Illumio Culture

Inside Illumio: Swarna Kumari

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 Swarna Kumari, Illumio’s staff engineer on the UI platform team, who’s based in California. Hear about what she does at Illumio and about where she’d like to travel next.

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

I’ve been at Illumio since 2018: first as a UI intern and now as a staff engineer on the UI platform team. I work on UI architecture improvement projects and features. Front end work is like painting: instead of using a paintbrush, you use code and your creativity. It’s a lot of creative problem-solving. We try to create the best user experience by keeping the end user at the core of the feature while also maintaining consistent interface, code reusability, and modularity, among other things.

What made you interested in working at Illumio?

I was working on my master’s in computer software engineering when I realized that I wanted to work for a startup that developed cutting edge technology while also promoting open communication. Illumio was all of that. I loved my interview experience and appreciated talking with such passionate and talented team members. I was especially excited that Illumio was working on making the Illumination map in Illumio Core more visual.

What does a day in the life of Swarna look like?

As an individual contributor, I spend most of my time coding, testing, contributing to code reviews, and participating in technical discussions. When I am on a sustaining engineer rotation, I focus on regressions, customer escalations and bug fixes throughout the sprint. This initiative has helped us achieve a much faster turnaround on fixing bugs and has been a critical part of shifting quality to the left (i.e., ensuring the quality of our codebase at all times, not just at the end of a project).

How do you stay illuminated during the workday? How do you stay connected with your team while we’re working remotely?

One of my morning rituals is to read through our company intranet; it’s where I get interesting industry updates. I also go to engineering all hands meetings and engineering “Tech Talks,” where I learn about what other teams in the company are doing. In general, team meetings, standups, and Slack channels keep me feeling connected with my team. The days really fly by!

I feel so proud to be on Illumio’s UI team, because we’re always on top of the latest and greatest technology. We’re always asking, “What’s the newest thing on the market and how can we use it?” And our scrum master hosts “Monday Fun Days,” which I really enjoy. We’ll do a few ice breakers and then play Pictionary or a trivia game. Our team is very involved and connected, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.

Where’s the first place you’ll want to travel once it’s safe to do so again?

I’d like to go to my hometown, Ranchi, India, and visit my family and friends again. I have a two-year-old daughter, and my in-laws and parents are excited to meet her!

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

Listening and learning from our differences: it’s so important to have an environment where everyone feels respected and involved. Our leadership speaks about this often, and we practice this principle in our team meetings all the time. Everyone’s ideas are treated as important – ideas from interns are valued just like VPs’ ideas are!

Illumio really emphasizes open and effective communication. Our managers are always asking us as individuals about how we can support the rest of the team. We’re always asking each other, “How are you making your team members do better?”

What career advice do you have for your younger self?

When I initially joined, I was too hesitant to ask questions. I wasted too much time trying to research on my own. Over time, I realized that people are willing to go the extra mile to help you, especially when you’re new. I’d encourage my younger self to really invest in company culture and learn as much as you can about the product.

What are you passionate outside of your career?

I have a daughter and I love spending time with her. I also like to learn new skills, and recently, I’ve gotten into gardening. Right now, I have a vegetable bed and a tomato plant. Also, my husband bought a piano last week, and we’re going to start take online classes to learn to play it.

Which Illumio core value resonates most with you and why?

Onwards Together because it’s all about teamwork. The team should motivate each other with shout-outs, pep talks, and check-ins about how everyone is doing. When I’m working on something, I like to get the whole team involved, so that we can grow and move forward together.

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

There are so many wonderful things about working at Illumio! We’ve been a growing company since the beginning, and I feel like it has a good balance between being a fast-paced and an established company. Illumineers are kind, helpful, and self-motivated. You can see there is a drive and energy to get things done, but we still make time for fun events, like master classes, hackathons, and the Security Champion competition.

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