For this month’s employee spotlight, we spoke with Austin Allen, who took a unique route into the cybersecurity field. Despite starting out without a college degree, Austin earned many certifications and taught himself from scratch via the internet to arrive where he is today.
What led you to your career in cybersecurity?
My journey began in IT, and after spending some time as the lead on infrastructure (also known as the Lead Network Analyst), I found an overall lapse in understanding of security not just from IT teams but from executives. Budgeting for security felt like a luxury, and security was treated as an afterthought. After running IT for Arrow McLaren SP’s 2020 IndyCar season, I found myself yearning for a deeper dive into the security aspect of data information. For me Pondurance was the right fit with the right leadership team, where I could focus on being security minded first and help clients evaluate their security posture.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day starts with a drawn out argument with my alarm clock. Unfortunately, I also lose — a lot. Generally, emails are my first work function. I catch up on what I missed after-hours as well as any email follow-ups from the prior day’s meetings. That then kicks off my focus for the day, which is meeting prep and talking to our account executives to gain insight into the technical conversations on my agenda. I always do my own research, but it’s important to understand what conversations our clients have already had with us and stick to what they want to learn more about. Clients don’t like repeating themselves! That then turns into meetings, which are generally technical demos or client technical scoping. My day generally finishes with following up internally with our product team and our marketing team. We have a lot of great folks here!
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Definitely it’s the unique route I took to get to where I am today. I started out without a college degree, took a lot of certifications, and taught myself from scratch via the internet. I spent many nights and weekends studying and watching technical deep dives on networking, subnetting, security and server infrastructure. I’m living proof that hard work pays off and that a hunger for learning is not limited to a degree. I think degrees are very important, but higher education means all forms of learning postsecondary school, and I encourage college or non-college grads to pursue higher education. Learning never stops if you want to grow in your career!
What advice have you been given that stuck with you?
I was recently told by a CEO that he worked his way to a point in his career where he didn’t have to apply for jobs anymore. The point he was making was that if you work hard and make connections, others will offer jobs to you. It is one thing to be good at your job, but it’s another to be great and be liked. Knowing how to gain hard technical skills is key, but don’t forget about your soft skills. Go out and network with your peers, offer advice to those starting out, take the time to meet for coffee, and be a mentor. That doesn’t mean you’re the best at what you do, but it means you provide value far beyond your technical abilities, and that resonates with executives.
What advice would you give to others looking to enter the technology field?
Expect to spend personal time studying or exploring a specific subset of a technology field. It’s so critical to be interested in and enjoy your field. If you try to get into technology for the paycheck, you will always be let down. The money will come with time and experience, but you have control over how fast you gain that experience. Work hard, especially when no one is watching, and it will become evident in your performance at work.
Anything else you would like to add?
It’s never too late to make a career change. Find something that interests you and that you’re passionate about, then become obsessed with it. There are so many free and cheap tools online for learning technology. It really is a wide-open market for those willing to put in the work!
Last but not least, find yourself a good support system. While my path wasn’t traditional, I still had a handful of loved ones who supported me and motivated me. Hi mom! Today, I draw a lot of strength from my fiancé, who continues to motivate me and allows me to still be obsessed with the work I do.
Interested in joining the Pondurance team? View our current openings!
Solutions Principal | Pondurance
Austin has lived in the surrounding Indianapolis area for the last 20 years and started in a traditional IT background. He comes to Pondurance from Arrow McLaren SP, where he was the sole IT engineer for the McLaren IndyCar program. He has a 10-month-old Labrador retriever named Charlie and just recently got engaged to his fiancé, MacKenzie.