Inside Illumio: Allan Bahati
Inside Illumio is a monthly series that highlights the exceptional individuals behind Illumio’s world-class products. Each post will take a peek behind the scenes to spotlight a member of our team. Come get to know us a little better and learn more about what makes Illumio’s culture so unique.
This month, meet Allan Bahati, Illumio’s Network Security Escalation Engineer, who’s based out of the UK. Hear about what he has learned during his first year at Illumio, and the career advice he has for his younger self.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?
I’m a Network Security Escalation Engineer – in other words, I’m an engineer who supports our customers around the world with using our product. I focus mostly on customers within the EMEA region, but sometimes as needed, I also cover customers within other regions.
Our customers use our product in diverse environments. Some deploy Illumio Core (formerly Illumio ASP) on premise, some in the cloud, some in hybrid environments, so there is a wide scope of challenges I solve on a day to day basis.
I’m quite a curious person. At Illumio one skill I am developing further is experimenting and breaking things more often, and asking myself questions along the way to further understand the fundamentals of how things work.
What does a day in the life of Allan look like? What are you working on that excites you?
I start my day by looking at my existing customer incidents. Then I’ll dive in and either do some research and collect diagnostic data to help me solve the problem, or troubleshoot with the customer in real time, to get a better idea of what their challenge is, and work with them to resolve it. If I can’t solve the problem myself, I’ll consult documentation, external resources, or other colleagues and engineering to develop solutions. Whatever I’m doing, I always endeavour to listen very carefully to the customer’s needs, show them some love, and make sure they know and feel that we’re taking care of them.
Getting a better understanding of our products and how they work is exciting for me. I like to go under the hood of the product and understand solutions from the bottom up – it’s fun for me.
How do you stay illuminated during the workday?
Every day before I start my work, I write down three to five things I want to achieve and get done. It helps me focus. When I’m working, I try to focus on a task or research for an hour at a time so I can get into a “deep work” frame of mind. Then I make sure I take regular breaks and I have lots of tea. Having goals helps too. Knowing that I’m going to spend time with friends and family, play an instrument or that I’m going to exercise once I’m finished for the day helps me stay motivated.
What’s your favorite food?
I tend to like very hot and spicy food. I grew up in Kenya and there was a lot of Indian influence in my food, so I love Indian cuisine. Chapati and curry are my absolute favorites. I also love Thai dishes, especially tom yum – it’s fire on a plate. And I drink a lot of tea during the day. Everywhere I travel, I get new tea. I think I love it because many moons ago my grandma farmed tea and coffee in the Kenyan highlands.
Where do you like to travel?
I really enjoy traveling, so I’ve done quite a bit of it. I’ve been to 34 countries so far. I’m trying to catch up to a friend of mine who has been to 180! I started out traveling in 2009 – I closed my eyes and pointed at map of Europe to figure out where to go. I landed on the Czech Republic, so that’s where I went. I also love the US. It’s such a huge country and the geography is overwhelming, in a good way. But my favorite place is Asia, especially Southeast Asia. I was going to go to the Philippines in May, but that trip will have to wait until next year.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at Illumio so far?
Ask a lot of questions. I didn’t come from a security background originally, so I was diving into the deep end at Illumio. I learned to never believe something until you understand it yourself, so ask questions until you understand the big picture. And be curious – I think that’s the most important thing, really. Asking questions is how we grow.
While it’s important to be humble and ask questions, always remember that you bring something to the table too. You’re the best person for the job and you have it in you to solve whatever problem comes your way.
What are you passionate about outside your career?
Loads of things:
- Travel – we’ve already talked about this.
- Photography – I like to take both portraits and landscapes.
- Gardening – I have about 30 plants on my balcony right now. I love to grow flowers, herbs, and spices.
- Health and fitness – I enjoy working out and going to the gym.
- Music – I sing and play guitar. I also play piano, but badly. Music keeps me grounded, especially during the pandemic.
- Community service – I do a lot of volunteering and used to volunteer to tutor teenagers.
- Refurbishing my apartment – I’m working on updating my bathroom right now.
Which Illumio core value resonates most with you and why?
Seek truth. This is really key, especially as an engineer. Science will always prove you wrong if you’re wrong, and it will prove you right if you’re right. I’ve learned that it’s helpful to ask as many questions as I can to get a better understanding of a topic both in and out of work.
Run to challenges resonates with me a lot as well. As engineers it’s important to not shy away from new problems, but to face them head on. Running to challenges is really important if you want to grow, it’s how we learn.
Do you have any career advice for your younger self?
- Pick tougher problems, always throw yourself in the deep end.
- Experiment with things and test more.
- Technology moves quickly, so keep up with it.
- Know which learning method suits you best and lean into that.
What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?
Working at Illumio is really exciting. I work with some incredibly talented and amazing people who are also very kind, humble, and approachable. The people here know their stuff and are very down to earth. For example, if you say something that’s incorrect, you’ll be corrected. When that happens, it is clear that the feedback is coming from a good place, intended at helping you discover more and grow as a professional. We all want the customer, and each other to win at the end of the day.