You have to believe in yourself and build upon a solid foundation. – Seetha Pillai
Seetha Pillai’s guiding principle for becoming all you can be and achieving stellar goals is built upon a solid foundation. As Senior Product Manager at Palo Alto Networks, this relative newcomer to the company has readily tapped into the opportunity and excitement that her position and responsibility offer.
Grounds for Innovation The bright future of Palo Alto Networks, attracting top talent and enabling engaging conversations with a brilliant and committed workforce, a ‘perfect storm’ for success.Says Seetha, "I like it here at Palo Alto Networks. For a big company, people here are quite busy, and conversations are engaging. You get to innovate and do something cool here. Everybody is competent, excited, and very positive at Palo Alto Networks, so we can learn from each other.”
Learning from each other is an aspect of the Palo Alto Networks experience Seetha can readily apply to her current project, the first of its kind. Seetha’s challenge is building a product that will empower customers through different stages of their journey and make it easier for them to start using other cloud services.
As a customer-centric engineer, Seetha's advice is, “Let’s not wait for the customer to call us. The more we move to the cloud, the greater the expectation our customers have that we offer better, faster, and more.”
Technical Skills – Gaining an Edge
Seetha began her career after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2003. She holds a BS EE and an MS in computer science and engineering. Previously, she held positions in software engineering as a Software Engineering Lead, building web services using Java and NoSQL technologies before moving into product management. As a Product Manager, she managed and built cloud-based SaaS applications focusing on API Management and Integration Platform as a Service.
“Having a background in technology and being an engineer is helpful to working in a company like Palo Alto Networks, due to the technical conversations we must have. Technical skills give you an edge. You win the trust of an engineering team when you speak the same language – it’s not a must to have technical skills, but it’s definitely a plus.”
A solid background in technology enables the important conversations, says Seetha.Product Management – Behind the Scenes
Seetha describes product management as both fulfilling and demanding, the “playground for future leadership” since the role requires you to work with a variety of different teams – marketing, sales, engineering, customer success – and understand all the major aspects of running a business.
According to Seetha, the role may hold particular appeal for women, who frequently parlay other skills into complex roles like product management. “If you know the product, work in QA or a similar role where you have had a chance to gain product expertise, then you can use those skills to transfer into product management.”
Building Upon a Solid Foundation
In Seetha’s family, her father, a professor in Civil Engineering who retired as the Principal of National Institute of Technology, and her mother, a professor in Political Science, both deserve credit for the success of three daughters who all became engineers!
Seetha shares that her parents instilled an attitude of “no limits” among Seetha and her sisters early on, even if they grew up in a culture that sometimes put limits and boundaries on what women can achieve.
She is now trying to instill the same “no limits” attitude to her 9-year old daughter by encouraging her to believe in herself and telling her that nothing is impossible as long as she puts her mind to it.
“Something has to come from inside, when you look deep within. The validation and belief in yourself have to come from inside – once you have that solid foundation, then you can build on that.”
Having built more than a few things in an impressive career, we think there’s a solid foundation of truth in what Seetha says, and a solid trajectory to even greater success.
We asked Seetha for a wider view into her life outside of work, and here’s a little insight into that world:
Life outside: Find Seetha with family and friends, reading, and creating culinary delights.
“Name of the Movie” that best describes Seetha and favorite character in the movie:
Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures
What women do you look up to or see as mentors?
Sheryl Sandburg and Arianna Huffington
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to read fiction and non-fiction. While growing up, I was a huge fan of Jane Austen and read all her books and then moved on to Jane Eyre/Wuthering Heights by the Bronte sisters and other classics. One of my favorite books is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Recently, I have started reading more non-fiction books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and Outliers and Susan Cain’s Quiet.
Also, I am a foodie - I love cooking and trying out new dishes from different cuisines. I love spending time with my family (my husband and my 9-year old daughter) and friends and cooking for them.