Career Notes 10.23.22
Ep 122 | 10.23.22

Megan Doherty: Conquer barriers in the workforce. [Technical Specialist]


Megan Doherty: My name is Megan Doherty. I'm a Security Technical Specialist with Microsoft Canada.

Megan Doherty: I wanted to be a fine artist. I think a, a good part of me still wants to be a fine artist, but I ended up finding my way to, uh, originally mechanical engineering actually, because I thought engineering as well as being able to design cars would lead me into that realm of creativity still.

Megan Doherty: I started my journey by beginning in mechanical engineering at the University of New Brunswick, and that didn't last too long. I actually made the switch very quickly to software engineering as I discovered that creativity and problem solving, uh, within the lines of software development much more matched where I saw my future going. Then that happened directly out of, um, high school, and then I spent five years working towards my software engineering degree, graduating in 2019.

Megan Doherty: I think creativity is something you nurture. I think as children and I used to teach at a computer science education startup, where I took over managing it afterwards and you see creativity from the beginning, the ways in which a child conceptualizes designing, um, let's say a robot or, or maybe a computer game or maybe just designing how they want a website to look, um, is completely different from adults. The boundaries we put in place from allowing us to solve problems outside of traditional contexts and, and we really put ourselves into boxes, makes creativity something that needs to be nurtured as we continue to develop ourselves into our careers.

Megan Doherty: So I began working, um, while I was still getting my academic degree. So within my software engineering degree, and I had various odd jobs as a student, as I think everyone, um, does. But the one that sticks out with me the most is, uh, working for a small startup, uh, that at the time was called Cyber Launch Academy and that was a computer science startup that taught specialized education in, in courses to kids within, uh, various settings that allowed them to begin their computer science and technical journeys early on. I started with teaching, um, the girls robotics class for ages, I think seven to probably 11 for about two hours a week and that took me to the, I'd say the end of my degree before I joined Microsoft, which was an absolute privilege.

Megan Doherty: We taught within public and private and indigenous schools as well, which was amazing to see the reach that we had. From there, I actually got reached out to on LinkedIn. I thought it was a message to upgrade to LinkedIn Premiumm, but it was actually a recruiter looking, um, for me to apply to a position that was previously called the Technical account Manager and I took that on and they hired me, which was amazing. So directly after school, about 10 days after graduation, I started my career with Microsoft. I worked with the various, um, information systems teams and, and admin teams within universities. I worked within higher education, which is very much a passion area for myself, but I found myself not being challenged enough and that's when I saw an opening on the security technical specialist team, which is the security sales engineers here within Canada and I said, I think that's the area that I wanna pursue.

Megan Doherty: Microsoft started a program that focuses on providing digital literacy as well as programming courses to young girls, which is definitely, I'd say my passion area outside of graphic novels and cyber security. So every Microsoft office, um, generally has a group who says, I wanna do a Digi Girls event, and we will put on events. My team specifically, we focused on bringing it globally in order to reach those who are in more remote communities who don't get access to these types of programs on a regular basis, whereas those in a big city might have a little bit more opportunity and I think the coolest thing is currently I'm mentoring and an individual right now and they are in university getting, um, their computer engineering degree and one of the first things they said is, I was a digi girls and I did that within high school. So seeing that direct correlation to, um, how this program gave them the exposure as well as some of the confidence to say I'm gonna take on, uh, a technical education was phenomenal.

Megan Doherty: There's so many barriers, just even mentally that we put on ourselves when it comes to looking for a career change or even thinking of cybersecurity as your next career path? I know for me it was definitely a large blocker because I wasn't the strongest in school. I actually really struggled as a really creative individual within getting a, a technical degree and I thought cybersecurity is only for those, um, who have the 4.3 GPAs or who have 10 years experience, and I would strongly encourage anyone from maybe a non-technical background or especially a technical background that says, I think this is an area I could lend myself to, to take that leap. Whether it's going through certifications to get yourself up to date, or just having conversations with other security professionals who, the majority tend to be fairly friendly about what that looks like for them. I think there's a spot for everyone within this industry.

Megan Doherty: Dealing with adversity has come with different ways I mitigate it throughout the last five years of my career since joining my current team, a lot of it's leaning and relying on them. I'm a little biased. I do think I have the world's best team. They're extremely supportive and we almost have gender balance across the team as well, which is phenomenal. But being able to rely on them and understand based on their experiences, um, how some days are better and some days are not within this industry, definitely helps from a career perspective. When I was in school, a lot of it was just powering through.

Megan Doherty: My mom always had, um, this saying that you have 10 minutes to cry and then you pick yourself up and you continue going and I think that as, as bitter as that sounds, it was great because you have so much more potential than just sitting there and feeling, uh, feel what you need to feel, but don't feel sorry for yourself. There's always gonna be people in a community around you who, who will pick you up and take you where you need to go, as long as you're willing to put your foot forward first.

Megan Doherty: As someone who is just starting their career within security. I hope that, you know, the, let's say the legacy I hope to leave behind is, is one of, um, kindness and compassion. I think we don't have enough of that still within tech as a whole, as as especially within cybersecurity realm and I hope it's one of being able to share experiences and also move other women up the ranked up cybersecurity.