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Mat’s inside perspective on being a working parent at Palo Alto Networks

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By: Mat Harper, Director, NetSec Marketing EMEA & LATAM

When you work for a tech company, managing change is an imperative. When you work for Palo Alto Networks, change and disruption is not just something we manage – it’s what we strive for.

In life, there aren’t many things more disruptive than introducing a new tiny human into the world.

When I found out my partner Sanne and I were expecting our first child, Wolf, in February 2019, I was naturally equal parts excited and scared. The pressure and expectation to provide for my new family was daunting.

At the time, I had been at Palo Alto Networks for just over three years. My career was beginning to accelerate and I was planning my next move internally. The prospect of juggling my family and career made me nervous. I was worried that at some point, I would have to choose between pursuing my career - or -  being a dedicated father.

However, turns out, I didn’t need to be nervous. Palo Alto Networks and my marketing leadership recognized the importance of work-life balance and went above and beyond to ensure I could pursue both professional growth and prioritize my role as a committed father. So, with support of my team and my family, I was able to strike a healthy balance between the two.

Cut to March 2020: Lockdown. Overnight, the balance we had found was at risk. Together with millions of others, the Harper family was thrown into a liminal existence somewhere between boredom and fear, juggling parenting and a full-time job while attempting to achieve something akin to a fulfilling life.

Thankfully, Palo Alto Networks leadership introduced FLEXWORK, our global employee value proposition, to help support employees through the pandemic, providing resources and a support infrastructure that allowed me to communicate my needs and challenges openly and free from judgment. The trust and autonomy that was given to me allowed me to determine my own working norms and establish a new healthy balance between home life and work-from-home life. 

I was happy to see the principles of FLEXWORK – flexibility, trust, and choice whenever possible – continue post lockdown,especially when our family expanded with the arrival of our second child, Atlas. By this time, my wife had found a new career path that she was passionate about, and it was crucial to us that she had the opportunity to pursue her dreams. Fortunately, with the unwavering support of my manager at Palo Alto Networks, I was able to take advantage of the flexible parental leave offered. This arrangement allowed my wife to return to work while granting me the precious time to bond with Atlas.

I love being a father (most of the time) and being both a present father and providing for my family is my number ONE priority. Now, as employees are welcomed back to the (new) office - our culture of flexibility, empathy and trust allows me to connect with my colleagues in person, while maintaining my work-life balance. I’m lucky that working at Palo Alto Networks affords me the trust and autonomy to handle school runs, sick days, tantrums, swimming lessons and all the other worldly delights that comes with being a father to two little monsters.

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