Career Notes 11.13.22
Ep 125 | 11.13.22

Lauren Campanara: Learn to forgive yourself. [SOC Analyst]


Lauren Campanara: Hello, my name is Lauren Campanara and I am a SOC Analyst at ThreatX.

Lauren Campanara: I didn't grow up in the most supportive environment, so I read a lot of books, made art, and I used dance as an outlet. I was always very creative. As a child in the nineties, I found the internet and I messed around with HTML and taught myself how to use Photoshop to make graphics for all the angel fire websites that I had.

Lauren Campanara: I was always curious about computers, but I didn't look at that as a potential career. It was just another outlet for me at that time. As I got older, I started to get into doing hair and makeup as a way to express myself. I ended up pursuing cosmetology because it was something that I was great at, and I thought that focusing. Learning a trade would guarantee job security, and that was the most important factor to me at that time. I wanted to pick a skill that was always going to be needed, everyone needs a haircut. It wasn't until much later in my life that I recognized that technology was gonna even be an option for me.

Lauren Campanara: I spent 12 years in the cosmetology industry before recognizing that I felt really unsatisfied and unhappy. I just didn't feel as passionate about it anymore, mostly because it's such a physically demanding job, and I started to question if I was capable of more.

Lauren Campanara: In 2017, my partner helped me realize that I could do anything I wanted to do, and you know, I didn't have to stay in a career that wasn't making me happy. That's when college became a real consideration for me. I knew I wanted to go down a path that was going to be more challenging and rewarding. I really wanted to feel like I was making more of a difference in the world. I looked at, um, some career options and I made the decision to go to college within a week. It, it happened very quickly. I enrolled at Champlain College for their fully remote online program originally as a digital forensics major, but I realized very early on that cybersecurity actually appealed to me more, and a lot of the courses in that curriculum overlapped with forensics anyway, so I made the switch and also when I was researching cybersecurity, I noticed that there's a shortage in female employees, and I honestly thought that I could use that to my advantage to help me stand out after graduation.

Lauren Campanara: For at least half of my college journey, I continued to work as a hairstylist. Like I would study for hours before work and then go stand behind a chair for seven or eight hours, come home and study until I went to bed when I was a sophomore. I had the opportunity to do an internship as a SOC analyst in 2019. During my internship, I took an interest in open source intelligence. Um, eventually I participated in an event by Trace Labs, which is a nonprofit organization that uses OSINT to help reunite families with their missing persons. At the end of the event, Trace Labs gives all that relevant information over to the proper authorities, and I was able to team up with a Canadian hacker, and it was an incredible experience for me and really ignited my passion for cybersecurity.

Lauren Campanara: So after graduating I applied to about 70 or 80 jobs postings, which isn't uncommon. I got hired within a month as a SOC analyst in August of 2021. I was working overnight shifts, which was very difficult for me. I was searching for a company that could improve my quality of life while I navigate the start of my career, and I found ThreatX in May of this year.

Lauren Campanara: I primarily work with our clients to adjust firewall rules to meet their needs. I determine which tickets needs to to be escalated to more experienced analysts and there is a lot of technical troubleshooting involved at times. So there are opportunities to learn new things every day. I'm used to working in very tight knit teams and it's no different at ThreatX. Our CEO, Gene Faye, has been incredibly supportive of me and he really appreciates the importance of entry level candidates, especially career changers, since we are the future of cybersecurity. 

Lauren Campanara: Do not be afraid to make mistakes. It is how we learn when you get a job, don't be afraid to ask questions. My colleagues hear from me all day long and I joke about how many questions I ask them every day. It's just how it is when you're first starting out. There is no such thing as a stupid question. At the same time, ensure that you're setting yourself up to be self-sufficient. The only way I could go back to school was through an online program. Um, and online education doesn't give you that brick and mortar classroom experience with a teacher right in front of you.

Lauren Campanara: I mean, yes, you can message them for help, but I learned to rely on Google and investigate things on my own. Don't wait for others to tell you what to study. No matter what approach you take to joining the field, whether it's boot camp or certifications or a degree, give it a hundred percent because employers will recognize that when you start applying to positions and you will stand out from other applicants. Another thing I'd like to say is there is a place for women in tech. I mean, there's a place for everyone in tech, but I do want to note that it is an option for women, especially in cybersecurity. Diversity and unique backgrounds are needed. My cosmetology background has been more useful than some would think. In that industry, there are always new trends and new things you need to learn to stay current, and it's no different in cybersecurity. It's not a field where you can just coast. You'd be surprised how often the transferable soft skills are sometimes more important or just as important than the technical skills. My last piece of advice is to remember when you get to the point for interviewing for a position that you're interviewing the organization just as much as they are interviewing you.

Lauren Campanara: I'd like to be remembered as an example of what is possible. One of the biggest obstacles for me was learning the correct way to deal with failure. I learned to look in the obvious places first for information and not to be disheartened when I fail. Failures are an opportunity to learn how to do it better next time. If you're new to the cybersecurity field, there is a place for all of us. If you see a job posting with unrealistic expectations for an entry level position, chances are that organization isn't going to be the right fit for you anyway. Another huge obstacle, is learning to get out of my own way. You are your own worst critic. I learned to be more forgiving of myself.

Lauren Campanara: Changing your career is no easy feat, and I would be lying to you if I said I didn't have any breakdowns during school and honestly, I cried quite a bit. I held myself to very high standards during college so I could graduate with a 4.0 and as I started to get attention from recruiters and organizations, I realized I deserved it from all my hard work. And ultimately, the only person that was ever holding me back was myself. I used to have very little confidence in myself, and I have struggled with feeling trapped in a career that was no longer making me happy and, and guess what? I know I'm not the only one. I hope that, you know, when the listeners hear my story, they realize that it's up to them to decide what their life can be and know that they can reach any goal that they set for themselves, whether they're trying to get into cyber security or IT, no matter the gender or the background, you can be anything you wanna be and I'm a perfect example of that.