Women at Net Friends Series
In celebration of Women's History Month, we're interviewing women at Net Friends about their experiences in technology and asking them to share career advice for women navigating this industry too. Follow along at Women at Net Friends.
Meet Chelsea, Cybersecurity Analyst
How did you get into the technology industry?
Growing up, my dad was always into new tech, and that rubbed off on me. As I got older, technology became more and more of a hobby that I enjoyed, from fixing other people’s computers to building my own. Finally, I decided to take the leap and get my A+ certification, which led to my first IT job as a Desktop Support Specialist. I had the goal of eventually getting into the cybersecurity field, which is where I am today.
Is there a pivotal moment that inspired your pursuit of tech?
The seed was first planted when my PlayStation 3 broke. It had the “yellow ring of death” and would no longer boot. Instead of scrapping it, I figured I had nothing to lose and found a guide online to take it apart and replace the thermal paste. I actually ended up getting it working again and had a blast in the process. Of course, 6 months later it broke again from a different issue, so I fixed it again. Shortly after that, I built my first computer and started volunteering at places like the Kramden Institute.
Eventually I started thinking, “I could do this full time,” and decided to pursue some certs, experience, and a career change.
What's a roadblock you overcame to arrive here today?
I’m a bit of a late bloomer in tech, and for a long time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my path to be in general, until I finally and completely reinvented myself.
At the time of my decision to switch to IT, I was already in an MBA program, but I wanted to finish, because having a business background would help me understand the impact IT has on business operations and communicate with clients and leaders.
I also felt like I had a lot of catching up to do, so in addition to working through the MBA program, I jumped head-first into acquiring certifications and gaining whatever experience I could get. There were a lot of long days working and studying, but I’m so glad I did it.
Switching careers and starting something new is always nerve-wracking, yet exciting. There’s that uncomfortable phase where you don’t know the answers to a lot of things, or you make (sometimes big) mistakes. There are still things today that I run into that I haven’t a clue how to solve! But that’s part of the allure of IT for me; it’s a big field and there’s a lot to do and learn. Eventually you become comfortable with being uncomfortable and learn how to approach and solve novel problems.
What are you most proud of in your time at Net Friends?
Making it to Tier 2 as a Security Analyst! The credit really goes to the team, though. They absolutely rock and my success wouldn’t be possible without their support. They’ve taught me so much, and I’m so happy and proud to be a part of this group at Net Friends.
What's a major challenge for the next generation of women in tech?
Progress is being made towards getting more women in STEM fields, but there’s still a ways to go.
One of the biggest challenges I see is equal pay and promotions for women versus their male counterparts in the same jobs.
I also think battling some of the feelings of isolation that can come with being in a male-dominated field will continue to be a challenge for many.
What advice would you offer women interested in a tech career?
The best thing you can do to get your foot in the door is to get practical experience wherever you can. Build home labs, volunteer, tinker. Courses and certifications are great in that they can provide structure to your learning, but getting that hands-on experience really takes you to the next level.
I also recommend getting involved in groups and outreach programs to help generate a support system, mentors, and additional interest in the generations to come.
Who is one woman/person who has inspired you and why?
My mom (Well, both my parents, really). I have this vivid memory from when I was a kid. We had done an activity in school where we had to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grow up. At the time, I was absolutely obsessed with anything having to do with airplanes. In my 5-year-old brain, it didn’t register that girls could become pilots, too, since historically it’s been a male-dominated role. So, I had put that I wanted to be a flight attendant—just, anything to be on or around the plane, really. I brought it home and posted it on the fridge.
At some point my mom saw it and asked me: “Why be a flight attendant when you can be the pilot?” My little mind was blown.
In short, I’ve always been a tomboy. Growing up, I played with Tonka trucks, rode dirt bikes, played ice hockey, all of which you could say are traditionally “male-dominated” interests. But my parents have always been encouraging and supportive of whatever I decided to pursue, regardless of my gender and even if I was going to be the only girl on the team.
What qualities do you think make a good leader?
Someone who is transparent and communicates well with their team. They also take time to understand and collaborate with their team, as well as utilize their team members individual strengths to accomplish goals.
Why is it important for women to lead in technology & business?
There is a dearth of mentors who are women in these fields. Having these leading women can offer much needed guidance, support, and inspiration for women looking to get into technology or business.
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