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Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month with ADAPT at Palo Alto Networks

NDEAM Month Blog Header (650 X 440 Px)

Author: Diana Vega, ADAPT ENG Global Lead

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), our Palo Alto Networks accessibility employee network group (ENG), ADAPT, is highlighting our thriving, diverse community. We take immense pride in the culture of inclusivity we have cultivated over the years. Our journey is an ongoing one; we are firmly committed to intersectionality and to the continuous improvement of our corporate practices and workplace environment. 

First and foremost, ADAPT, aims to create a community of support and inclusion for employees and family members to meet the challenges of life while living with physical, mental or neurodivergent differences. People with physical, mental or cognitive limitations have to try new ways of doing things all of the time, constantly trying to adapt to environments that they are not suited for. In many cases, the environments cannot be changed for one reason or another, making the ability to adapt a survival skill that cannot be overlooked. This is why our ENG is best represented under the name ADAPT! 

We understand that disabilities may be visible or invisible, and we strive to raise awareness and better provide avenues for help. A significant part of our mission involves addressing the ableist culture that still drives the majority of decisions in our time. We aim to dismantle this by creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. One of our key focuses is to address stigma, which we identify as a substantial obstacle in delivering appropriate support to people with disabilities. Our collective effort is aimed at making our workplace a beacon of acceptance and understanding.

This August, ADAPT launched the campaign, “Your disability is a strength,” an initiative aimed at building greater empathy and highlighting how people with visible and invisible disabilities can add value to their surrounding environments by providing unique perspectives that come from their self-awareness and resilience. We asked community members and allies at Palo Alto Networks to produce AI-generated art pieces that represent this concept to be translated into virtual backgrounds for wider company use. Here are the amazing art pieces and the stories of four of our employees:

Tyler, Technical Business Development Director and ADAPT Lead

“As someone with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Art, Science, and Curiosity are all combined. While researching different new aspects of AI on my own, I created 1000s of art pieces leveraging the power of AI, and with this small selection I wanted to emphasize that:

  • People with disabilities often develop remarkable resilience, empathy, and problem-solving skills due to the daily challenges they face, and can think in unique ways.
  • These experiences can enhance their perspective, fostering creativity and strategic thinking, which is beneficial in many life contexts. Their strong perseverance, advocacy skills, and heightened self-awareness, born from the necessity to navigate a world not always designed for them, also contribute to their unique strengths and abilities. 
  • Each individual's experience is unique and thus contributes differently, underlining the importance of respectful recognition and avoidance of assumptions based on disability status.

Community Member, Big Data Engineer

“These images are an abstract representation of the ADHD mind. While the myriad of thoughts and ideas can make focusing difficult, they can also be a strength since they allow you to view situations from multiple angles. Within both of the images, the individuals are surrounded by thoughts that connect in a variety of ways.”

Insiya, Staff Machine Learning Engineer and Community Ally 

“I drew this picture on my iPad. I know someone who has rapidly lost their eyesight and I have had several conversations with them about how they experience beautiful things in the world differently. The one that stuck out to me the most was that something as simple as a bird chirping has a much more enriching sound for her, now that her auditory perception is more pronounced with the loss of sight.”

Adrian, Senior Consulting Director:

“I was diagnosed last year, at the age of 46 with ADHD (inattentive). It was a surprise to me. I was only identified, and subsequently diagnosed, as a result of sitting in a forum like this with my previous employer. I had masked so well that I thought my internal lived experience was 'the norm'. Turned out it wasn't, but it makes me unique, with many of my strengths coming from how I've learned to adapt my working style to get the best out of my brain. It brings strengths of creativity and empathy, intense bursts of energy and dedication to an outcome. These have all proved invaluable when working in modern SecOps environments and helped me see the power of diversity in the workplace.

My AI prompts for this artwork were inspired by how we all live with much more happening in our inner world than we portray externally and how important it is to support others in a team understand & appreciate more of their inner world.”

Pooja, Software Engineer:

“I had a friend and a classmate who was suffering from Cerebral Palsy and often unknowingly other classmates discriminated against her based on this fact, if our class was supposed to be held on the 4th floor, no one would stop and help her, and find ways to get out of it. I and 2 friends of mine always stuck around with her and even convinced our faculties to conduct classes which are on the ground floor. 

Now this girl, despite her being differently abled, was in love with technology and there was nobody and no words that could stop her from reaching her goal - she became an LFX mentee, started her own community, became a GitHub campus expert, started to create content and even got onboarded as an SDE at Zomato all on her own. 

I am so inspired by how colorful her mind was, how beautiful her determination was to keep doing what she loves, and how kind she was to everyone by using everything that happened around her as fuel for her future. We aren't in touch a lot these days, but we both know we can always count on each other always.” 

Thank you to the entire Palo Alto Networks community for your continued dedication to fostering an inclusive workplace. Our collective achievements are a testament to the power of diversity and the strength of an inclusive culture. As we celebrate today, we also look ahead, knowing that our journey to create a more inclusive and supportive environment continues. Join us in building disability awareness and a stronger allyship beyond the October’s NDEAM celebration. Together, we can continue making strides in equality, acceptance, and understanding!

Learn more about #LifeAtPaloAltoNetworks on our careers blog.

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