You would never know from his unfailingly positive disposition and lighthearted nature that Patrick Perry has done seven overseas tours with the Army. He brought his team-first philosophy and technological know-how into his role at Zscaler, where he is a Zscaler advocate for federal prospects. First and foremost, however, he is a family man, and loves spending time with his wife and five children. Read his story to learn why Patrick makes Zscaler a Great Place to Work!
Tell us about your background and career in the Army
I grew up in Southern California in an area outside of Los Angeles and ended up moving to Washington to finish up high school. Nineteen days after I graduated high school, I decided to enlist in the Army. I did basic training, then did what we call advanced individual training, and received my first duty assignment in Korea.
I spent a year in Korea, then did what’s called a consecutive overseas tour and went directly from Korea to Germany and lived there for two and a half years. During that time I also did a deployment in Kosovo. I got some promotions in Germany, and everything was going well with my career, so I decided to stay in longer. I re-enlisted and moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, in the Seattle-Tacoma area. That’s when a lot of my life changed.
Over the course of five years, I deployed to Iraq twice, went to about five different military schools to continue my training, moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, met my wife, joined the special operations community, and went to airborne school. During that time, I also went to Afghanistan three times. That brings us to 2010, when my family and I moved to Stuttgart, Germany. While there, I stayed in special operations and worked for the special operations command for Africa where I traveled to the continent a few times.
When we decided to move back to the U.S., I joined a unique unit in northern Virginia and stayed there until the end of my career in the Army. In that time, I did more military schooling, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a couple more times, made some of my best friends, and fell in love with a place where I never thought I’d want to live: the D.C. Metro Area.
What brought you to Zscaler?
When I retired from the military and started my transition into the civilian workforce, I was blessed to be able to intern at Zscaler. I did a two and a half month internship last summer, where I was brought on board, learned the Zscaler culture, and really got good firsthand experience with life outside the military. Obviously, I’d only known the military my entire adult life, and interning at Zscaler exposed me to a lot of things. Whether it was company culture, job capabilities, or how the business works, executives gave me their time, and it was just an all-around amazing experience.
While interning at Zscaler, I also was offered an internship with Major League Baseball (MLB), so I respectfully requested to do both. Zscaler was fine with it, but made me promise to come back! Though I loved the work and the people at MLB, my family and I weren’t willing to move to New York City, as my wife is still active military and there isn’t an Army base in NYC. So I finished my MLB internship, wrapped everything up with the Army, and started with Zscaler in December 2019 while on terminal leave.
Tell us about what you do at Zscaler
My role is constantly evolving, integrating with product management, sales, architectural support, and engineering—all geared toward our federal team efforts. I have a foot in the product management world to try and help shape Zscaler products to meet DoD (Department of Defense) and federal compliance requirements. I also do a bit of business development and outreach, and I assist in the meetings with federal and military organizations to explain and evangelize Zscaler and our products from an engineering and architecture perspective.
How did your role in the Army relate to your current position at Zscaler?
My specialty has always been in (IT) networking, which has obviously changed quite a bit since 1998, especially in the Army. But I’ve always kind of been in the IT world, and I’ve evolved through those changes, being a part of major IT transitions in the Army’s networks and growing IT environments as well as its different security levels.
For the last 13 years in special operations, I was given a lot more flexibility to work outside of the specific Army toolset that we would normally use. So I was able to get my hands on more commercial equipment and do more commercial-like IT stuff, which I think prepared me well for my current role at Zscaler.
From my time in the military, I’ve built a network of trust with many people throughout the military, especially at an objectivity and technical level, so it’s been great to be able to sit down with these people, some of whom I’ve known for 20-plus years, and tell them all about Zscaler and how it can help solve problems for the DoD.
Above all, the military prepared me for Zscaler company culture. Honestly, the principles at Zscaler are very close to what we preach in the military, with cohesive teamwork being one of the top priorities. Nobody is too good to do anything that will benefit the organization. Helping others is always a focus: if you’re not bringing somebody up, then get out of the way.
What is your favorite part about your role at Zscaler?
First of all, I love that every day I’m learning something new. The organization is truly trying to sell transformation, not just a product that does something else a little better than another product. That’s big to me. But to get your mind wrapped around that, you’ve got to learn every day how to rethink problem sets. I really enjoy that because I like the challenge of a continuous education model.
But in regard to performing my job, I love sitting down with people in the DoD and IC (Intelligence Community) and really working through how Zscaler capabilities work, with the goal of shifting their mindset. With 22 years of experience, I can talk to customers quickly and relate to them, and when they get that “aha” lightbulb that pops up above their head, it’s just magic.
What do you like to do outside of work?
First and foremost, I’m a father and a husband, so outside of work I spend most of my time with my family. Our kids are very active—our girls do competitive Irish dancing and horseback riding, one of our sons plays baseball, the boys have done wrestling, they’re in Boy Scouts—so we spend a lot of time shuttling our kids from event to event. It’s like a part-time job! Since COVID, a lot of their activities have been postponed, but we still try to focus on spending quality time and interacting with our kids outdoors.
Other than that, I enjoy fitness, sports, hanging out with friends, reading, and brewing beer. I also love to take on home improvement projects. That’s increased a lot since work-from-home orders and I’ve never gotten more done on my honey-do list than I have in the last three months!
What advice do you have for someone looking to get into a role similar to yours?
You’ve got to find something you’re truly passionate about, and it’s got to be pretty specific. It’s easy to say, “I like to talk to people,” or “I like to guide teams.” But that could be a million different things. And a big thing for people coming out of the military is, “I like to lead people.” Well that doesn’t really mean anything outside the military—because organizations want to know, what specifically do you want to “lead people” to do? Finding something that you’re passionate about and narrowing that down to a specific focus is really important.
Secondly, find a company with a mission that you’re excited about and truly believe in. Don’t take a job just for the money or because they have good perks. When you believe in the mission of a company, it truly takes that passion to an exponentially higher level.
Specific to emerging technology, my advice is to never think that the way you already think is the right way to think. You should spend a great deal of time questioning and challenging your own assumptions. Don’t be afraid to change the way you think, because that’s the only way you will learn and truly create new ideas.
Join Patrick and the rest of the team
Visit our careers page to explore opportunities in emerging technology on the federal team as well as the many other roles in which you can help Zscaler drive secure digital transformation for enterprises across the globe.