My name is Teddy Powers. I have worked for Anomali (formerly ThreatStream) for almost the last three years and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. But if you looked at my résumé or LinkedIn, much like anyone else, you’d do a double take.
How in the world did he score a job with a great firm in a technical sales role with a marketing degree, 9 months of experience on Wall Street, a couple internships and a summer job as a caddy? One word: networking. I’ve never been the smartest person in the room (sorry Mom and Dad), but I will outwork the competition and achieve as much knowledge in my domain as I can to be the best asset to my team.
I am very fortunate to be connected to one of the smartest and most successful women in the cyber security industry. It’s not your typical happy hour/LinkedIn story of networking, but I had attended elementary school in a small town with this person. She told me about her career path and that she was working for a threat intelligence platform company with great leadership. I asked that if any opportunities with the company ever came up in sales that she reach out. On a cold day in February 2015, I got the call, but it wasn’t for an entry level sales position. She told me they were looking for a junior sales engineer, which at the time I thought may as well be like applying for a position with NASA. I decided the worst outcome was I’d meet some new people to add to my network.
Thus began the interview process. I was lucky that before ever getting hired by Anomali, my connection became a great mentor and coach to me. She took the time out of her busy schedule to give me the basics on what to study up on for the interview. Getting a job in tech is a like becoming a parent for the first time - you have no choice but to dig into the available subject matter.
As great as it would have been if I could have downloaded a knowledge repository into my brain, I took to the web and sunk my teeth into anything I could find. I was lucky that 2014 had been the year of the breach, so there was plenty of live reading material about the global threat landscape. I studied up on everything from acronyms I might come across to industry competitors (and I promise I didn’t have it all down - my manager and I still laugh about comparing a file hash to a fingerprint).
After throwing my hat in the ring, 2 phone conversations drastically changed my life and career path. Upon deciding I was at least worth meeting in person, I got the opportunity to meet a couple representatives from the company who have gone on to become some of my greatest mentors and champions.
When going into an interview and a position that would be considered outside your realm, my best advice is be honest with yourself and your level of knowledge. On my technical interview, I used some of the most powerful words anyone can use in their professional life, “I don’t know.” Instead of attempting to fudge my through an interview topic, I was honest with my future manager as to what I knew or studied up and what I didn’t. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now reflecting on it, being upfront about your knowledge level is going to help you figure out if the position is a good fit, especially if you’re breaking into a new field.
Expect week 1 on the new job to be knowledge overload. A leader within the company said to me early on, “Don’t try to cram it all in, just take a bit from the firehose and build on it everyday.” This is so crucial to what your reality is going to be - are you going to go home at night overwhelmed or with the mindset of “my knowledge is starting to grow?”
If you’re as fortunate as I was to have them take a chance on you to prove yourself, find a mentor at the company who is willing to invest in you. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say great companies hire people who are willing to invest not only in themselves, but those who join the company after them. This is something I genuinely think people need to consider and even ask about in an interview. See if they reflect fondly on someone at the company who invested in them or if they gush about how they had to do it on their own.
Get to know your team and how to be the best team player. This has been probably the number one reason I’ve been able to succeed at Anomali. Early on, I was thrust into projects that could have made my head explode (looking at you, lengthy RFPs) and reflecting back on it, I’m so thankful I was. I was so far out of my comfort zone from a knowledge and writing perspective. It should have been enough to scare me away. Taking on projects that are going to challenge you and force you to learn are excellent experience. When you come across things you don’t know, this provides an opportunity to form a relationship with the subject matter experts (SME) in the company. Again, in this situation, be a sponge and take a little bit from the firehose. Some sources that I found helpful - SANS, Dark Reading, Information Week, Medium, and Forbes.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. This comes back to being honest with yourself as to what you know. Refer to the above and figure out who your in house SMEs are and pick their brains. This creates a secondary SME in you and that person may be more likely to invest in you because you’ve taken initiative and some of the burden of being the lone expert off their shoulders. In turn, this also makes you more of an asset and a better team player.
Invest in yourself. If you are serious about making a change the way I did - go look into certifications in that field and, if you’re committed, buckle down and get one! It shows your potential employer that you are already devoting yourself to learning more about the field and have a level of discipline not everyone does.
Throw your hat in the ring - every time. Because I took that chance, uprooted my life and moved across the country for a job that I didn’t have any formal training, I have landed amongst some of the best people and opportunities a young person could have asked. There’s still a magnet on the fridge at home my mom put up that says “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” To anyone thinking about making a change like this, reach out - the least I can do is pay it forward.
Thanks to Colby DeRodeff, Trish Cagliostro, Trevor Welsh and Gabe Martinez for taking that chance on me and to everyone else who has invested in my professional and personal growth and development at Anomali.
Teddy Powers has been an SE with Anomali for almost 3 years, supporting customers in the financial, healthcare, telecom and tech sectors. Unlike most of his team members, his previous position before Anomali was not at ArcSight but at the Villanova University Athletic Department. In his free time, he reads, plays guitar, sings and hits more golf balls than any healthy, sane person should.