Out of My Depth (Where I Belong)

By Molly Elise Young

I remember well my first day as a member of Akamai's InfoSec department.

The Friday prior, I'd just completed the Akamai Technical Academy, a five-month crash-course in all things tech, and was now, on a cold but sunny Monday morning, joining InfoSec for their weekly staff meeting.  Eager to make a good first impression, I took a seat at the large, crowded conference table, opened my notebook, and started to take notes.

My first note read:  What is PCI? followed by Controls = regulations??? 

In my previous career, I'd advised international students of their rights and responsibilities under Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) §214f.  "Controls" sounded like they were maybe similar--like a cousin, maybe? I could only guess.  The note after that was a question as well, as was the note after that, the pattern broken only for a quick-snatched breath of air to write down--verbatim, with questionably accurate spelling--bits of information shared by my colleagues to the rest of the group.  By the end of the half-hour staff meeting, I had filled an entire college-ruled page of my composition notebook with questions. As I sat there, staring down at the lines of my own small script, written testament to how little I knew, of how much I didn't know, all I could think was:  I am completely out of my depth.  I don't belong here.

One week ago tomorrow, as of the writing of this essay, will mark  three years since that day.  I've learned much since then.

I've learned what PCI is (learned as much later that first day, actually), and what differentiates a control from a regulation. This information was offered to me by a colleague when he came over to introduce himself and welcome me to the department.  I've learned--and am still learning--how our networks and products and services and tools all work together.  I discovered, to my simultaneous joy and relief, that I had learned and retained more from my brief technical studies than I would have believed while I was in the thick of it.  But most importantly, I learned that I had been completely, wholly wrong that first day.  I belong.  I have value.  More than that, I have colleagues who were and are determined to help me see that I belong amongst them.

This, more than any knowledge any of us brings to the table, is what makes my team so exceptional and successful.  We are a collection of career changers mixed seamlessly with "real" engineers, each of us curious in our own way, and each of us values the diversity of perspective, experience, education, and enthusiasm brought in by those around us.  Where there is strength, interest, or passion, there is opportunity, and our management sees to it that those opportunities are not wasted.  The result is a team that can solve any problem, and creatively at that.  A team that demonstrates proactivity and care, both for the work we do, and the people with whom we do that work.

It's been a wild three years for me as an Akamai Compliance Specialist, with victories and opportunities now tucked into my pocket that I couldn't have imagined back then if I'd tried.  I catch myself, from time to time, wishing I could go back to that sunny January morning, to that terrified newcomer with their notebook page full of questions and their heart full of doubt, and reassure them that they did, indeed belong.

Akamai knew they belonged.  Learning that has just been one more lesson I happened to have in front of me to learn, and my team has, across the board, been nothing but happy to help me learn it as many times as I need.

For more information about the Akamai Technical Academy, please visit https://trainingintech.com/

Article Link: https://blogs.akamai.com/sitr/2021/02/out-of-my-depth-where-i-belong.html