Skip to content

Proofpoint Ep. 1 -- It's All About the People

TechVibe Geek Out

Proofpoint is all about its people. TechVibe Radio's Jonathan Kersting interviews Ali Mazzota and Sean Walker from the Pittsburgh office via Zoom about their growing careers at the cybersecurity company.

We nerd out on: what makes it a great place to work; what are the challenges; is there room to grow; what's it been like during the COVID-19 Pandemic? 

Listen to find out!


Wow, this is so much fun for us here on tech by radio you'd like to nerd out on some of Pittsburgh's coolest tech companies are doing this in depth series of proof point that I'm really excited about truly get to know the company inside and out. Talk to the people that work there learn more about the technologies that they're protecting. And to me, it's just so much fun to be able to kind of get these stories out there. Especially with a company like Proofpoint. I'm Proofpoint back when they were wombat security technologies and Norman today spun it out of Carnegie Mellon many many many years ago. It was like a little three person office and all of a suddenly they're bought by Proofpoint X number two years later, you're playing with people in Pittsburgh and they're solving really tough problems around cyber security, which is just huge. And today we're kicking off our series with two really cool people. We have Ali Mazzota here and we have Sean Walker. Both grew quickly that you can see by their awesome backgrounds they have I'm jealous that your background Yeah. And welcome to the show. I'm so excited to learn more about what you guys do at Proofpoint Point to your Pittsburgh in the fact that in Pittsburgh, you're growing and you're doing some great stuff. Thanks for being here. So Allie, let's start with you. What's your background real fast and what you do at Proofpoint?

Yeah, absolutely. JOHN, happy to be here. I'm a product manager at this point. I'm currently working on our customization center. And I've been in a new product called our content library. So how, really how are managers and admins control the content that they're provisioning out to their end users around cybersecurity training?

I see how long you've been approved points.

I have been at Proofpoint is coming up on two years at the end of the month here, so almost on my anniversary.

Wow. Very, very cool. Very cool. And then Sean, what's your role? What's your gig?

Absolutely. I'm an account executive with which means I'm just a sales rep. So all the great things that you're bringing money into the business!

Absolutely, absolutely. But um all the great things that we do really it's my job just to take that information and make it actionable for our customers to really understand and try to bring in new customers into the fold as well. So I work primarily in the PA and serve scenarios. I've worked a lot of the Pittsburgh companies, which is awesome because it's right in my backyard, which, which makes it fun every day to go to work and work with the people of the city.

Absolutely great stuff. So what kind of get into what it's like working at Proofpoint and stuff you guys get to do? You want to give us kind of like the elevator pitch point give us kind of the nuts and bolts of the wind guys do especially what you're doing here in Pittsburgh.

I think Sean, you're the sales guy, if you want to give the elevator pitch I feel like you're probably better to see us but um, it's a bracing for Pittsburgh for the Proofpoint arm. We leverage security bars and training. So our biggest thing is keeping Organizations The tools needed to understand their vulnerabilities in their people. So we understand that, you know, almost 100% of attacks that happen in organizations are human error. So our goal is to give our customers the tools to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their end users, but also giving them the tools to report those potential issues. Security. So it's really think about it. training or security wise isn't the most sexy thing we offer, but it's really one of the most impactful things that we offer because it directly with people which is awesome.

It's foundational because people forget like to create a big cybersecurity plan. It all starts with your people in the culture around that and that's why what you got to do is so important, and I have first hand knowledge of this because the Pittsburgh tech Council, we actually use Proofpoint to test our systems out and our people out in man bunch of our people flunk I did not work, because I'm pretty smart about stuff because I'm freaked out with All Things cyber security. But what do you guys do? Something you guys do is ask me amazing. I mean, it teaches people very quickly, and I just can't do what you guys do. And this was many, many years ago, before you're actually proven like back when you were one that we tried some of this stuff out. It definitely got us thinking and changed our perception. That's for sure. So, like I said, I think the most foundational stuff is so important as you guys tell people what to do. I think it's just so cool. Absolutely. So Shawn, tell us about like, what was it that made it exciting for you to go to Proofpoint and sell these types of services?

You know, before I point I was, work for a large payroll company just wasn't exciting. And in the back of my mind, I always wanted to get into technology because just looking at the way the landscape was moving technology is where you want to be, you know, just for just in general, that's what everything exciting happens from technology and when I got the opportunity, I didn't know much about it, but About one bite at a time, but I just felt I had to take the opportunity just because it felt like it was getting in the door. nology and then two months after I started, we got acquired by Proofpoint. And it just really reading from there just all the great things in cybersecurity, that the organization has different things that we track from a perspective, you know, just listen to those people talk about now we're tracking the state actors or attacking or tracking, you know, nation actors that actually, you know, and use it. The easiest thing for people to do is say, hey, why me some money and you just see that happen? Over and over again? Yeah, look at those actual emails that come in and see why are people actually clicking on this, this types of, of wars, but being able to beat on every everyday basis and wanting to get that out to the public. It's, it's fascinating, it's fun, it's challenging, but uh, you know, we have a great office and now with the times right now, we can't really get there. But we're right in the Strip District. So it's a great place now. Notes. I mean, a surface it doesn't look like it did five years ago, as our company grows in Pittsburgh, Strip District is leading the way with the amount of changes as well. So being able to be a part of that is just it's exciting. It's really exciting, especially for Pittsburgh is another Renaissance the last decade or so. So it's, it's great.

It's companies like Proofpoint that are driving that Renaissance. So nice to talk to all your awesome officers in the Strip District, which we'll get back to you one day. I know we will for sure. I'm wondering, what are you up every day to get to the office when you when you were getting to the office every day?

Like I can't wait to get to work today.

Yeah, well, I think it goes back to why I became a product manager in the first place. And I was working in a small, small startup. And I was actually on the support side. And I was dealing with customers who are really frustrated with certain workflows. And so I was able to kind of nudge my way in and talk to that development team and say, Hey, well, if we change this, it's going to stay A lot of time for this end user. And I, I still have a lot of that empathy and that that drive to make everyone's lives easier as a product manager on Proofpoint. And not only you know, are we making it easier for sis admins to understand which emails should be quarantined and which emails are just spam that their end users are annoyed by. But we're really at the end of the day where changing end user behavior, and you know, helping companies stay protected against cyber security scams and threats. So just really getting up in the morning and being able to help people in their organization is really something that gets me excited.

I love it. And that's what I look for to go back to the office. I don't get sirens blaring in my window like I just did right now for the joy of doing our interviews via zoom so I can be transparent about it right now.

Yeah, I thought that was a reaction to my response. And I was like, Oh, no, but did I say that?

siren going off my back. I'm like, come on, man. I can't get back. Can we have our TechVibe podcast studio might be found. Now it's all good to understand good. Yeah, I'll go to when you talk about that, because I think it seems like everybody proof points really fired up, people are inspired, you're excited to get to work. I've been in the office a few times, there's just this high level of energy. And I know it's tough to maintain that we were all at me, but maybe tell me more what it was like when you guys were in the offices and the fact that it is this really cool culture where people are allowed to excel and they're able to, you know, try new stuff and be the best person they can be.

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I work really collaboratively in my role, but I think everyone else does too. Like I've worked really closely with Shawn in the past as well as customer support and marketing. And you know, sales engineering, pretty much everyone across the board and everyone, like you mentioned, is really excited and fired up about what we're doing because we really are making an impact for businesses as well as individuals, you know, you might have to take our training as part of your, you know, required training. For your job, it's really helping you in your personal life as well in protecting you and your family against these cyber threats. So I think that's something that brings us all together.

So you're seeing those threats firsthand. You're telling your family, don't click on these links.

They're not giving you anything for free, we swear.

You don't need to buy $1,000 worth of gift cards to pay off your electricity bill, like, please don't do that. Don't fall for that scam.

Oh, man, it's terrible. It's why I'm glad to point out there because people need this type of training. And it's just vital to how we get around these days. So tell me a little bit more about like, how you guys been able to get to, like maintain cohesiveness during this whole COVID thing. Obviously all working from home. Have you guys been able to keep the boat rowing in the same direction keep that same energy up and running?

I think it starts in the top top for firstborn. So we have weekly town halls with the CEO, Gary steel. Really kind of sets the stage. I think you No attitude reflects leadership. And he really just sets the stage and then from there, the managers and the executive staff, they really, you know, fall in line and it's, you know, it's when you have that type of leadership, you feel you feel comfortable coming to work every day or job every day and understanding the objectives and they haven't changed. Even though with the work from home, as you know, affected probably 100% of the workforce at some capacity. You know, when leadership is, you know, fast, you know, you typically fall in line so, I'll become everyone's best friend and worst enemy. So a lot of zoom calls, typically on a daily basis, but it's the best way to continue communication from from the executive staff. And then you can relay that down to our team in which we can relate to our customers. So Pittsburgh has a great or Proofpoint in general just has a great swarm mentality, that when any, anytime you have an issue, you know, everyone wants to help you know, it's It's awesome. And the culture that we've built in the office is I really have never seen anywhere else. I've worked probably five different organizations. It's really a fun atmosphere, but it's competitive. Everyone wants to be the best. Yeah, they also want to push everyone to be great. You know, everyone wants to, you know, everyone wants to see everyone do well, which is something from a sales perspective, you don't really see. Yeah, it's, it's one of those things, it's contagious, especially in our office where, you know, we, we help each other out, you know, we'll drop doing to make sure that we're helping something whether it's getting a PM, like Ali on call, or, you know, having the CFO or CEO hop on a call with a customer. It's, it's happened for me a number of times, and just to know you have that type of support, allows you to, you know, not really miss a beat when you go from being in the office every day to work from home. So when things change, you still have the same support, and it really makes your life a lot easier. I know that Not every organization has that and I'm we're I'm fortunate to have the support from the top down because of me convinced because like I said, you need a part time podcast host I'm applying right now Google said it sounds like a cool place and that's why the Proofpoint continues to grow in Pittsburgh and my like, I thought it'd be so much fun just to watch the trajectory but really be three people. what you guys are doing now me just goes to show you Pittsburgh's a place you can build a company like this. And there's great women and men like you guys that are there to work there and make that company grow. And you guys are the sauce to that company, man. And that's what it comes down to. I think it's an amazing story. We kind of like why, honestly, down to any any final thoughts about like, you know, growing in Pittsburgh and the opportunities to grow professionally around those areas, you might want to cover your first store.

Yeah, sure. So when I graduated college actually moved out to Silicon Valley, because that's, you know, where tech happens and I was there for a while. I worked at a start We got acquired and that company is now Adobe. But after that had happened, I was thinking like I would love to come back to Pittsburgh and I was astounded in the seven years I was gone about how much opportunity there is in Pittsburgh for tech. Not that there wasn't 10 years ago, but I think it's really important. And like Sean mentioned, there's really just a renaissance here and a lot of really great things happening. I mean, our company was founded at CMU with the premise that we wanted to change adult behavior. And look how we've been able to grow it with all of the great people that we have here in Pittsburgh. It's it's honestly amazing.

Yeah, I'm glad you came back to Pittsburgh. I love here in Silicon Valley. It's cool. You got you got some great experience came in experiences and here, you get extra bonus points for that. Thank you.

Shawn. I want to give you extra bonus points too. What do you got to say?

Now when I started with Proofpoint while we got acquired and the office is blown, we were kind of in the bottom of the crane building and now we've taken over The entire building I was playing. You know, I was fortunate to get an opportunity where I'm now a team lead. So I kind of help with the recruiting process and hiring process. So anytime there's someone new coming in, I'm part of that process. And we did a couple of these like, they were like speed dating opportunities where we invited over 50 people three different times and we kind of narrowed down who we want to go after. The great thing about Pittsburgh is there's a ton of towns was very competitive was a great thing about Proofpoint is we're growing so fast. And, you know, it's one thing you know, sometimes you see some tech companies going out just because of the times, proof points continue to grow and it's continuing to invest in Pittsburgh. So anyone that's out there that wants a change of scenery, you know, check out the website. This burger point is a it's a great, great operation happening in Pittsburgh and we're the East Coast hub for Silicon Valley organization. So We know there's talent out there or recruiters are working hard and it's it. Like I said, it's a great place to work and the future's bright and you know, what's good leadership? You know, that's, that's the most important thing.

Absolutely. And that's why I'm excited that we have more talks about Proofpoint. This is just part one of a five part series that we're doing with you guys. That's why I think he's so much fun for us to explore more about what you do and how you do get more into the tech and how it works. You want to start with the people because at the end of the day, other people there's no company. Simple as that. So I can't thank you guys enough today for taking the time to talk to us. I only shown you guys the best man too much. Like I said, let me know when that podcast isn't open.

Great stuff, guys.

Transcribed by