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From SE Academy to Full-time Systems Engineer

Ahnaf SE Light 650X440 R2

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 intricate labyrinth of the cybersecurity world. In my bachelor of cybersecurity program, each lecture, lab and late-night study session fueled my desire to understand the intricate mechanisms of cyber threats and the art of defending against them.

Joining the Systems Engineer (SE) Academy at Palo Alto Networks after graduation was a dream come true. I honed my skills through hands-on training and in-depth technical discussions, immersed in a dynamic environment alongside experienced mentors and colleagues. From day one everyone at the organisation has been immensely helpful and eager to help me find my footing in this complex world. 

My first steps were like tiptoeing through a security solutions museum – internal demos showed me the real-world muscle behind the theoretical concepts. Next, I shadowed seasoned SEs in customer meetings, learning the art of understanding needs and crafting perfect solutions. Soon, I was troubleshooting alongside them, putting theory into practice with a growing sense of confidence.

Leading customer conversations, from initial contact to problem-solving and assisting with implementation, was like watching the entire cybersecurity ecosystem unfold before my eyes. Don’t get me wrong it was not all smooth-sailing. I made mistakes and learned from them, and it taught me more than any textbook ever could. Collaborating with diverse teams and building genuine connections with customers – that's when I knew I wasn't just in the right field; I was in my element.

The great connections that I built during the academy along with all the experiences equipped me with knowledge and confidence to navigate in the field. My current role as a systems engineer is an exhilarating challenge. Working directly with customers, I help them secure their networks and navigate the ever-changing threat landscape. Witnessing the positive impact we have on businesses, large and small, strengthens my resolve and reinforces my passion for cybersecurity.

One aspect that particularly excites me is the opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of innovative technologies. At Palo Alto Networks, we are constantly pushing the boundaries of cybersecurity, and being a part of this pioneering spirit is incredibly rewarding.

Looking back, my journey has been a whirlwind of experiences and I've learned four invaluable lessons:

  • Embrace the challenges: The cybersecurity world is ever-evolving, and challenges are a recurring theme. Embrace them as opportunities to adapt and grow.
  • Embrace the learning: The most rewarding aspect of this field is being a trusted advisor for constantly evolving organisations. Continuous learning through feedback, constructive criticism and a willingness to explore new avenues is key to becoming a valuable asset.
  • Embrace the passion: Cybersecurity is a field that rewards curiosity, dedication and a willingness to grow. Dive in, explore and let your journey begin.
  • Embrace yourself: We define who we are. Surrounding yourself with mentors who offer guidance, nurture your potential, and promote your growth is crucial in this journey. Be sure of yourself and have integrity, as these qualities will help you build a strong personal brand.

As I continue my journey, I am grateful for the many individuals who have helped me along the way. Their guidance and support have been instrumental in shaping my self-brand and fostering my growth.

Maybe someday our paths will cross. Explore opportunities to join our team! Until then, stay safe, stay secure and keep exploring!


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