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.

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!

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. 

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