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.
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.