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 Matt Johnson, Illumio’s Senior Systems Engineer, who’s based in Chicago, IL. Hear about his advice for his younger self and his favorite books.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?
I’m a Senior Systems Engineer and I joined Illumio about three years ago. When I first started almost nobody understood what Zero Trust or segmentation were. As somebody who loves to tell stories and educate people, this opportunity was really exciting to me. I feel like we’ve hit an inflection point where our customers and the market now understand our technology and its impact, and I’m proud to have been part of that education.
What made you interested in working at Illumio?
That’s a funny story. I was working as a director of engineering a large VAR and was in charge of advanced data center engineering, which included security. Brian, a friend of mine, reached out and asked me what I knew about this company called Illumio. I researched Illumio and told him, “If they can do what they say they can do, they’re going to beat the rest of the players in the market. They have a whole different way of looking at things.” Then I said, “If they offer you a job, TAKE IT!”
Three months later, I was looking for another gig, and Brian, who was now a sales manager at Illumio, called me saying that his company was looking for a systems engineer. I had a few other offers at the time that other folks might have taken, but I chose Illumio. It’s turned out to be the most fun job in my career yet.
What does a day in the life of Matt look like?
The TL:DR version is that I’m a geek who loves to talk with people. I spend my days having both deeply technical conversations and high-level business conversations with prospects, customers, and partners. I help illustrate the value and impact of Illumio’s products to a variety of people.
How do you stay illuminated during the workday?
I’ve been working remotely for a long time and the struggle to find a healthy balance in my day is always there. I’m a former Army ranger so love to run and exercise. I spend a lot of time with my kids and wife – just last night we had a great martini on the patio. I’m a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction and I also love science, politics, and social theory. It’s fun to get lost in other interests and hobbies.
What’s your favorite book?
An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel. This book explores how science has evolved our understanding of autoimmune diseases and cancer. It’s a fascinating read.
I’ve read Don Quijote (in English) four times. Each time you start to identify differently with the characters. I’ll be 50 in December and as I’ve grown older Don Quijote resonates with me in new ways – he’s not just a silly guy anymore.
Lamb by Chris Moore is a hilarious book too. It’s a story about Jesus told by his best friend, Biff.
There are so many fun books out there to read and I like the silly stuff – it doesn’t all have to be serious.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at Illumio so far?
There are two things:
- Never fail alone. I’m always reaching out to my team and peers on Slack for their input on problems. Whenever I do, without fail, 20+ people chime in to help.
- Do your best to show up as close to perfect as possible. There’s no such thing as absolute perfect, but try to come prepared and set yourself up for success.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
You should have a plan but expect that plan to change. I never expected to go from the Army, back to Colorado, to DC, to New York, to Minneapolis, to Chicago and so on. If you don’t adapt and try new things, you’ll never grow. You need to keep your head up and see what’s out there.
Be tactful and diplomatic. If you leave a company and you had a terrible boss and everyone there had a horrible attitude, so what? Thank them for the opportunity and highlight what you learned. Kindness goes a long way.
Work hard and make sure you take care of yourself – physically, mentally, and financially.
What are you passionate about outside of your career?
I love to run, bike, and hike. It’s super flat in Chicago, so whenever we go to Colorado (or anywhere with hills), I take advantage of the elevation.
My whole family loves to listen to music. My wife gave me a new turn table for Christmas, and we’ve curated a lot of great rock and jazz vinyl – and it just sounds good. Everyone in my house has a Spotify channel too. Recently, my 7-year-old has gotten really into Beck, so we just got her a Beck t-shirt. It’s all Beck all the time in the Johnson household.
Which Illumio core value resonates with you most and why?
Run to challenges. When someone’s having an issue or needs support, go help them. This practice comes from the top down at Illumio. If someone needs support on a deal, our sales leader is always there to go the extra mile. People will drop what they’re doing to help you solve whatever problem you’re facing.
What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?
It is always moving and changing. Illumio is a dynamic and vibrant place to work. You will get out of Illumio what you put into it, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. People are always willing help you.
Illumio has an open, bright and vivid culture. It’s hard and rewarding work and it’s a great place to be.
Interested in joining the team? Check out our career openings.