“Silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.” Audre Lorde
Enjoy the Ride
As a Customer Success Engineer for Palo Alto Networks’ Prisma Cloud, I wear three hats, which I wear interchangeably each day: One is as my customers’ trusted advisor providing guidance about how we can best address their needs with our products. One is as a trainer for other employees within the company as well as for new customers as they onboard with our products. And the third is one that puts me in a support role for existing customers so they can overcome tech challenges. Every customer is in a different stage with our products, so I’m continuously changing my “hats” each day, which makes every day interesting — there’s never a dull moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Although I have only been with the company a little over a year, it feels like I’ve been here for years, and I mean that in the best way possible — the learning I have achieved and expertise I’ve been able to gain in my short time are incredible.
Our Global Customer Success department is what we call a speedboat — this means we’re a self-contained unit that is empowered to be agile and move quickly ahead. In this analogy, there’s constant wind coming at us and we need to speed ahead to lead the way, deflect hazards in our path, and deliver results.
But for me, I think of working in GCS as being like a roller coaster. Personally, I’m scared of roller coasters. I’m always afraid I’m going to fall off. But every year on my birthday, I go to a theme park and ride one, just to prove to myself that I can do it. Every year, I feel that anxiety while I wait in the queue to get on the ride, and I wonder why I’m doing this to myself. The waiting is stressful. But then after I ride, I’m exhilarated and glad that I did it, and I’m ready to ride it again. In some ways, this is like my work. In Customer Success, we have a lot of customer meetings to get through each day to make sure they’re getting the right and expected value from our products. The anticipation of what challenges they’ll bring can be scary sometimes — you don’t know what you’re going to get, and sometimes you’ll encounter a challenge you’ve never faced. It can be overwhelming. But then when I speak to my customers and earn their trust, then watch their progress with the products, it’s so exhilarating and rewarding. Then I think, “I’m ready to do that again!”
On our team, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) and Customer Success Engineers (CSEs) work closely together — the CSMs hand more of the account management and customer service whereas CSEs deal more with the technical challenges. And we definitely complement each other. But when I was hired, this was a new department and I was given the opportunity to set the scene for building the team. In my mind, CSEs also must provide that customer service. We can’t just be siloed to our headphones and screens. For me, the customer-facing component is key. Building relationships with customers is a daily necessity — they need to trust that I’ll be honest with them and see that I take their success with our products personally. To be able to say, “This is the solution I know you wanted, and we’re going to work together to make sure you achieve it,” and to forge an ongoing relationship with them is amazing. Because we’ve gotten to know them — what their needs are, how they use the products — we’ve been able to tailor solutions to each customer. There’s a continuum of care we need to provide our customers, which means we’re available when they need us and we pay close attention to them, not just because they’re our customers, but because we have that relationship and I care about their success.
I didn’t start my career preparing to work in Customer Success; I began in system administration, then storage administration. Prior to joining Palo Alto Networks, I provided support and consulting for storage solutions and automation projects. However, I served as a liaison between engineering and our support center, helping tech support to solve high-level, complex problems, or helping engineering to understand systemic issues with the product so they can fix them going forward. This is how I discovered that I loved that customer success component. I knew the cloud was where everything was headed, so I became passionate about teaching myself everything I could about the cloud. I’m the kind of person who needs to constantly learn and be challenged.
That’s when I began looking for a challenge and discovered Palo Alto Networks’ Customer Success role in GCS. Because I had the technical and customer-facing background and could demonstrate my ability to learn quickly and excel in this role, they gave me a chance to prove myself, and I’m so happy they did.
If you’re interested in pursuing this career, I don’t believe you necessarily have to have cybersecurity experience, but you should understand the basics of it while “knowing” the cloud and cloud native designs in and out. If you’re familiar with one or two cloud providers and can work your way around them, and perhaps have certifications from cloud providers to demonstrate your knowledge, we need that — the rest of the technology is teachable. But you also need those soft skills. Can you interact effectively with customers and your colleagues? You can’t just be transactional and technical; you need to be good at interpersonal relationships as well. This is a company that will give someone who’s passionate and hardworking a chance, but be proactive and demonstrate that.
This job can be very difficult and even exhausting. But it’s also fun and so rewarding, and every morning I wake up excited to do it all again. Everyone should feel that way about their job.
Because I am someone who thrives on learning and taking on new challenges, I’m continuing to evolve in my career at Palo Alto Networks. I am now transitioning to a new role and expect to continue serving our customers with cloud-native security solutions. I am super excited to shift to the world of a Systems Engineer Specialist for Cloud Security (Prisma Cloud) and help our customers conquer cloud security challenges using our solutions. This new role also entails greater challenges in new areas of the organization, which I aim to master. For me, this has been the natural, measurable journey that I have been striving for. While there are some key differences in shifting from Customer Success to Specialist Systems Engineering, the experience and relationships collected along the way will definitely help. I’m excited to take this next step of my career with Palo Alto Networks!
My journey to Palo Alto Networks has been a long and winding road, and I am tremendously grateful for having had the opportunity to explore the world and different languages, cultures, and career options before I earned my MBA, spent a decade at Bain