“Don’t let your circumstance dictate your willingness to share your life experiences. Your voice is needed.” ~Bonnie D. Parkin
For the longest time, I never felt sharing my story was important. I would hear people on stage tell of how they grew up poor or they grew up having to work 3 jobs to help support their family. Or the stories of being a first generation college student or graduate. So many stories that I felt were more important then mine and so I just continued on the path of not sharing my story. Don't get me wrong, those close to me know my story but its time for me to share a little bit with others. If something I experienced can assist just one person, I am happy.
Growing up an Air Force brat, I was afforded a lot of opportunities that those around me weren't. Got to live all over the world with Hawaii and Italy being my favorites. I got to experience some of the best foods from around the world. I met folks from all walks of life. I got to cheer and run track in Germany because I spent the last two years of high school in Italy. Being a military brat provided my first experiences with diversity. Everyone comes from everywhere because the military offers you an out if you need it, education if you want it, and a career should you take it.
My college years were fun times. Going back to the state that I was born in, Illinois. My culture meter was expanded further as I was able to meet so many folks from my hometown. If you were able to attend college in person, you probably understand, lol. It was the first time I was away from home and my family and I enjoyed it. I went to SIUC as an Architecture major, and ended up moving to Columbus GA, to graduate with a degree in Computer Information Systems Management. Cyber degrees WERE not a thing back then but I did take COBOL :). My military affiliation also continued here as I married a solider who went on to do 13.5 years in the service!!!
While I racked up a lot of debt getting my BBA in Computer Info Systems and my MSIS, the experiences were totally worth. But of course getting that job in tech after college wasn't easy back then nor were there networks like Women's Society of Cyberjutsu, ICMCP, Minorities in Cyber or Blacks in Cyber to help build a community and provide training opportunities to further my skills and grow. So to pass the time, I worked in Retail. Mind you as an Army spouse, we did move around and retail and customer service were my goto roles most of the time. I remember working for a Cingular Wireless now AT&T when the very first iPhone was released!!! My have times and technology changed.
Another fun fact, I worked as an Armed Security Officer for almost 2 years to obtain my Top Secret clearance. Most jobs required that clearance in the DMV (DC, Northern VA, Maryland) area and well I didn't have $20K for it nor would the government let me get on my own. So to get to my goal of working in tech, I had to make a sacrifice. But it was an experience that makes me who I am today.
Once I got that first job as a network engineer at a 3 letter agency, I thought I was set! And then, I WANTED TO QUIT. A few months in, I hated it. Mostly because of the environment. I like being hands on and breaking and building things but for whatever reason, I was being stopped left and right in this first role. I was literally begging for work. The work I got, update the weekly status of all the projects. In my head, I'm like, I'm not the secretary but I did it. Looking back on that experience, I realized as a new person to the company and the industry, I was actually in the perfect position to learn and grow. I was able to be part of every project because I needed to provide the updates. I still didn't like it but hey can't change history. I finally got to be in charge of architecting the out-of-band management project which was a lot of fun. It was my first project and I was able to shine.
I finally left that job because well it was time to move back to NC. That first job taught me a lot about myself and my worth and my capabilities. It helped develop me into the woman I am today. From there, I bounced around on a number of different government contracts. Working around the government, this is very common as contracts don't last long and there is always a pay raise around the corner. When I finally moved back to the DMV area, it was because a contract had ended and I needed to get my CISSP! And that is when I found WSC.
Finding the study group probably changed my life in a good way. The skills I have gained from being apart of the growth of this organization translate to all aspects of my life. The connections made have been amazing and the impact I can have on others, I hope has been positive to them. I love seeing these women and men thrive in this industry.
My most recent change was a move to Las Vegas to work in the private sector at a casino. Like really a casino. But because I enjoy building whether it's programs or puzzles I took the risk. Probably the best risk I could take as it continued to grow my skill sets and build my network. I worked there for almost 4 years before going to Palo Alto networks. While I have only been with Palo for a month, so far I like what I see and hope to grow with this company. This move was brought on by the need to keep growing and my network. A few things to take away from my career:
Never stop learning
Don't be afraid to take risks
Secure that bag (Keirsten B.:))
Build your network, this is VERY important
This got long quick! And there is still more to me than listed such as certs and hobbies and all that so maybe another post later on but for now, this will do!
Thanks for reading!