Illumio Culture

Inside Illumio: Leila Nejad

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 Leila Nejad, Product Management Director. Hear about what she has learned during her time at Illumio and what she always wanted to be when she grew up.

Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?

I’m on the product management team at Illumio and I’ve been here for over a year. We lead the development of new products and our goal is to make sure the products we develop enable our customers. To break it down, we create the strategy for new features and products and conduct a lot of product research.

When we find a new idea for a product, we’re responsible for defining the “three Ws”:

  1. Why are we building it?
  2. When are we going to release it?
  3. What are the requirements for it to be successful?

I work with a lot of people at Illumio to answer those questions and make sure other teams understand them too. That way, we can keep making our products better and help our customers be more successful.

What does a day in the life of Leila look like? What are you working on that excites you?

What I love about my job is how challenging it is. In many jobs, your role is defined for you – that’s not the case for me. I get to talk with customers frequently and hear about their concerns and challenges. Then, I work with our engineering team to prioritize the most urgent customer needs while continuing to work on existing goals. Customer satisfaction is our top priority. We’re working on really hard problems that haven’t been solved before. And we’re a small company, so we move quickly and have to be creative and scrappy. It’s an exciting process and it feels really good when customers are happy with what we’ve built for them.

How do you stay illuminated during the workday?

Our team trusts each other, and that’s important because we can’t be successful alone. We all try to inspire and help each other on projects as best we can. We lead by example in how to tackle challenges so we can learn from each other’s missteps and successes. It’s my team that helps me stay motivated.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to build things and really wanted to be an engineer. As a little girl, I would tinker with the tools and appliances we had at home. I would take things apart and write down what I could learn about what they did. I was so curious to understand how every part worked. Building new things from the ground up has always been my dream – and it came true!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned at Illumio so far?

At Illumio, your boss and the executive team trust you. They trust you to deliver high-quality results even on the tough problems. Instead of being told how to solve problems, you get to figure it out yourself and use your leaders to help you.

Illumio has taught me how important trust is. When your leaders and team trust you, it enables you to grow. The leadership wants to empower you to do what you love; they want you to define your own journey. The sky is the limit at Illumio.

What are you passionate outside of your career?

I’m really passionate about entrepreneurship. I got my bachelor’s degree in software engineering and then got my MBA. I love learning everything I can about business – it’s fascinating to me. Right now, I’m reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Alpha Girls by Julian Guthrie. They’re both books about scrappy and smart people building success in their field. I just can’t learn enough about entrepreneurship – I love it.

Which Illumio core value resonates most with you and why?

Run to challenges. Every day we have different challenges to tackle and that thrills me because it leaves room for more opportunity. It feels great to be pushed to the limit, learn new things, and make meaningful contributions. We’re always asking, “How can I think outside the box to enhance the business? How can we enable our customers to grow?” It’s helpful that the whole team has your back too, it’s really motivating.

What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?

There are three things:

  1. It’s a privilege to work at Illumio. You’re always fulfilled at the end of the day. Every day before I leave, I write down my “so what?” to help me remember how I impacted the business. There hasn’t been one day where I drew a blank on my answer.
  2. It’s an ethical company. Our leaders and every employee care deeply about our customers, company, and the culture. It’s important to everyone that we do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
  3. You can be yourself. You don’t have to fit into a certain culture or box to do well here. You can show up exactly as you are each day and your team is going to care about you and value what you bring to the table. I think that’s really important.

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