So this blog post has been one I've been wanting to write probably for the last 4 or 5 years. My whole adult life after college, my plan was to become a federal employee working for some 3 letter agency in the DC area. I saw very few women who were in the SES (Selected Executive Service, top roles) roles and that motivated me. Not to mention, I come from a military family, so job security is what I was looking for.
Well, it took 6 or 7 years to actually get into a government position. Just note that it's a really difficult process to get a government job at the federal level. State might be different but federal it's much more difficult and it can take a lot longer.
If you have known me since the beginning of my career, you've known that I've worked for a number of different government agencies in and around the DC metropolitan area. All of these roles were government contracting roles in which big companies bid on work with the government and then hire people to complete the work. Some of my contracts were one year others were 15 months. The work was pretty cool because you get to meet a lot of different types of people and a lot of people in different positions. You get to grow your network and build your brand as expert in the industry you are in.
Fast forward to 2014. I was just placed on leave without pay (can happen when contracts end and no I wasn't on the bench. I didn't get a check) for about 4 to 5 months and it SUCKED. Finally got a call to work as a Network Traffic Analyst for a 3 letter agency and I hated the job. I wanted to be a penetration tester and that role was not it. Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do when your budget is not right, when your money is not right, when your mind is not right. At that time we couldn't afford for me not to work because of debt. My husband was in the Army but the one salary wasn't enough and my budget skills were sh*t.
And then I hit the lottery or so I thought. A GS13 position opened up on the team that I hated. The plan, take the position and then transfer to another agency. Remember, I said its difficult to get into a federal role. Well its also difficult to transfer. At this point I still wanted to be a pentester and I was still determined to do that for the government.
Being miserable at a job will force you to start looking elsewhere for a role. That's the state I was in. I had gotten the GS13, a few friends decided not to be friends because of jealousy and I just genuinely did not like what I was doing. It wasn't working for me. But still I stayed because I didn't have another option.
A little back story on my journey to Vegas. Every year before COVID, the tech and cyber industry would descend on Vegas for Hacker Summer Camp. A week of learning, networking and growing through training and conferences. This particular year, 2016, my friend lets me know that one of the casinos in Vegas is hiring pentesters. My response =👌🏾. I wasn't going to Vegas nor was I leaving that GS13 I worked so hard for.
Vegas is great. Everyone comes here. Your friends and family can visit you and not actually have to visit you, lol. There is actually a lot to do on and off the strip. We are a few hours from the beach or a bed and breakfast in Denver. There are options, but I wasn't going. 😒
I applied anyway. Just to see what would happen. I mean, in my head they weren't going to hire me because then they would have to assist with relocation and match my DC salary (you can see the pay scales for the government). My interviews were surprising but good but I was still skeptical. I was just gonna work the government role get a few side hustles and figure it out.
After being flown out to Vegas for my final interview, yeah private companies did that before COVID, I was like they won't meet my salary, this won't work. While watching Family Feud, the call from HR came in asking me when I could start!
Here we are at a cross roads. I could stay at a job I hate and just hope to move to a new role. Deal with stupid traffic. Stunted career growth and more. Or on the flip side, I could move to a new place and help build out new capabilities, grow my skills and network and make an impact on the local community. This was actually a tough decision because I was comfortable with where I was even though I hated the role and even though I had high goals of being an SES or a CISO.
I took a leap of faith, hubbs and I packed up our stuff, shipped the cars and took off to the West coast. Being a military brat and a military spouse, moving was nothing for us. The only difference, the military wasn't footing the bill this time. Lol.
During this time of transition I realized that I wanted something different. The money part was a given. But I wanted to do fulfilling work and where I was that wasn't the case. I wanted to make an impact within a company and make change. I wanted something different than the status quo. That's why I took that leap. And it was probably one of the better decisions career wise.
Outside the government, there is a lot more freedom. I don't have to report my foreign friends, lol. Educational benefits, public speaking opportunities, traveling opportunities. Can probably get that in the government just depends on the agency.
Making the move also, allowed my creative juices to flow. I had the power to change things and see it through, to build the team I wanted and just be different. I have learned a lot about myself and my goals in the last four years. Making that jump put things into perspective. I created a roadmap of my career which helped me realize I don't need the CISO title to help organizations, I can do that in any role.
This transition helped me realize I want to teach more, write a book, start a business. It helped me solidify skills I didn't know I had. Leaving the government and moving actually changed my life in a good way.
Build your network
If you don't like your job find a new one or relocate if you can
Negotiate your salary and benefits, always
Change can be a great thing
Don't let anyone hinder your creativity
If you need more income, ask for a raise
Side hustles are great but they can require just as much work as the main job
Don't be afraid to make the leap
Have a plan
Thanks for reading. If you need personal finance, bookkeeping or cyber advice, make sure to reach out!
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