The Rest Of What I’ve Learned

“There is no mention of me. Don’t you remember? I called you a loser and said if you didn’t go to college you wouldn’t amount to anything.” – courtesy of my brother, Gary.

Seem harsh? Nah – that is just my brother Gary’s reaction after he read my last blog and saw that he was not mentioned. Like all siblings, he likes to take credit for things (and people) that turn out right.

My mother taught me:

  • Life is not fair. Get over it and move on
  • If you don’t like it, change it
  • Just be you

However, there are also some life lessons one obtains from six older brothers. I skipped the obvious lessons like learning to hide the last cookie, not trusting your toothbrush and to never bring home a date. But a few of them have kept me sane in the crazy world of IT.

Go to college or you won’t amount to anything. My brother is the master of over-simplification so I took this as a statement about the importance of continual learning. The minute you close your mind, your brain will start to atrophy. The brain is not a muscle but there are theories that describe it as one in the sense that it can be trained to improve cognitive functions. So, open your mind to the ideas of others, to new ways of doing things and to taking a chance. Push yourself to learn and try something outside your wheelhouse. Fail. We learn a lot from trying and failing.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Never, ever let them see you cry. There are times I get upset in my professional life. It can be difficult when someone marginalizes my ideas or input. What I have learned is that emotions (tears, frustration, agitation, and other signs of stress) make others uncomfortable and in some environments, make you vulnerable. It can be viewed as a sign of weakness. Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, did some research on how others perceived tears at work.  As expected, it can be damaging to your career.

My mantra (which I stole from Tom Hanks) is “There’s no crying in security”. Not everyone will see you as weak, but some will and that makes it difficult to garner respect and to argue your objective. If you feel tears coming on, excuse yourself and head to a private space until you can collect yourself. So, remember rant, yell, and yes, cry at home.

It’s only a little blood. From my brother, Jim, I learned a backyard baseball game doesn’t stop just because you cut your arm jumping over the fence to get the ball. This relates to the comment above. If you get shot-down, marginalized, interrupted, etc. during a meeting don’t let it stop you. Get back in the game, articulate your idea and your value. “Thank you. However, I would appreciate you allowing me to finish” or “Thank you, but allow me to explain my point” are phrases that were recently suggested by Dr. Melissa Peterson (Twitter: @drmelissagp) to use in situations where you have been talked over or interrupted. When it is bad, take a moment to regroup (or in the case of backyard baseball games get stitches), but always get back in the game.

Just Jump. You need to apply. You need to stretch yourself and apply for that job. According to the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) in 2016 only 26% of the workforce for computing related jobs were women, and less than 10% were women of color. Women, especially in cybersecurity are becoming extinct.

A few years ago, HP did a study of their workforce and found that women working at HP only applied for a promotion when they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed, while men would apply if they met 60% of the requirements. Don’t let others hold you back and more importantly, don’t hold yourself back.

Two years ago, I took a jump. I made the move to a cybersecurity company. It was risky, I didn’t have all the qualifications, but I wanted a change. And, why would I want to transition to a role that I already knew how to do? My two objectives were; to work with wickedly smart people and make an impact. I’m jumped and I’m happy I did. We have to get comfortable pushing ourselves – if you aren’t uncomfortable then you aren’t growing.

Jumping was a skill first taught to me by my Mom (and a few competitive brothers), but it is a lesson that has been reinforced throughout my career. Be confident in your value and address any gaps head-on and with confidence.

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” – Marissa Mayer (Former CEO of Yahoo)

I still hope to become my Mom, but I would also not be who I am today without the combined lessons learned from my brothers and sisters. Being the youngest of twelve (yes I said twelve) has given me the tenacity to not only make the jump into cybersecurity but to also remain. Not everyone has twelve siblings to toughen you up before sending you out in the great big world. But, take it from me, never be afraid to fail or to jump into something that is uncomfortable, interject when you feel you are being interrupted, and always take a deep breath and keep your grit in front of your emotions.