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Genius Doesn't Have to Come at the Cost of Kindness or Happiness: Why I Joined Duo

For the last 18 years, every role I’ve committed to and every job I’ve had has helped shape who I am and taught me to be stronger. I’ve had great mentors who lifted me up through tough times, but there was always a whisper in my ear, a gut feeling that kept pushing me to find a place where I could express myself, be comfortable in my own skin and grow without restrictions.

Just as I was starting to question what it takes to be part of the tech industry, I found unexpected inspiration. It came when I was thinking about changing the course of my career and I reluctantly went to a job interview with my mind made up that I wasn’t going to join yet another security company. After many weeks of discussions, I was in for a surprise.

The surprise? I joined Duo early this year. It seemed fitting to celebrate my first 90 days here by telling my story, my reason why I chose me, why I chose kindness, why I chose quality of life for my family and above all why I chose Duo.

There are 10 reasons why I joined Duo and how being part of this team has allowed me to fully embrace who I am — a Muslim, a woman in technology, someone who’s passionate to learn and succeed, give back to the community, and bring kindness and compassion into everything I do.

#10 - Culture builds behavior. Behavior builds people. People build companies.

Every company says that they value culture and toot their horns about it during interviews, but at Duo culture is people. From the first time you walk into the office and meet people, watch how they treat each other. You can’t help but notice and admire the openness. We come from different backgrounds and might not agree on everything, but for us culture means being open enough to embrace everyone, warts and all.

#9 - Duo’s brand isn’t just about the product, but also the people.

In an industry where many companies foster fear, uncertainty and doubt, Duo’s brand is unique. The color green signifies calm, as opposed to the alarming red and yellow widely associated with information security. And when we call ourselves the Most Loved Company in Security, it’s just as much about who we are as it is what we are. Our human-centered focus and positivity promotes confidence among our customers and empowers us individually within the company.

#8 - Appreciation for doing a good job and giving each other validation is ingrained in every Duo employee.

Every company has a formal awards and recognition program that sets rules and recognizes people... but how many have one where the CEO hands out the microphone to his employees at a companywide event, giving them an opportunity to thank anyone they want, building a line out the door, and resulting in heart-melting stories? That’s a big way we like to thank and recognize each other, but we also find small ways to show our appreciation every day.

#7 - We win or lose as a team, our teammates’ goals are our goals, and we’re kinder than necessary.

While the desire to win is in everyone’s DNA, winning while working with others, and lifting others through both good and bad times, doesn’t come as easily. Duo is committed to moving in that direction, even when it’s hard. When we have a challenge or concern, we bring it out in the open and figure out how to work through it and support each other. For most of the 18 years of my career my email signature has been, “Collaboration is the key to success,” and the drive and passion with which Duo pushes that statement downstream is remarkable.

#6 - We don’t hire people because they fit the mold. We hire because we want people to be themselves.

Before a job interview, people often diligently plan everything: what to wear, what to say, how to say it. Typically, they prepare by reading about the company and tweaking answers to show how they fit in, because conventional wisdom is that companies hire people who are the right fit for the culture. What makes Duo unique in this way is how we hire people for being themselves. And the variety and diversity of Duo team members showcases that we connect with people who are comfortable in who they are and recognize their unique contributions.

#5 - We spend as much time developing a product as we do on making it easy.

As I mentioned in #9, a common theme in our industry is fear. This fear compels some companies to sell like they’re the only ones that can help their potential customers — which is counter to everything we do at Duo. To understand Duo’s product strategy, you need to understand the core belief of our CEO, Dug Song. We believe in making security that’s easy to use and works well, and in radically simplifying security to a point where people can secure themselves without having to rely on a security team or expertise. In Dug’s words, “We are roadies, not rock stars. Mission control, not astronauts. Guardians, not warriors.” We make security simple, and our product exemplifies that.

#4 - I’m not a Diversity statistic for Duo. I have a seat at the table.

Celebrating diversity is increasingly a part of work culture. It's become common for companies to flaunt their diversity statistics to showcase how inclusive they are. And yes, I’ve been part of these statistics in the tech industry. At Duo, diversity isn't a metric that we track and trend to pat ourselves on the back. Rather, it means that I'm truly given the space to share my unique voice.

#3 - My creativity and skills aren’t put in a box. I’m encouraged to do what I excel at, but also to extend my reach.

Something that’s always driven me in my career is a love for problem solving. I get a great joy from examining challenges and seeking solutions. Understanding that preset processes and practices can stifle creativity and new ideas, the freedom to think for yourself and think outside of the box is key to Duo’s culture.

#2 - We don’t have to grow because we can. Our growth is intentional and in preparation for a real future.

I’ve worked in companies where change was the only constant, and it caused me to experience change fatigue. Pace is the name of the game in tech, and if we’re unable to run with it, we can become extinct. At Duo, the environment is similarly prone to change and making quick moves, but the difference here is that every change is carefully considered. That, along with communication, transparency and follow-up, helps discourage change fatigue among ourselves.

#1 - Genius doesn’t have to come at the cost of kindness or happiness.

Often as a company grows, you have to make certain compromises to reach your goals. One compromise I’ve seen too many companies make is overlooking the importance of empathy in team members. They shift toward making hiring choices just for people’s minds and forget their hearts. At Duo, “Be kinder than necessary” is a mantra that resonates not only with customers, but also in action across our internal teams. Of course, it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and bad days happen, but as a group we support each other and remind each other of this way of thinking.

Of course, I don't hold a crystal ball. I don’t know what the future holds or how Duo will evolve. What I do know is that as I grow in my career and work toward my goals, Duo will always be the benchmark of what an employer should be. #WeAreDuo!

Tagged: duo security

Saleema Syed

Director of Business Services

Saleema Syed is the Director of Business Services at Duo Security. She has over 18 years of experience in the business consultation and tech industry, and focuses on sales, go-to-market strategies, product development and IT transformations for the information security industry. She has also led various community reach programs in the Dallas and Fort Worth area to promote cyber security awareness for children. Saleema has her Instrumentation and Controls Engineering Degree.