By: Desiree Lehrbaum, VP Marketing Strategy, Growth & Ops As part of our Palo Alto Networks Alto Networks Latinx Heritage Month celebration, I had the absolute pleasure of hosting a Fireside Chat with Chief Business Officer Amit Singh and Jose M.…
Meet Meerah Rajavel - Chief Information Officer
Welcome! You are a longtime leader in both IT and cybersecurity. Tell us about your path.
Thank you! I am truly excited to be joining the team.
Well, at heart, I am a geek. I love technology. I started my career in Bangalore as a software engineer and I spent more than a decade in R&D departments building products. But I always had a keen interest in how companies ran beyond that. As my career progressed, I wanted to learn the business side … but at the same time, I did not want to leave technology. This brought me to IT. What better place than information technology where you can have both worlds?
For me, IT is exciting as it’s the perfect intersection of both technology and business. Right now especially, IT teams are playing a critical role for organizations. In the last five years, we have seen every industry we interact with being digitally disrupted. Whether it is the food industry, transportation, hospitality, you name it - and COVID actually disrupted it all even further. As these fundamental shifts happen in business, the IT organization of a company can become its competitive edge. This is so exciting for people looking at careers in IT - you are innovating to make real business change.
Why Palo Alto Networks?
As the whole world goes digital, we understand that security is going to not only underpin everything in business, but also help drive it. Through roles at McAfee and Forcepoint, cybersecurity has been a throughline in my career - and I have watched and admired Palo Alto Networks as it has transformed into a true cybersecurity partner.
But I came to Palo Alto Networks not only because I am so interested in cybersecurity. As I met people at Palo Alto Networks, every conversation I had underscored that this IT team is doing great work collaborating across the company. We are truly partnering with the business to help drive change and to deliver solutions that empower Palo Alto Networks on its mission of creating a world where each day is more safe and secure than the one before. This is important to me - my own preferred style is a collaborative one because I truly believe when you listen to different points of view and when you come together, the outcomes are much better.
FLEXWORK is a huge opportunity - also an exciting challenge for IT teams making hybrid work .. “work.” As an IT leader, how do you approach hybrid work?
I am a true believer in hybrid work. My personal view is that work is not a place, it's about the outcomes we produce. And I love what Palo Alto Networks has done as one of the earliest companies to bring in a true flexible work policy. We have told people: You are the best judge of where and how you're going to be at your best. For me, I am going to be spreading my own work between HQ and my home, and I love that we’re all trusted to make those decisions.
For our IT teams, FLEXWORK means focusing on great employee experience. It’s so important. That people not only have choice but that they are safe, that they can be productive. As employees focus on outcomes, we want to enable them to get there and have all the tools to get them there.
You are an advocate for women in tech and cybersecurity. Tell us about that work?
I am really passionate about supporting women in the field and have worked closely with a number of great organizations - like Girlstart and Girls Who Code. For me this is personal – I have had amazing role models and mentors and this has inspired me to want to help other women. My mom was an inspiration early on - she broke barriers in her own way, becoming a director of a school in her small town at age 21, and managing people much older and more experienced than she was. Later in my career, I had mentors at Cisco who really drove me forward. Being in that role to others now is important to me.
What keeps you grounded?
My husband, Raj, and our daughter Swetha - who is a biomedical engineer and worked in business strategy for the past 5 years. She recently decided that was not enough and is soon starting a medical school journey to become a doctor.
And then, Oreo. We inherited a puppy during COVID - and I’ve heard from a lot of people at Palo Alto Networks who did the same. In our case, Oreo is an eight pounder who believes he runs the entire house.