Author: Ahnaf Wadud, Systems Engineer Stepping off the plane in Melbourne, Australia, a wide-eyed international student from Bangladesh, I embarked on an unexpected journey and found myself navigating not only bustling city streets but also the…
Best of Both Worlds
Before joining Palo Alto Networks in November, 2019, I spent 15 years working for a domestic (Japanese) IT company. We handled a wide array of digital technology products from multiple vendors, including PCs, servers, printers, middleware, workflow systems, Office 365, video conferencing systems, and document consulting. I had worked in sales throughout my career and had worked very hard to become successful at my job.
However, like many women in the workforce who become mothers, after my two children were born, I realized that my salary had dropped to roughly 80% of what it had been, even though, upon my return to work, I still managed to surpass 100% performance. The reasoning behind this was that my shift had been shortened to seven hours per day, instead of the usual eight and a half hours, because of my family obligations.
To me, it seemed that I should be paid for my performance on the job, not simply for the number of hours when I was at work. Although my family was my top priority, I believed I was still fulfilling the duties of my role. Because of this, my motivation at work started to wane. I realized that I might be a better fit for a position with a company that paid for performance, not strictly for my workday hours.
A friend of mine was working for Palo Alto Networks and indicated to me that it might be a good fit for me. I gathered from what he had told me that decisions were made very quickly within the company. I liked that the values of speed and agility were emphasized here. At the company where I had been working, I had been frustrated about the fact that decision-making sometimes involved as many as 10 levels of approval before action could be taken — a very common feature at most Japanese companies — so the fast pace at which things happened at Palo Alto Networks was very appealing to me. Not only that, but I wanted an opportunity to connect more deeply with my customers in addition to reaching sales targets, no matter what product or solution I might be selling.
Fortunately, I eventually did secure a role with the Palo Alto Networks Sales team. I’m very happy to have made the change. I really enjoy the workplace culture here, in which everyone is willing to cooperate with and support each other. We are all working toward the same goal, so we are all highly motivated to work hard and assist each other when needed to overcome challenges. This work environment is the best of both worlds: It is both entrepreneurial and collaborative. We are each encouraged to develop and work toward solutions at a pace that’s appropriate for us. This means we can learn new tasks and gain new skills quickly. Yet none of us is working alone. Everyone is open-minded and willing to exchange ideas, because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.
Also, it isn’t always about work — we like to have fun together, too! We are always finding opportunities to celebrate and connect with each other. For example, we had a virtual year-end party, and all our families (even our pets!) were invited to participate. We had a lot of fun playing games (such as a scavenger hunt and Rock, Paper, Scissors), watching dance videos, and more! It was wonderful to realize that we can be innovative, have fun, take care of our work, and be there for our families, all at the same time, thanks to having an employer who believes all these things are important.
Also, as long as I’m accomplishing my work, I have the flexibility to determine a schedule that works for me and my family as well as my customers; I’m not locked into a predetermined schedule. It’s about the quality of my work, not the quantity of hours.
In fact, in 2020, the leaders at Palo Alto Networks announced that the company was beginning a new initiative called FLEXWORK. They had realized that in a COVID-19 world, people’s needs and their style of work have completely changed, so the company’s expectations have had to change too. Under FLEXWORK, we are empowered to work on a schedule that suits our needs, and we are given the tools we need to perform that work remotely, as well as the resources we need to nurture our health and wellbeing.
This is only possible in an environment where diverse opinions are respected and accepted. This culture, which also emphasizes the importance of inclusion and diversity, provides a high level of mental safety and makes it easy to find inspiration, develop ideas, and seek innovation. Sometimes our ideas don’t work or we might make mistakes, but that’s okay. The important thing is that people here respect each other exactly as they are, share their thoughts in a positive way, and create agreement. That’s why I encourage others to join this company and find out for themselves what a pleasure it is to work in this uplifting, satisfying environment.
Just as women were making real strides in the workplace around the globe — earning more equitable salaries, obtaining more executive-level positions, and comprising a larger share of the workforce than they had before — the pandemic came along and…
The pace at which work takes place here is very exciting. In fact, the speed of new features and new-offering releases is much faster than any other company I’ve worked for.