Celebrating Women’s History Month - Q&A with Mary Lovelace

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Come and join us as we celebrate Women’s History Month! We pay tribute to the courageous pathfinders and pioneers who paved the way before us, as well as those who are currently advocating for a more just and equitable society.


While International Women's Day was initially observed on March 8, 1911, the concept of Women's History Month originated from a Women's History Week, first observed in 1978. Just two years later, in 1980, March was officially designated as Women's History Month.


Throughout this entire month, we take the time to acknowledge the remarkable progress women have achieved over the years and continue to strive for around the globe.


As we celebrate, we have the wonderful opportunity to connect with a female colleague here at Palo Alto Networks, Mary Lovelace, Sr Professional Services Technical Writer. Sharing her experiences and advice with all of you, Mary continues to inspire others in the workplace, and we are excited for you to learn more about her!



LIVEcommunity Team: How long have you been working in Technical Writing, and how did you get into the field? Can you talk a bit about what it’s like to be a woman in a historically male-dominated field of cybersecurity, and how the industry has changed?Mary and her basset hound, CliffordMary and her basset hound, Clifford


Mary: My entire career I have been doing some sort of technical writing. I began my career in tech as a mainframe system programmer. I have always loved writing and would document the maintenance procedures for my department to follow and provide feedback to the TechDocs based on my use of their manuals. As my career progressed, I was part of an Education Support Group developing course materials and writing the associated Instructor Guides. IBM Redbooks are technical how-to manuals. As a project leader with the IBM Redbooks team for mainframe and open storage I was responsible for my books from concept to publication - contributing to the content, the final review and editing. When I decided to change my career path, I knew I wanted to go into cybersecurity and was fortunate there was a Tech Writer position at Palo Alto Networks.


I have probably been in tech longer than the majority of those reading this. I’ve been in situations where I was not taken as seriously as male counterparts-– but I believe that has changed.


I feel there are great strides being taken to encourage young women to take on careers in cybersecurity and have seen how Palo Alto Networks actively participates in those programs.



LIVEcommunity Team: How do you think women have shaped and changed the workplace / PANW?


Mary: I love that Palo Alto Networks has a strong Women’s Network Community. In my opinion, it is important to have the support to build confidence, share ideas, learn about and encourage exploring different roles in the cybersecurity field.



LIVEcommunity Team: Who are the women you look up to? Are there any important mentors or influences in your professional or personal life you’d like to share with us?


Mary: I look up to women who follow their dreams and don’t let the doubters deter them. I was fortunate to work for Carmen Doubrechet - a fierce, no nonsense, first-generation Cuban American. She brought me into a group of all male, international assignees. At first, they doubted my technical expertise and let me know it. Carmen could tell when I was about to leave the group and would bring me into her office, make me an espresso, reiterate her faith in my technical abilities and build up my confidence. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and the lessons she taught me.



LIVEcommunity Team: Do you have any morning routines or rituals that are essential for you? Alternatively, what's one practice you engage in to kickstart your day for success?


Mary: I have to have a plan for the day to keep me organized. The last thing I do at the end of the workday is look at my calendar to help prepare for the next day – what meetings do I have and what time blocks do I have for working on documents. The first thing I do each morning is check my calendar again to see if anything changed, then I check email, and prioritize what I need to complete that day



LIVEcommunity Team: What’s your favorite part of your job?


Mary: Without question, it is the interaction with the Professional Services team. I always learn something new with every document I review. The document owners are always willing to explain a concept to me to help better review their documentation. They are accepting of my content rewrites and suggestions, and seem genuinely appreciative of the final result. It just adds to the satisfaction I get from working with them.



LIVEcommunity Team: Where will we find you on the weekend?


Mary: I do set and costume design for a middle school competition dance team. September through February you will find me in fabric stores searching for the perfect materials, at my sewing machine, and helping at the competitions. I am a football fanatic - when I’m not sewing I’m out with my fellow fanatics watching games. The rest of the year I am working in my yard with Clifford (my Basset hound) and at the bowling alley.



LIVEcommunity Team: What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self?


Mary: I would tell myself to be more confident – you got this! 



LIVEcommunity Team: What else would you like to mention to readers?


Mary: I feel fortunate I joined Palo Alto Networks in 2015 and have had the opportunity to experience, and be part of its growth and transformation.


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