Starting a new job is always challenging, and even more so during the past year or so when, due to Covid-19, everything was done remotely and according to Flexwork, the hybrid model for work.
Part 2 - Starting a New Job Remotely at Palo Alto Networks Israel - What Does it Look Like?
This week we will get to know our second group, which already has a few years of experience in the job market. They are well experienced in transitioning from one job to another, but have almost no experience with work during corona and with a hybrid model of this kind.
We met up with them so that we could learn, understand, and try to help new employees in the future and those who are apprehensive about taking on the next challenge.
Sahar Shukrun Threat and Detection Engineer in the Cortex XDR Group
Ronny Sharaby Mgr DevOps Engineering Services in the Cortex XDR Group
Maya Gilad Staff UX Designer in the Prisma Cloud Compute Group
When did you join the company and what were your concerns before then?
Sahar: I joined the company in September, having lots of mixed feelings; on the one hand, I was extremely excited since Palo Alto Networks is a company that I had my eye on for a long time, and I really liked the job description and the company itself; On the other hand,
I was apprehensive about the amount of time it would take me to integrate into the company and get acquainted with the people I work with.
I'm the kind of person who knows everyone right away, whether it's over coffee break chats, or during work. But in today's world, everything takes place via a computer screen.
Ronny: I joined right at the beginning of the second Lockdown. There were many questions: How does one start a new job in a huge company when there’s no actual office? When there's no meeting people over coffee breaks? Or when you can't sit down together and think ? How do you integrate into a team when meetings in the foreseeable future would only be held from afar? How would I be able to experience the atmosphere virtually? Is it even possible?
In terms of my personal situation, I have 2 little children and my wife works as well, so when the education system is closed, the situation becomes complicated. As the first day at work was approaching, so did the possibility of a lockdown. The number of Corona cases had only risen, and this directly affected the number of people in quarantine. That’s An unpleasant feeling, knowing it's closing in on you but not knowing exactly when and how.
Maya: I joined in October. Corona was at its peak and I was already working from home for six months at that point. I really wanted to change the atmosphere and get out of my home office corner, to come into a tidy office, create a separation between home and work again and meet colleagues. I feared that this physical distance would affect my onboarding process and my ability to influence.
How did the Onboarding process go?
Sahar: In terms of initial Orientation, getting to know the company, the products, and the people who lead them, it was a crazy experience, I did not expect it to be so well organized and informative.
On the other hand, working remotely means it takes much longer to figure out who is responsible for what, who is the person to turn to, and even then - you're not necessarily immediately comfortable with asking questions. There isn't a preliminary meet-and-greet and the only communication is via Slack, Email, or Zoom, which makes it (especially with first interactions) far more formal and not as easy to connect and get to know the person you are working with.
Ronny: Beyond the issue of onboarding during lockdown, things were relatively orderly; the computer arrived on time, the communication with IT was smooth. In our team, we have a document for a new employee that really helped us focus on what needed to be done. Overall, I encountered a group of really good people who helped (and still help) me to adapt. Plus, and this is really important, the Lockdown mode was regarded with understanding; whether I had to reschedule an appointment or be unavailable - everything I needed - it was received with full understanding.
Maya: The onboarding process was very pleasant. My team arranged a pre-lockdown meeting, so we got to know each other about two weeks before I started, and I also received a delivery of chocolates. so it was a soft-landing overall. When I started, the offices were closed so we worked from home. My team manager did not leave me hanging by myself and scheduled personal zoom appointments for us.
What are some of the difficulties you encountered and what helped you overcome them?
Sahar: My manager and Buddy both helped me a lot with every question that came up, and contributed considerably to my onboarding process. There was an open and instructive atmosphere, I felt comfortable asking whatever I wanted and I always got a detailed and helpful answer.
During the first week we also met outside, in a restaurant, to get to know each other better and talk a little in person, and it was really nice to see the people I work with.
Since my team engages with a lot of other teams, I had to get acquainted with a lot of people and know quite a bit about the range of products or features within Cortex XDR. It was pretty hard to learn everything and get to know the people without being able to just walk down the hall and meet the team members. With that being said, whenever I asked a question or talked to some of the guys that weren't on my team, I was always answered and helped with love.
Ronny: The onboarding process, even more so in a big company, isn’t simple. There is a lot of information coming your way and you need to start connecting the dots. There was a lot of help from the group as well. Everyone helped and my manager was highly available for my needs, so there was almost always someone to ask. I also joined the company in the last phase of a project which simply forced me to dive right in. That doesn’t mean there were no misunderstandings or knowledge gaps, and with the current situation you can't just get up from your desk and go get help, but it just happens in a different way.
Plus, a good friend and I both started working on the same day. Admittedly in different teams, but it was extremely helpful.
Maya: As a product designer, I need to be familiarized with the product. Our product is very complex and the fields of security and cloud computing were new to me. As someone whose job it is to get into the minds of users, this might be overwhelming. Before I started, I consulted with friends from other companies who worked with similar products and I did a lot of Google research as well. In addition, on my first day at work, I explored the product and its features by myself, and formed a list of questions. So every day I sat with my manager (via zoom) and went through the list and touched upon different areas of the system.
What kind of advice would you give a new employee nowadays?
Sahar: First of all, congratulations, you have reached the best cyber company on the market. Bottom line, ask lots of questions, all the time, everyone always helps.
Strive to interact, turn to different people in order to understand different things about the company and the job, try to initiate zoom conversations with the camera turned on whenever possible, it greatly helps to get acquainted with the people and feel more engaged.
Try to find common ground with those you work with and go out and do things together :)
And if you're like me, transitioning from small startups to a company this size, don't always try to learn what's what and who's who all by yourself - ask questions, there is so much information that one might easily get lost in it.
Ronny: I apologize for the cliché, but I strongly believe in questions. No matter how stupid they sound, just don’t stop inquiring. And when on Zoom, make sure the camera is working (even when everyone else’s isn’t).
Maya: Cultivate independence and self-discipline are the most important qualities for this kind of onboarding. Create a daily schedule and take breaks when needed. Since the training is remote, it's easy to get lost. I recommend coming to the office whenever possible, even for a short time. Interact with as many employees as possible, from other departments as well, and learn something from each one so you can slowly piece together the puzzle. At the same time, be patient and accept the fact that you do not understand everything.
What kind of advice would you give us in order to improve the process?
Sahar: What I miss most is the interaction and the social aspect, so I would be happy to see more bonding initiatives in the team or in the group, remotely or physically in one place (in accordance with Corona restrictions). That will enable new employees to get acquainted with the people they work with and not just professionally, but also in a personal aspect.
Ronny: I would consider organizing "Virtual Coffee /Tea /Water” get togethers once every couple of weeks (or more) via Zoom with random people from the group. The idea is to have a system that sets up random group meetings with new people (even with management).
Maya: Personally, it's best for me to dive right in and start tackling real challenges. I’m learning best from practice. I’d be happy to have lessons about the product and experiment flows as a user.
Interns are a crucial part of our culture at Palo Alto Networks. Each year the company carefully selects individuals from a competitive candidate pool. In our eyes, interns are the future!