At one time, I worked at Fortinet. I was a member of their professional services team and worked at a large client as a resident engineer (more on what this means later). I obtained NSE4, NSE5 & NSE7 certifications. I grew my skill sets, received equity, bonuses, raises, the whole nine yards…so why would someone leave this oasis of employment? Let me tell you a story…
Before I go on though, I must clear the air. I enjoyed my time at Fortinet, still have friends there, recommend my friends work there and would still be there if it were not for my ravenous entrepreneurial spirit. This list shouldn’t be viewed as “5 reasons to run the other way” but instead 5 things anyone working at Fortinet should know.
The experience of working at a successful startup, turned big tech company is very unique. You can see dichotomies everywhere you look. The same department will have very bureaucratic processes, for one thing, then the next time you interact with them it will be little more than an email approval to do something else.
There are growing pains, remnants of Fortinet in the early 2000’s and everything in between. It’s a cornucopia of tech company experiences, which if you embrace and look for learning opportunities, will make you a more employable person in the end.
It’s also one of the only times, probably the only time, that I could mention where I worked to friends and family and they might (maybe) recognize the name. It’s not Google, but casual techys do know the name and that can be cool at times.
A critical component of any role or position you work in is how it makes you better. Are you better for the experiences and skills you built in this position or are you less marketable, more miserable, more stressed, etc…?
Fortinet does a good job of building you. They know that the hardware and software will be limited by their poor support, so they invest heavily into your professional development. They don’t offer tuition reimbursement nor will they pay for you to go get your CISSP (or similar) but they will give you ample time during work hours to study for the NSE certificates. The NSE line of certs are very difficult to get if you don’t have access to equipment or the official training, both are provided in abundance.
Fortinet is almost entirely WFH friendly and has been for as long as I can remember. They do have some offices sprinkled around the globe with positions that report to them, but the sales teams, professional services, technical support, and so forth are 100% WFH.
This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on you. Some people get a charge from working around other people, these types like face-to-face interactions and will struggle to find happiness in a pure WFH role. If this sounds like you, consider a “systems engineer” role at Fortinet. This is a sales engineer role, it will have you face-to-face quite a bit with clients and your account manager.
Other people get worn out from being in an office setting. Productivity drops, distractions drive them nuts and they are worn out by 2 pm most days from the constant barrage of office-dropin-socialites If this is you, seek a professional services role, TAC role, or TAM role. These will have you holed up in your basement bunker.
There is a caveat to this though, remember I mentioned I was a resident engineer? That typically means you will be traveling to the client your assigned to occasionally. A typical rotation is 1 week a quarter on site if you have to travel far, more often if you live in the same metro area.
There are non-resident positions, but much like the military “the needs of the Navy” dictate where you end up.
Fortinet awards equity, you have the choice of accepting options or RSUs, aka Restricted Stock Units. Everyone I know accepts RSUs, no one wants to mess with options. When I hired in, the offer was something like a few hundred options or about 1/3 as many RSUs.
The vesting schedule is typical, 4 years with a 1-year cliff. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it just means that you don’t receive your equity until after your first 12 months of employment and you will receive all of it after 4 years in total.
The way Fortinet pays out equity, like many others, is a lump sum (25%) at the 12-month mark. Then every 3 months, you get 6% (or so). Once you receive the equity award you are able to sell them or hold them, they are yours to do what you want.
Additionally, they like to hand out bonuses in the form of equity. The reason for this is logical, they want to keep you around as long as possible. The bonuses are substantial, running between 10-15% of your salary. These however have a 12 months cliff vesting schedule, meaning they vest 100% after 12 months.
This plays into the first item I mentioned above. I worked in pro services, at a very large client. What do we know about large enterprises? They use very expensive equipment. I also worked on small projects in between big projects at the main client. What do we know about the SMB and Mid-Market clients? They will use whatever fits the budget, from $300 access points to $27,000 firewalls.
My home lab, 100% paid for by Fortinet, represented almost everything I worked on in the big projects and small projects. I don’t think there was a running total MSRP for lab equipment, but I know at one point I had over $22,000 of equipment in my home office. This didn’t include all of the VM licensing which probably doubled that number.
Ever wonder what your home network is up to at 1:52 am 47 days ago? With an enterprise-grade network in your home, you can see that your Samsung TV was phoning home to something in Japan over HTTPS.
Let me know what you think about my Fortinet experience. If this helps you on your career journey, let me know on Linkedin!