Mackenzie Wartenberger Spotlight Photo

I got into cyber – by asking questions! I was in the middle of a career pivot from athletics coaching, and I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I found the people who had interesting careers and seemed to be living great lives, and asked tons of questions — on LinkedIn, with emails and Zoom requests, at dinner, floating in swimming pools — you name it, I was shameless with my inquiries! The cybersecurity field quickly emerged as a space where people were excited about their work and about learning, were in charge of their own success, and were generally motivated to innovate and explore, so I dove in headfirst. I was fortunate enough to land a paid apprenticeship with Aquia’s Accelerator program, which gave me the skills I needed to make the switch to a full-time career.

For me, a positive cyber mindset is – humility and a willingness to collaborate and serve. The very best security operators I know aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know and reach out for help. Those same folks offer service and guidance with grace and encouragement. Those traits have been a radical perspective shift for me, from feeling like I needed to be an expert from day one, to embracing that this career is all about continuous learning and community collaboration.

My top tip to those interested in transitioning to a career in cybersecurity is – to not underestimate the power of service-oriented networking. Find people who are excited to help you, accept that help, and then work to find ways to bring value and service to what they are doing as early and often as possible.

My recommended reads – are a shameless plug for an awesome new book, “Software Transparency” by Aquia CISO and co-founder Chris Hughes and Tony Turner. I have found “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink really impactful recently, and my all-time favorite is Homer’s “The Odyssey.” I am a fan of the classics.

The lessons that helped me transition to a career in cyber – were that a willingness to work hard is often required to reach your long-term goals, it’s important to focus on failure as an opportunity to evolve and get better, and you should always put team first. My prior career also taught me that I wanted to be a part of a team that valued personal worth over achievement alone, respected my time and work-life balance, and put women on a platform for success.

The experience that set me up for success – was realizing that what I thought I wanted to do wasn’t making me a better person or giving me the life I wanted. That was a hard realization — but the clarity, humility, and focus it has granted me has been priceless.