Nicole Hall, a people business partner, was ready to grow. After careful consideration of her personal career aspirations, Nicole realized that she didn’t want to leave the supportive community she’d built at Palo Alto Networks during her 2.5 years…
Positioned for Growth
As a person who has both experienced internal mobility within Palo Alto Networks and helped facilitate such mobility for others, I can certainly speak to the incredible career opportunities and potential for growth within this company.
I joined Palo Alto Networks in 2012, which, considering our explosive growth in recent years, it was a very different organization. I was recruited from a prior sales rep that I worked with at a prior organization. I joined as a Channel Account Manager in NYC. The role of the Channel Manager is to work with our partner community to drive the alignment, enablement, and demand generation so that we drive 2 critical business drivers, pipeline and bookings.
When I first started in that role, Palo Alto Networks was a fairly young company without a highly developed business strategy for working with strategic partners. With my 10 years of professional experience in sales and marketing, specifically in channel account development, I was able to contribute. I aligned and collaborated with many but my focus was to align and understand how I can partner with the District Sales Manager and Systems Engineering Manager. We built out a shortlist of partners that we would focus our efforts on and build out a strategic plan. We aligned on what our goals would be and how we would drive the business and understood what cadence would be required. We had many ideas over time and sales plays that worked and some that didn't not but we quickly pivoted and drove the focus partner bookings to a point where it was 80% of our overall bookings.
Fortunately, as the company grew and expanded its channel business, I was well-positioned and understood how to drive an effective operating rhythm, having done this already on a smaller scale, to expand my role and bring that expertise to the entire East Coast region while also leading a team of Channel Business Managers, as the new Manager for Channel Sales East.
Then in 2019, the business had grown to another critical point where my responsibilities grew as well and I moved once again — in my new position of Director of Americas Regional Channel Business, the scope of my work extends throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and LATAM.
I have always aspired to get to a point in my career where I could make more strategic decisions and develop and structure my own team, and now I’m fortunate to be in that position. People are what matter and building a solid team is critical to anyone's success. We have been extremely fortunate to hire the best of the best Channel players. My team has helped me grow into the person I am today. I have learned a number of skills on how to continue to remove obstacles so that our teams can win at the point of attack. Those skills include continued collaboration, decision-making, conflict-resolution, and delegation skills.
I credit that in part to luck, as well as to my enthusiasm for the work and for contributing ideas and energy to help grow the business, which I think positioned me well for promotions when new opportunities arose. Also crucial in my success, though, have been my managers, who have offered me the chance to contribute ideas, trusted my experience, and presented me with opportunities to advance. Rather than reinforcing a hierarchical structure and insisting I remained in a position where I was doing predictably well, the leaders at this company wanted me — and all employees — to experience career growth, to continue learning and advancing my knowledge, responsibilities, and earning power. That’s a benefit not often found at other companies.
Now that I’m overseeing a large team of people, I’m in a position to do that for others. While I do hire new employees into our Channel Business organization, I also am constantly looking for opportunities to advance existing employees into new positions of responsibility, if they are talented and eager to learn. With the amount of growth happening at this company right now, if someone really wanted to move into a different role, even a management position, it’s absolutely possible.
A while back, one of our VPs told me that before a role is even open, you should be looking for ways to promote yourself and act as if you’re already interviewing for the job. You do that in how you carry yourself, how you respond to challenges and seek out learning opportunities. Then when the role does open up, like what happened with me, it becomes a no-brainer that the person to fill that job is you. You are essentially writing your own RFP.
So my advice — to anyone either within Palo Alto Networks who might be looking to move into a new position or to someone who might be wondering whether this company is for them and is looking for a place with advancement opportunities — is to stay persistent. Once you figure out what you want to do or where you want to be, put yourself out there, and embrace the challenges. Challenge is what changes us and you as a person. Reach out to people in the organization and ask if you can pick their brains or even shadow them. Seek opportunities to take on new responsibilities and projects just so you can learn from them. Get involved in groups that get you interacting with new people. Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your own career, and you just might wind up exactly where you want to be.
When Carmen Villalobos thinks about her experience with internal mobility at Palo Alto Networks, one of the first words that come to her mind is “smooth.” For Carmen, the innovative program that encourages current employees to transition into open…