Surrounding Yourself with a Community of Experts: Why I Joined Fuel

Community Team Member

Surrounding Yourself with Community of Experts: Why I Joined Fuel by Michelle Malcher reveals an in-depth look at the Fuel User Group cybersecurity professionals.



Surrounding Yourself with a Community of Experts: Why I Joined Fuel

By Michelle Malcher, Data Protection and Security Architect


Michelle Malcher, Data Protection and Security ArchitectMichelle Malcher, Data Protection and Security Architect

Fuel User Group is a global, independent community of cybersecurity professionals led by users of Palo Alto Networks and other security technologies. I joined Fuel in 2014 when it was formed and am a founding board member. My role as a board member is a volunteer position, and most people wonder why I do this in my free time on top of working in cybersecurity all day. But for me, the choice is easy.


Cybersecurity is an extremely important and interesting place to be, and the best way to learn more is by being part of a user community. I am excited about the opportunities Fuel provides to discuss security­ — whether through in-person events, webinars, blog posts or other resources — as well as the ability to network with other professionals. There is so much information out there that it’s important to have a community that serves as a sounding board and a place to access experts in the field.


I joined Fuel for these reasons and more. I am passionate about my role as a data protection and security architect. Participation in a community that focuses on security fuels my passion and provides an understanding of the challenges we face day to day.



I didn’t just join Fuel; I also volunteered. It may seem difficult to believe the rewards outnumber the time and effort put into volunteering. When you give a little, you will always be surprised by how much more you get back.

Still doubtful volunteering for Fuel can be fulfilling? Let me tell you a few stories.


I enjoy working in the technical field and even moreso in the security space. In previous positions, the technical work was interesting, but my day job didn’t provide the additional responsibilities I was looking for. I looked to the user community, and, unsurprisingly, there were opportunities that provided support in several areas. I had a chance to lead a special interest group, which not only provided information for a project I was working on, but it also allowed me to direct additional programs, develop ideas to benefit the community and gain leadership and growth opportunities for my professional career.


As my career progresses, I continue to grow into leadership roles. I also continue to volunteer because I learn more from the community than I can learn on my own. Everyone’s experiences will differ from mine, but sharing information and ideas continues to provide growth opportunities.



Being able to network with users and other companies has provided new job opportunities as well as an understanding of different products that may or may not be in use. As a Fuel member and especially a volunteer, you may have access to product managers, senior leaders and experts that might not be available to everyone in the profession.



My favorite part of volunteering is hearing concerns, issues and questions from others and offering ways to help. I’m always surprised when people have similar issues. I’m either able to provide some direction or point to another person I know who may be able to help, creating new connections. You know you are in the right group when, even at social events, the conversation centers on solving security issues or dealing with complicated environments that we have to make work together securely and for the benefit of the company.


Fuel Spark User Summits

Fuel has regular Spark User Summits in several cities. The Spark User Summits are special to Fuel because they are in-person events to discuss, learn and network. Each time I attend a Spark User Summit, I come away with at least two new things I need to implement as soon as possible. I learn not only from the speakers (and there are awesome speakers) but from the attendees and vendors, too.


Everyone comes to these events with a purpose, and it’s a great place to learn together. I really enjoy the sessions from Unit 42, hearing more about the security practices that Palo Alto Networks is implementing and understanding how everything fits together in a complex environment of several technologies. Discussion time is never quiet, as people have great conversations about a question, solution or continue to discuss what was just heard.


I encourage you to attend these events whenever possible. In February, we have Spark User Summits planned for New York, the San Francisco Bay Area and Cleveland.


Learn more here and keep an eye out for future events.


At the end of the day, we are only as strong as the community that surrounds us. I encourage you to become part of that community with Fuel and join me.



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