The Women In Technology Online Festival was created to inspire, celebrate and unify women tech professionals and diversity advocates from across the globe. Every year they have an amazing group of speakers
A Company With Heart
Growing up, I was like many boys my age — I played sports with my friends and had dreams of someday joining the military. But at age 13, after experiencing health problems, I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with a heart condition that brought my ability to play sports and my military dreams to an abrupt end.
Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I was hospitalized for my condition several times. As I grew up and started thinking about what career I wanted to pursue, I felt more and more drawn to information technology (IT). I enrolled in college at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in IT management, becoming the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
I was fortunate to work for several major international companies in technology architecture and systems engineering. As my career was moving to the next level, with my CCIE certification from Cisco Systems, my health was also moving to the next level. As I was completing my CCIE program, attending a lab exam in January 2012, my heart again went into arrhythmia. This resulted in EMS arriving on the scene to administer emergency medication to restart my heart with the proper rhythm — quite embarrassing and disruptive.
Despite my condition, the following month, I passed the lab exam and earned my certification. Two months later, after a correct diagnosis, I underwent surgery to correct my lifelong heart condition.
That surgery gave me a new lease on life, enabling me to get back to doing physical activities that I’d always loved but had been unable to do. I started running again, eventually completing a marathon in 2016 and, after hundreds of hours of preparation, an ultra-marathon in 2020. These days, I still run for enjoyment, along with boating with my family, swimming, biking, hiking, and even CrossFit!
In 2016, after the July shooting of a group of police officers in Dallas, in which five officers were killed and nine injured, I was moved to support the community and help put a positive face on law enforcement. I volunteered as a deputy sheriff, put in 300 hours of training, and became part of several community and safety programs.
Continuing to strive for further success in my career, I accepted a position in systems engineering with a scrappy SD-WAN startup called CloudGenix in early 2017. It was a company I grew to love, with a workplace culture that celebrated autonomy, collaboration, and hustle. When Palo Alto Networks acquired CloudGenix in April 2020, I was elated at the possibilities but also concerned that the culture and work I’d so enjoyed would change, which occasionally happens in acquisitions.
Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. Not only were those of us from CloudGenix empowered to continue working in the entrepreneurial style that we had come to love, but the culture here is so supportive and collaborative that we felt part of the team right away. Hierarchies and job titles don’t matter here as much as pitching in and doing what needs to be done — no one is “above” any task, and if something needs to be done, everyone jumps in to get it done, whether it’s part of their “job description” or not.
Throughout my life, I have learned the importance of maintaining a balance of faith, family, fortune, and fitness. I believe deeply in self-improvement, and I make it a point to listen to podcasts and audiobooks for inspiration so that I can develop all these areas of my life.
What I appreciate about Palo Alto Networks is that it supports that balance. The company’s leaders believe in personal and professional development, a work-life balance, and emphasizing physical and emotional wellbeing, and it offers plenty of resources to employees to help us maintain these things. Even though I’ve only technically been part of Palo Alto Networks for about a year, I have seen that it’s a company with heart, and I’m happy to be here!