadblocks that stood in the way of the team’s progress.  At the end of the stretch role trial, I was offered the chance to move into the Scrum Master position full time, which was exactly the direction I wanted to go in my career. It was a great opportunity to step into a role and move forward.   That step has led to my current position as a Project Manager for the Infrastructure team. 


I have been involved with high visibility projects in my new position that have a real impact on our employees and productivity.  I have worked with teams to build out the technology infrastructure for new buildings and improve on existing spaces. We made sure there was wifi when you are outside at HQ.  We want employees to be able to walk from building to building without losing service and have the option to work outside. We also made sure there was always service in the elevators.  How annoying is it when an important call is dropped right as you go to get on an elevator? We knew there would be a lot of people moving around through the buildings while taking phone calls for business and we made sure to address that. What excites me the most is that I am directly involved in   projects that will grow and transform our business.  

To keep with the pace at which Palo Alto Networks is growing, IT needs to be quintessential at enabling employee productivity, not blocking it. As a potential employee, think of all the ways you could positively contribute to that?  Employees see the day to day pain points in a company, and our IT program sets us up and supports us in solving those problems, which in turn helps the entire company. We are constantly working with different groups to improve on work locations and always thinking about the next steps.  


We all have our daily work rituals and tasks, but what I love about IT is employees are given opportunities to do more outside of their company assigned tasks. Through programs like The Shark Tank where they can present a personal idea to be funded by the company and Hack-a-Thons where they work on a program for a 24 hour period as part of a larger group, employees are encouraged to work on passion projects and turn ideas into working applications.  Brown Baglunch gatherings provide employees with a casual setting to discuss what they are working on to other employees in the company, including our CIO. . Within our IT department specifically, employees can shadow one another or do rotation assignments to expand their knowledge outside of their own work and test potential future directions in their career. 

I look back at the past three plus years and think about how the opportunity to make game-changing and innovative contributions as well as the opportunity for professional growth and the amazing support of colleagues, all sums up why I love being a part of Palo Alto Networks. 


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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.