Inside Illumio is a monthly series that highlights the exceptional individuals behind Illumio’s world-class product. 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 Sajjad Lateef, Sr. Product Manager. Hear about what he has learned during his time at Illumio and what he’s passionate about outside his career.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?
I’m a product manager at Illumio and I’ve been with the company since 2013. The Product Management team is the bridge between the engineering, marketing, sales, and customer support teams. In my role, I help these teams understand our products so they can support customers and prospects in their own ways. For example, customer support might come to me with an idea that will make customers’ lives easier (perhaps one of our customers requested the feature in a recent conversation). I’ll take that vision to the engineering team who will figure out how to build the product update, and, once the update is made, I’ll help educate sales and marketing on how it works so they can engage our customers or prospects. I’ll also share details with the customer support team to bring them up to speed so they can help our customers use it. It’s a full circle.
What does a day in the life of Sajjad look like? What are you working on that excites you?
Every day is different because we’re working with a bunch of different teams and customers. In the morning, I might have calls with customers to understand their priorities, and in the afternoon I might be working through a project with my team. We take concepts that will help Illumio and our customers grow and make them real. After we see the concepts become products and updates, we take them to the field so customers can use them. Then, we take customer feedback and do the whole thing again with newer, better concepts and products. To answer the second question, I’m excited most by seeing customers find value in what we’ve built.
How do you stay illuminated during the workday?
Building new products is a long-term game. You need a vision of the future and you need to take many small steps to get there. There will be bumps in the road, a lot of them – resources won’t be readily available, the business environment won’t be ready yet, we’ll be dealing with a worldwide pandemic. I keep my eye on the long-term goal to stay motivated through the ups and downs. I rely on the product team, too. We are communicating even more now while we’re working from home. They remind me of the small steps we need to take each day to achieve our vision.
What’s the last book you read?
I’m in the middle of Scott Belsky’s “The Messy Middle” – go figure. It’s about what it takes to bring a product from a vision to a reality. Building a product is messy and really tough and, as product managers, we deal with the mess. It often feels like the team is taking one step forward and two steps back, but that’s just part of the process. As long as we keep our eyes on the final goal we’ll get through.
What’s the most important think you’ve learned at Illumio so far?
I’ve been here for six and a half of Illumio’s seven years and it’s been a team effort all the way. If you want to build a successful enterprise software company, it has to be done as a team. Our team has been successful because we trust and depend on each other. We’re transparent and keep stakeholders involved when we make decisions, and that’s important. Great products, and happy customers, come from great teams.
What are you passionate about outside of your career?
I’m an avid gardener. My front yard is full of California native plants and my backyard is a more traditional garden. When we learned we were going to be working from home for a while, I went into the office to pick up the plants from my desk. I saw that many of my teammates hadn’t picked up their plants, so I took them home with me. Now I’m taking care of quite a few office plants until we’re back in the office!
Which Illumio core value resonates with you most and why?
Build trust. For me, when you’re working toward a long-term goal, you have to trust your teammates. It helps to know that everyone is doing their best and working hard toward the collective goal. When you trust the people you work with you can be more creative and successful as an individual, team, and company.
What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?
Illumio’s team is some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. They are passionate, bright, dedicated and hardworking people. They make an effort to understand problems and identify the root cause because everyone wants to do the right thing to help the customer be successful. It might take longer, the middle might be messier, but if it’s the right thing for the customer, this team will make it work. I’ve loved watching this team grow from 20 people to 350 people – they’re extraordinary.