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  1. Blog
  2. Partners in Diversity
  3. November 28, 2021

She Leads: Ashley Kasper Is a Global Talent Development Program Lead at Palo Alto Networks

The pandemic made prioritizing wellness challenging early on, but she says this new company benefit has restored her routine

Palo Alto Networks' outdoor office space
Photo courtesy of Palo Alto Networks

This article is part of InHerSight's Partners in Diversity series. Discover companies partnering with InHerSight to better support women in the workplace.

If ever there were a time to be creative about supporting employees, it's now, when the pandemic has forced companies to adapt their benefits to better suit an unprecedented reality—and employees are taking note of those solutions. Ahead of the curve, Palo Alto Networks, one of InHerSight's 50 Best Places to Work, embraced this truth early on, releasing their FLEXWORK program, which ensures continued remote capability and flexible hours for all employees, in May 2020, just months into the pandemic. But the cybersecurity company's resourcefulness didn't stop there. 

FLEXBenefits, another Palo Alto Networks program born during the pandemic, guarantees employees a quarterly allowance to spend on their health and wellbeing, and the definition of "health and wellbeing" is broad. Typical buys include Peloton bikes, massage therapy, sleep aids, and counseling apps, but this stipend can also cover more unconventional purchases, such as concert or amusement park tickets, gaming consoles, and student loan repayment for U.S. employees. It's all about feeling your best in whatever way feels right to you.

We asked Ashley Kasper, global talent development lead at Palo Alto Networks, to share her experience using FLEXBenefits and with the company's changes through the pandemic. Here's why this added perk means so much to her.

Ashley Kasper

Global Talent Development Program Lead at Palo Alto Networks for almost three years

Her top three must-haves at work: 

  • The People You Work With 

  • Support for Diversity

  • Sense of Belonging

First, tell us about you and what you do at Palo Alto Networks. What’s your role?

I’ve been with Palo Alto Networks for almost three years, and throughout that time, I have worked on a number of different projects, but the one program I’ve worked on throughout is onboarding. I currently oversee our global onboarding program and facilitate our Welcome Day (our version of an orientation) for all new hires in the AMER region.

Describe a few ways your experience at Palo Alto Networks has evolved throughout the pandemic?

When we started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, it was really challenging for me. A lot of my work responsibilities were no longer relevant (e.g. logistics for having onsite Welcome Days each week), and I was a bit lost as to how to prioritize my work and get tasks done when I didn’t have my usual daily structure. I really appreciated my manager’s guidance and support through that time. She was sympathetic to the struggles I was having and always seemed to know when to listen and when to give advice.

I really appreciate that at that time, Palo Alto Networks’ leadership encouraged all managers to take time to check in on the wellbeing of their teams. I’m sure my manager would have anyways, but I think it speaks to the fact that our leadership team truly cares about the employees. They recognized it was a challenging time and they provided resources to managers and teams to be able to have conversations around wellbeing. I think it was because of that attitude throughout the company and taking time to check in on others (rather than focusing solely on the work) helped us to successfully transition to all working remotely and resulted in our strong company performance at that time.

Palo Alto Networks

A high-level read of Palo Alto Networks' InHerSight scorecard tells us quite a bit about the  next-generation cybersecurity company: Consistently ranked on our list of Best Places to Work, Palo Alto Networks exceeds expectations for many of our 18 key metrics, but their top marks go to Support for Diversity, The People You Work With, and Paid Time Off. Women also tell us they feel they are paid fairly, receive helpful feedback, and that their growth and success are prioritized. Click to explore Palo Alto Networks' ratings, benefits, and open positions. 

Learn more ›

Palo Alto Networks’ FLEXBenefits was introduced during the pandemic. Through the program, employees receive $250 quarterly to spend on wellness and feel-good perks. How have you used FLEXBenefits and what impact has that had on your wellbeing?

I’m a real gym addict, so initially, I was sad that the onsite gym was closed. I regularly attended workout classes and missed having those as part of my schedule when I worked from home. I also am someone who handles stress through exercise, so the added stress of the pandemic and working from home meant I really needed to find an outlet. Access to that gym meant that I didn’t have to pay for a quality workout, so when first deciding how I wanted to workout from home, I spent a lot of time with workouts on YouTube. While I found some that were pretty good, I didn’t find anything that truly helped me reach my fitness goals.

When FLEXBenefits was announced, I knew I’d end up spending the money on something fitness-related (although there are so many more categories you can use that money for!). I spent a lot of time researching to find a personal trainer that I could work with virtually. At that time, I was adjusting to a plant-based diet, so I appreciated that I was able to find someone who specifically was a vegan personal trainer who provided meal plans. I had no idea what I was supposed to be eating to achieve my goals, so having the support of someone who was extremely knowledgeable was crucial for me. As a result of using my FLEXBenefits funds for personal training, I felt better about my food choices and I got started with weight lifting. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go into a gym all by myself if it weren’t for the support of my trainer.

How does the culture at Palo Alto Networks support the use of FLEXBenefits? 

From my perspective, I think that everyone was excited when FLEXBenefits was announced. And over time, employees have suggested new categories to be added to the eligibility list, and those suggestions have been taken into consideration. We now have new categories like family support, video games/consoles, and event tickets and passes.

At the end of our fiscal year, we had great financial results as a company, so it was announced that all employees would receive additional FLEXBenefits funding. The resulting excitement I saw in the Zoom webinar chat and in Slack conversations afterward demonstrates how much people appreciate this benefit.

Since I facilitate our onboarding sessions for new hires, I love being able to explain FLEXBenefits to them. It’s something truly unique about our company and something that gets new hires excited and makes them realize that Palo Alto Networks is a place where they can feel supported and recognized as unique individuals with unique needs.

What do you think the addition of FLEXBenefits says about Palo Alto Networks as a company?

I love that we offer FLEXBenefits because it incorporates our FLEXWORK philosophy of putting employee choice and personalization front and center into benefits. Not everyone has the same needs. I know some companies have a gym membership as a standard benefit, but not everyone will be interested in that. Giving employees choice so that they can take care of their health and wellness shows that Palo Alto Networks cares about its employees.

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This post was created in conjunction with one or many of InHerSight's paying partners. Although InHerSight partners join us in being dedicated to amplifying the voices and experiences of women at work, InHerSight maintains complete and total editorial review and approval of content featured on our platform. 

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