I was in an innocuous work meeting one day early in my tenure when the conversation turned to where people had attended college — Stanford, Yale, Michigan, Berkeley, Princeton. It was an impressive cohort. As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and first-generation (state) college graduate, I found myself feeling not like the others.
When the meeting ended, I walked across the campus with Kevin Dunbar, who had also recently started at the company (back when we did that go-to-work thing). Maybe he sensed my internal reflection, but he turned to me and said emphatically, “Yeah, well, that’s great, but I graduated from San Jose State University and am damn proud of it.” A fellow Spartan alum like me! We bonded instantly.
Diversity — in background and experience and thought — is part of what makes Kevin so good at what he does. He leads from the premise that “backgrounds bring ideas,” and that the ideas you have about the problems you see today are shaped by every experience you’ve had leading up to that point. The more experiences you have represented “in the room,” the more ideas generated, the better chance you have of uncovering a truly great solution.
Kevin has an uncanny ability to understand different perspectives and drive alignment. Maybe that comes from a sense of purpose instilled by his parents. Perhaps it’s that his mother was a Black Panther and his father a police officer. A diversity of perspectives and experiences was in Kevin’s family down to its core. (Who wouldn’t have loved to go to the Dunbars’ for family dinner?) Growing up, he learned the importance of activism and the importance of playing by the rules. Uncommon beginnings creating equally uncommon vision and perspective.
In the cybersecurity space, it’s easy, and common, for brands to lead with fear — attaching technical features and benefits to everything in the world you want to avoid. But as our SVP of Brand, Digital, and Demand, Kevin captures people’s attention another way — by connecting to a sense of service and our mission of protecting people. I see the ways that Kevin infuses hope and humanity into the Palo Alto Networks brand, from our external creative expression to the way he shows up in his day to day.
He always picks up the phone. He responds to that late-night email. He is someone who is willing to lend a hand. And it’s not just the C-level executive for whom he creates space. It’s the project manager, the graphic designer, the administrative assistant. He’s that guy who always makes the time even when he doesn’t have it. The way Kevin shows up brings a sense of connectedness, and of family, to everyone he works with. Maybe it’s his humble beginnings in East San Jose and making his way through the ranks, or the sum of hundreds of other experiences. Or maybe it’s just who he is. But whatever the cause, I am certain we’re better for it.
Kevin has said given the year we’ve had, Black History Month will be different this go around. And with Kevin’s background, ideas, experiences, and passion, I know it will be for Palo Alto Networks as well. And I can’t wait.