Inside Illumio: Raven Gao
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 Raven Gao, staff engineer on the Illumio CloudSecure team. Learn how her passions for art, data visualization, UI development, and a good challenge merge in her work.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?
I’m originally from China, and I came to the U.S. in 2015 to pursue my master's degree in Computer Graphics at Purdue University. I joined Illumio as a member of technical staff in 2018 after graduation. For the first 2 years, I have been helping build data products UI on the Data Experience team. Then I started working as a UI engineer on CloudSecure, our new cloud security product, in late 2020.
When we started the CloudSecure project a few years ago, I was brought in to help the team and work cross-functionally. It was thrilling to have the opportunity to help build a new product and potentially make a big impact on the industry. I've had lots of opportunities to work with different teams and meet new people at Illumio.
My career has shifted focus away from data visualization in the last few years, but change is what I’m expecting in a career. I’m the kind of person who is always open to challenges and likes to explore different possibilities. I love to learn new things. Joining the CloudSecure team was one of those opportunities.
In my current role, I’m working with the team to design and develop user interfaces for the CloudSecure product. I am also regularly making technical decisions and having discussions with different teams on how to improve the architecture and features.
My goal is to work on challenging projects while helping my team and the product be successful. Doing those well defines achievement for me.
What made you interested in working at Illumio?
I joined Illumio right after graduating with my master's degree, so Illumio is my first job! When I joined, I felt, “Challenge accepted!”
I’ve had the opportunity to build a codebase almost from scratch and make technical decisions in terms of the infrastructure, architecture, tools, and coding conventions. Being so closely involved in the building process of a new product is just amazing – it’s something you don’t always get at larger companies.
The most important reason I’ve stayed at Illumio for 4 years is the culture and team spirit. I feel at home at Illumio. People are friendly, open-minded, and always helpful. They care not only about how happy you are in your role and career but also about your well-being as a person.
What does a day in the life of Raven look like? What are you working on that excites you?
My day is mostly spent focused on developing and coding, the technical work that goes into our next project or feature release. My team is good about keeping meetings to a minimum, so I have a lot of time to focus on my work.
I’ve also been jumping in on design work for the user interface of CloudSecure. I work closely with stakeholders to better create and shape how the features will look and how the user will interact with it. That process isn’t as technical as coding, but it’s a super important piece. I really enjoy it!
I also reach out to my team members each day to make sure they’re doing well, able to move forward on tasks, and if they need anything from me. I try to be very intentional about communication, especially since my team works remotely. Communication is a big priority for my team and in the company as well.
I’ve also recently been participating in the hiring process. Being able to grow and nurture our team is special to me and such an exciting opportunity.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned at Illumio so far?
I learned to be a better communicator at Illumio.
One of our core values is leveraging differences. We all have the same goal – help make the team and product successful – and we can all contribute to that goal in different ways. Communication with my team is key to making sure that happens, and it also makes for a friendly, innovative working environment.
What are you passionate about outside of your career?
I’m very passionate about art. When I was a child, I was interested in cartoons and comics which inspired me to draw. I just love virtual stories and am fascinated by various forms of art and their creation process. I think anything can be art – from paintings to software.
My love for art and aesthetic appeals was a major reason I studied data visualization. Data can be hard to comprehend, but once you transform it into something visual, it becomes beautiful and useful.
Which Illumio core value resonates most with you and why?
Run to challenges. I’ve learned how to run to challenges at Illumio. It’s such an important part of our culture.
I’m encouraged to speak up about the opportunities I want and take on new challenges. I think it’s important to be able to speak up about what you want to work on and where you want to go in your career.
And I always feel like I’m able to take on difficult projects because I know I’ll be backed up if I need anything. People at Illumio are extremely helpful. They want to help you grow and succeed. This helps make running to challenges less scary – and builds an incredibly positive cycle of passing on your help and knowledge to others.
What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?
Being an engineer at Illumio is different than other companies.
Each of us is evaluated as an individual contributor to the team, and this gives us the freedom to be innovative in our work. They want to see you grow in your career just as much as they want you to help grow the company.
At Illumio, I feel like I’m a person slowly realizing my own value.
Interested in joining the team? Check out our career openings.