Submitted by: Midori, Connolly, GSEC
About four years ago, I stumbled into the world of cybersecurity. As a Sales Director in the elections industry, I began on the fringes, learning about authentication and identity. Soon I was drawn into new and exotic terms such as tokens, hashes, kubernetes, and, my personal favorite, military-grade encryption (ooo, ahhh)!
Yes, it’s ok to chuckle.
When I moved into a new role at a company focused on MFA, I became that much more intrigued. As a long-time technologist who consulted and advised on how to use technology to enhance the human experience, I was far too familiar with how tech could also impinge upon our well-being. Using technology to protect human privacy and identity and the conversations with CISOs and my other cyber warrior customers captured my full attention.
Wanting to know more, I began attending local events for ISSA, ISC(2), ISACA, and, finally, WiCyS. I felt so out of my skin not understanding the terms being casually lobbed at me. SOC, Scif, CMMC, threat hunting (threat hunting? Omg are you kidding, wow! People do this for a living?)…it was quite a list. Despite my discomfort, I was equally encouraged by the kind community of people around me to continue to learn and engage and grow. In particular, I found a home when I discovered my local WiCyS chapter. Never judgment, never questioning why I was at the meetings when I obviously knew so little about cybersecurity!
Bolstered by the support of my WiCyS friendships, I gradually built up my confidence and decided formal education was the right way to continue my growth. I applied to the undergraduate certificate program for Applied Cybersecurity at the SANS Institute and lo and behold, I am NOW A PROUD MEMBER OF THE CARD-CARRYING GIAC Security Essentials Certification (ok, it’s a plaque, but I do have a cool badge on my LinkedIn!). Never, ever did I imagine I would go from zero to hero in less than a year. I think I’m still glowing!
So, what’s next for me? Well, currently I’m spending time having coffee meetings with people in various security roles. I’m trying to absorb their experience and knowledge so I can determine which route I want to pursue. And, I’m still working on my certifications and education so I can continue my learning. I will also be at the conference this year watching sessions with full rapture, and meeting as many smart people as possible!
If I had any takeaways to share with someone embarking on this journey, they would be:
- Begin small. Even as simple as watching free webinars from WiCyS and their partners, there is a ton of free or low-cost education available.
- Attend events. Whether it’s nationally or at a local level, you’ll be sure to learn a ton. And it may take a while if you’re shy like me, but I committed to saying hi to at least one person at each event. And that gradually built itself up into a wonderful network of people!
- Help others. Learn what volunteer opportunities there are at some of the cyber organizations. Even though I’m not a cyber pro, I have been able to use my experience in social media to help out. And if it’s not volunteering, simply ask the people around you how you can help. The best networking comes from a giving heart.
- Be authentic and don’t doubt yourself. Trust me on this one, I’m still nervous when I enter a room of cyber professionals. There is still so much I don’t know. But, I’m honest about where I’m at, and where I aspire to be. So far that has led me to some amazing conversations.
- Have fun and be curious! For most career changers, we are in a unique place of having a very well-rounded view of the world. I have found that by transforming this journey from simply getting a job to being about exploring something so fascinating and wonderful, I’ve eliminated artificial pressures and can take my time meeting great people and learning how someday I’ll be able to make the world a safer place.