How to Transition to a Tech Role Within Your Current Company (S5E17)

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Kristen KozinskiLooking for your first transition role to get started in the tech industry? That’s exactly how Kristen Kozinski made her career change. Kristen, who originally wanted to be a designer, now works for the New York Times as an Information Security Trainer.

Today, she joins us on the podcast to talk about transitioning to a new job and how to make a career change with no experience.

Listen to the episode below!

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:07
Hi and welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. Today we'll be learning about cybersecurity after this quick word about how you can support the show.

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Laurence Bradford 0:36
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Laurence Bradford 0:57
Hey listeners in today's episode I talked with Kristen Kozinski. Kristin currently works for the New York Times as an information security trainer. After getting her degree in web design and development, she got a job working in the support team at MailChimp. She actually then worked her way up into position on their information security team. Kristin also runs don't click on, a website that educates people on how to secure their information online. Today we're going to be talking about cybersecurity skills, moving into a more technical role within the company currently work for and starting a side business. If you are curious about a career in cybersecurity, or if you'd like to change careers within your current company, this episode is for you. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 1:47
Hey, Kristen, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Kristen Kozinski 1:49
Thank you for having me.

Laurence Bradford 1:52
I'm really excited to chat with you today. You're another guest out of several this season that I first connected with on Instagram, which is where I probably spend too much of my time right now. And I'm really excited to have you on because we're going to talk about one of the, like topics that people love the most, which is transitioning into tech from an unrelated field. Yeah. But before diving into your journey into cybersecurity specifically, can you just tell us a bit about what you're doing today?

Kristen Kozinski 2:22
Um, so I currently work for the New York Times, and I am their information security trainer. So I spend all day talking to journalists and even our business and tech and talking to them about how they can be more secure in their day to day work and how to protect the data that they handle.

Laurence Bradford 2:37
Yeah, that's like really awesome. What were you doing though, before you were working at the New York Times and helping train people on like security best practices.

Kristen Kozinski 2:46
So it's actually an engineer at a company called MailChimp, which is a marketing automation company. And I worked on their information security train team as an engineer. So I'd spend my day to day kind of passion. vulnerabilities in the application and I would sit on our product teams and give them recommendations on new features and how they can develop it more securely and kind of review their code. And yeah, that's what I did at MailChimp.

Laurence Bradford 3:14
And even before that, what we're actually we can even maybe perhaps go back further, like, what were you doing? Did you go to college and study something like related to tech or what was like your initial kind of career before you becoming an engineer?

Kristen Kozinski 3:28
So I actually started my career in shrimp and coffee. I went to college initially for art, but I was having a hard time focusing and not feeling passionate about what I was doing. So I dropped out of school, and I was working for I want to say six years I worked at a restaurant called Bubba Gump shrimp company. And then that I started working part time for a coffee shop that my mother in law open so I was going back and forth between you know slinging shrimp and slinging coffee. shots. So that's what I was doing. Before I even started in tech, I actually decided to get into tech because I was helping my mother in law do her design and marketing for the coffee shop. And I had a background in Photoshop from high school. So I was having a lot of fun getting back into Photoshop. And, you know, I was like, I really enjoy this. I think it might be good for me to go back to school and try to figure out how to do this professionally. And I was also a young mother. I had gotten married the year before and I had a baby. And I kind of I wanted a career that I could provide better for my family and offer more stability.

Laurence Bradford 4:40
So when did you first start working at MailChimp then?

Kristen Kozinski 4:44
So it was back in 2014. I believe it was. I actually I was still in school. I was working on my degree in web design and development and doing the whole thing online and kind of on my own time. And I really want I wanted to work for MailChimp because I just love the company and I loved everything they were doing. And I actually wanted to be a designer for them. So my focus in school was I wanted to do design but still understand how to code. And I did not have the experience, they were looking for designers. So I figured, you know, there's another way to get my foot in the door, this company, and I went in through the support team. So I started working in support. And I actually did that for my first year at MailChimp.

Laurence Bradford 5:26
On the show before we've talked about, like getting a foot in the door and other parts of the company like at a company tech company, so absolutely love that you did that. I would love to talk about your transition like within MailChimp from support over to their tech team. How did you like go about planning that?

Kristen Kozinski 5:43
Yeah, so one of the great things about working in support is that you have a variety different of customer, a variety of different customers that you're working with and giving support to and a subset of those customers are very tech heavy. So they might have custom coded templates. Or are running into very specific technical issues within the application. So part of my transition into becoming more side of the tech and engineering was to push to focus on helping those customers. So we had all these little teams within support that kind of had specialties and certain fields. So I knew I was, you know, learning how to code at school, I knew HTML and CSS. And so I joined our custom code team. So basically, the tickets that required technical understanding of how HTML and CSS works with an email template, would take the tickets that involved those, those issues. So we had our own special templating language that you put you put in the HTML and CSS code.

Kristen Kozinski 6:53
So I started there, and then I actually branched into a specialty that I didn't even expect to but maybe adjure had recommended it. And that was our email deliverability area. So when you send an email, there's a whole infrastructure behind it on how the email actually sends. And that was a lot of issues that would come up in support. And the process was kind of complicated. So they would usually have one or two agents that were specially trained in this email deliverability process. So my manager had recommended that I do what we call deliverability camp. And I would go and spend, it was about four weeks long, and I'd spend like two days a week sitting with the deliverability team and learning how our infrastructure worked and learning about the issues that customers would come up with. So I went into deliverability camp, and actually why I was there.

Kristen Kozinski 7:49
They had a job opening for deliverability engineer. And this was a job that frequently people from support would come into and what am I good Friends who was on the deliverability team, who I barely knew at the time, he was like you should apply to this job. And I just didn't occur to me until then. So I actually moved from our support team, to the deliverability. team, and worked there for about a year and a half before I moved into our information security team.

Laurence Bradford 8:16
Ooh, so the deliverability team, um, just for context, I think for the listeners, and also just for myself, for clarification, I feel like that must be something that's only at a company or at a company kind of like MailChimp, or you're sending out tons and tons of millions of emails every day, or more than that, I would assume?

Kristen Kozinski 8:33
Yes, it's a very niche skill and area of like a technical area to understand. And really your job outlook in that industry is very much just other marketing automation email service providers. So actually, it's one of the reasons I moved into information security was just looking at my overall job outlook. I knew one there was going to be a ton of options for me and email deliverability but also, since it's such a niche space, I was already starting to get a little bored with it, because I understood it pretty, pretty thoroughly. And I wanted a new challenge.

Laurence Bradford 9:11
Was the deliverability team was that on marketing or on engineering or on support? like where did that just fall in the company?

Kristen Kozinski 9:20
We actually worked under our infrastructure team. So we work alongside with our systems engineers and data science, because it was kind of a mixture of all of it. And what we would manage is actually our servers that were separate from the app servers that sent out an email.

Laurence Bradford 9:38
Right perfect. So I just remind my experience working at a startup and and we were not well we have we had emailing capabilities, but we were not like an email company. But getting emails out on time when they're supposed to be sent out was such a huge like thing like they were like, like we have several people in mind you the company is it Big. So having several people that work on their whole job revolves around emails at a non email company is I think says a lot. So I do think for people listening, I feel like it's a really good way to get a foot in the door. Also, again, just from my own small experience, seeing people that work with email develop deliverability I feel like you can earn a good amount because it is such a nice skill to have. But moving on from there. So you start off with the deliverability team, and then you move over to the engineering team. And how long were you working there then at MailChimp?

Kristen Kozinski 10:31
Um, I think it was another year and a half that I spent Yeah. On the information security team. Yeah, it was a great experience. And I actually so what I did was to move from email deliverability to an engineering position because I would do a little coding and my job and I worked a lot in the command line and managing our servers. But I really wanted to code more. We're record on a day to day basis, so MailChimp had this really great program where they offered apprenticeships. And so the team could say, you know, we want to take on an apprentice and the apprentice, basically, the expectation was, they wouldn't have the skills that an entry level person would have for that job. So as mostly other people in the company who had been there for a while, who had interest in this area, and the great thing about the program was it was three months long.

Kristen Kozinski 11:28
And at the end of the three months, you'd sit and have a conversation with the manager and decide if it felt like a good fit for you. And it was kind of a both sides type thing where the manager would talk to you about, you know, their experience with you, but you'd also talk about how you felt about it. And it was perfectly okay if you had apprenticed with the team and then decided, you know, I don't feel like this is a good fit for me, because my previous job was waiting for me. So it was a really great opportunity. And that's how I kind of made that jump from deliverability Information Security.

Laurence Bradford 12:01
Oh, that's really awesome. And in fact, in the first episode of this season, we talked with someone about an apprenticeship program they did at LinkedIn. And it was, I think it was a year long, it was quite different. But for any of the listeners who want to learn more about some of these programs, go back to season five, episode one where we talk about another one. But that's, that's really cool. So you ended up enjoying it? That was three months long, you pursued that? And now How did you end? Okay, so, MailChimp is based in Atlanta, right? Mm hmm. And now, of course, you're in New York working for New York Times, you know, in New York, how did that pivot or not not really a pivot? How did that switch happen?

Kristen Kozinski 12:40
Um, so it kind of unexpectedly happened. So I was working as an engineer, and I actually found that as much as I enjoy doing coding projects, I did not love doing it every day. Because a lot of what I was doing was patching things and I had to go into code that I hadn't written and figured out How the previous engineer had written it, and then how I could patch this security vulnerability in it. And I just, I didn't love it, but I loved information security and I loved educating others at the company. And I actually was pushing for more of a role in education at MailChimp. So I started developing our secure coding series. Basically, I went through the OWASP Top 10 and I wrote emails, I made an email series because of course, you know, MailChimp, everyone loves their email there. So I made an email series kind of talking about a wasp and how our engineers could write better code. And I give them examples from within our infrastructure where we've found a vulnerability and then how we fixed it. And I really love doing that.

Kristen Kozinski 13:47
And so I started looking for more opportunities within education. And honestly, I knew I wanted to go into more of a broader education. roll into terms of information security instead of just talking about how to write secure code, and MailChimp wasn't really in a place to have somebody in a dedicated role there. So I started kind of looking outside, but not seriously really, I had to find the right place to take me away from MailChimp, because MailChimp is such an amazing company. And I was very happy to work there. And I followed RUNA SANDVIK. She's one of the she's the Senior Director of Information Security at New York Times. I followed her on Twitter, and she actually tweeted about an analyst position in the information security team. And even though I wasn't quite sure that was the position I wanted, I reached out to her and had a conversation with her and told her what I was looking for.

Kristen Kozinski 14:45
And she gave me the heads up that they were going to be hiring a trainer and a couple months so I kind of kept an eye out on Twitter and check their job pages to see when this job opening came up. And it just it seemed like such a great transition because even though I love the New York Times. I love that MailChimp. I wanted to move to a company where I could move into the type position, I really want it but also feel a real dedication behind their mission. And I felt like I could have that at the New York Times.

Laurence Bradford 15:15
I love that I love when I just love hearing stories of people who like found jobs through social media found opportunities, kind of through like a non traditional applying sort of way. So what was the rough timeline of like you engaging this person on Twitter having the conversation to actually getting this like position and moving to New York.

Kristen Kozinski 15:37
So I want to say she initially talked about the analyst position in January, and I knew right away, that wasn't quite the position for me. So when she said this trading position was coming up, I just kind of kept an eye out and I want to say in March, the job was finally posted. And after that, it was Kind of a world when I remember I got the offer a week before my birthday, or maybe a couple of days before my birthday, which was April 22. So it felt like such a great birthday gift. And then I gave MailChimp three weeks notice and move that same week that I finished at MailChimp to New York. And New York has always been a dream of mine. I've always wanted to live here. And it just felt like such a great opportunity to work for a company that I really believed in And finally live in a city that I'd always wanted to live in.

Laurence Bradford 16:32
Wow, that's so awesome. And I know I wasn't planning on asking questions about this at all. But I think this is something that a ton of listeners want to do like move to new city or get a new job in your city and have to move and it wasn't just you moving right like you have a husband, you have a child you have pets, how was how was coordinating all that. Like, could you talk about that a bit?

Kristen Kozinski 16:53
Yeah, it was was really challenging because, you know, it's really hard to find a place to live in New York, when you're I'm in another state. So actually what I did was I had a really good friend from like high school and college time that lived up here. And she she's from New York, and she let me come and crash at her place. And I slept on her couch for six weeks. Luckily, she's a traveler, so we exchanged free room and board in exchange for me walking her dog and helping around around the house. But during that time, I got to kind of get started at work and start looking for a place for us to live. And then in the meantime, my husband was wrapping up in our apartment in Atlanta, we actually had to terminate our lease or lease so they forced us to stay an extra month than we want it to. So he was kind of taking care of things there. And they moved up once I signed a lease here. And yeah, that was that was how, how it went, but it was it was a challenging six weeks.

Laurence Bradford 17:59
Yeah. I mean, I just remember when I moved to New York and it was, I mean, it was very it was it was very fast. So it was like two three weeks, but it was really just like me. I did i do have two pets, but it's I can only imagine it was actually a less distant move was about three hours from Boston, whereas Atlanta is like, you can't do a quick. I mean, not that three hours is necessary click drive, but you can't do like a drive on a weekend to visit places.

Kristen Kozinski 18:24
Yeah, yeah. And bless my husband's heart. I mean, my son is seven and he was still at school when I took this job. So he wrapped up school for us. He drove the our car load of things with my seven year old and our cat in the backseat for I want to say it took them 15 hours to drive up here. I was kind of like, I'm sorry, I can't be there to help. also kind of thankful that I didn't have to sit through that very long car ride.

Laurence Bradford 18:51
Oh my gosh, yeah, I might. I mean, my cats are like the biggest scaredy cats ever but moving them even if it's a very short distance, they have like Like literally my one cat like hyperventilates can't breathe. I feel like he's gonna pass at any moment. He just like the biggest babies ever put. She just hate they hate being like, removed from the apartment. But any case Yeah, that sounds like yeah sounds like quite the trip 15 hours with a with a cat and a seven year old and all of your stuff moving up to a new city and to a place like he hasn't even seen yet. Imagine he hadn't seen the apartment or anything yet. Oh, now. Oh, wow. But the timing also feels like it wasn't this in May. And this cuts kind of around the time the school year and so it was like a nice transition into the next school year in the fall?

Kristen Kozinski 19:35
Yeah, so I think he only had two weeks of school left when I moved up. So he was able to finish out the school year at his previous school and actually Atlanta, their school schedule is completely different from here in New York so they get out of school much earlier. So he got an extra long summer to kind of get used to the city and explorer before the school year started.

Laurence Bradford 19:58
So I'm totally changing subjects now, from personal to back to like cybersecurity and things. But as you were making his career change, you know, within MailChimp getting these new roles, gaining new responsibilities, how were you educating yourself? Like, did you take any online courses? Did you read any books? What were you doing?

Kristen Kozinski 20:18
So I actually I finished college while I would had taken the deliverability job, I think I'd taken it maybe a month before and then I finished up school. So in my degree, it was web design and development. So I was getting those classes and, you know, HTML and CSS and JavaScript and PHP, which, luckily, PHP is what MailChimp is written off of. So that experience having those classes there for my degree program was a huge help. But in terms of cybersecurity, when I took the job, I had really no experience other than an interest. I kept an eye on blogs and I would read about it. And I had done some research on the OWASP, top 10 that I actually tried to boat up before by interview on. But luckily, since I was doing the apprenticeship program, the expectation on what I understood about cybersecurity was really low. And I really appreciated that. And I find a lot of companies when they do recruit internally for information security, that expectation is relatively low.

Kristen Kozinski 21:27
They're mostly looking for a passion and interest and not understanding you to come in and be able to, you know, pen test a server or automatically start patching vulnerabilities in the application. So that's one of the great things about transferring to cyber security. And there's not a whole lot of college programs that are offering cybersecurity so most people don't have a formal education. Most of it self taught between reading blogs following other people in security and showing interest in their company and getting That hands on experience. I will say though, there has been a lot more interest in cybersecurity. So I'm seeing more of these, you know, coding schools and training programs popping up. There's a lot more of these, you know, hack the box type activities where you can learn how to pen test and there's some really great blogs on secure coding. So I am seeing that there's a lot more resources to learn.

Laurence Bradford 22:26
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Laurence Bradford 22:33
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Laurence Bradford 23:33
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Laurence Bradford 24:45
Would you mind sharing some of the blogs that you follow and if you can't like think of all of them at the top of our head we can definitely do an email after and I could add them all to the show notes because you know there's gonna be listeners that are gonna want to check them out.

Kristen Kozinski 24:58
Yeah, off the top of my head. No, I was following Krebs on security, and his last about technical knowledge but more about cybersecurity in general, and the types of attacks that are very common and how they're executed. And then I would read the hacker newsletter. And they have a lot of also news stories about just what's going on in cybersecurity. Sometimes there was, you know, information on different classes and resources. I'm trying to think what else um, the loss website is actually a super great resource. They have a ton of documentation on how to code securely, and kind of they have like Wiki pages on each one of the top 10. And they even have PDFs that you can download and reference later on. Those were the main things that I looked at before I jumped into the job and security outside of that, I know there are A couple like Google has this cross site scripting game. I can't remember the name of it off the top of my head, and I can definitely send those to you afterwards. And then there's a couple online courses that I've played with, but I can't remember the names. No worries, we'll definitely just add the resources in the show notes that people can check them out. Yeah, I totally get I can barely remember, like, what I did yesterday, let alone resources I used a few years ago, so totally understand.

Laurence Bradford 26:27
But yeah, we'll we'll add them to the show notes. All good. So I also wanted to ask, or get into a little bit, you have like, a side business, or I'm not sure if that's what you refer to it as, but don't click on When did you start that? Could you share a bit about what that is?

Kristen Kozinski 26:43
So I started don't click on that while I was working at MailChimp on the information security team. And basically what it is is an online blog, that's about cybersecurity, but it's meant to teach people who might have a low technical knowledge More likely to be targeted with online attacks and teach them how to protect themselves in a much simpler way. And it was started because actually I, my, my best friend's mom, I love her, bless her heart. She got targeted on Facebook where somebody had actually they didn't hack her profile. But they made a separate profile pretending to be her. And she at first initially thought her profile had gotten hacked because all these people started receiving Facebook messages from her. And so she called me and I came over I looked at it for her and realized that she hadn't been hacked, but someone had just made a clone profile of this.

Kristen Kozinski 27:42
So I was trying to find some sort of resource I could send her that would just walk her through, how do you report it to Facebook and how do you kind of set these privacy settings in your Facebook profile so you're less likely to be targeted for this type of attack. And I couldn't find anything that was simple enough that would just walk her through how to protect herself. So that was probably the main experience. Because, I mean, in general, I'd been finding that I was giving this type of recommendations to a lot of friends and family when they come to these things. But I think hers, her experience was the tipping point because I knew how frustrated she was. And she was very concerned and just wanted to get her Facebook back up and running, because that's how she's, you know, in touch with many of her friends and family. So that was actually the first blog post that I did on don't click on that. And I named it because because I feel like I'm frequently telling people Oh, don't click on that thing. Do this instead, or report this year.

Kristen Kozinski 28:44
So slowly, I've been trying to add blog posts that teach people how to set up you know, a password manager and what makes a good password and why is that important? And how frequently people who don't have large online presence can still be a target for cybersecurity attacks. And I've kind of evolved it from what was once an informational blog to now a little side business where I'm trying to develop courses and services so people can actually hire me to help them out on the side. So I'm actually working on my first online course right now, which will help people understand their digital footprint online and what type of information is being unintentionally shared about them that could be used in a cyber attack and then how to remove that information from the internet.

Laurence Bradford 29:33
I love that so much and I think it's like there. Just for my own brief research on cybersecurity and related fields, especially for beginners and like related topics. I feel like there is not a lot of information out there like there is but really compared to other things like even just like, oh, how do I learn HTML and CSS, there's like, millions of articles about it. Whereas certain things with cybersecurity and hacking like there's not as many especially for like the lay person who's not super technical and just wants to keep themselves safe online. Or maybe they have like a really simple website and they just want to make sure you know, it's not going to get hacked, or maybe it has gotten hacked, and just how to recover that. So, yeah, I absolutely love that. And also, I love like the branding, and I know you have an Instagram account for it. I think it's also gorgeous. But now it actually makes sense. If you study design, are you the one you should you have these design skills that you're putting to use there?

Kristen Kozinski 30:24
Yes. So, since I did do design, so much design is really important to me. And I've also noticed that there are some resources that teach you how to secure your information online, but they're really boring or they can be intimidating with, you know, the typical tech stock imagery, or the hacking stock imagery. If you look online, it's like, you know, lines of code, and I wanted something that felt kind of like a lifestyle blog. So when you went there, it didn't feel stressful because I am I do ask you to do uncomfortable things from time to time, like setting up a password manager. is a stressful process for some people. And I wanted them to at least feel like if they're coming to the stressful thing, they can do it in this place that feels a little bit more comforting and I want them to feel like I'm taking their hand and kind of guiding them along the process. So part of that was having you know a little bit feminine colors and do it and making it feel kind of soft and fluffy.

Laurence Bradford 31:22
Awesome. I feel like I could ask you like 1000 more questions just about don't click on that and design. But I also want to point out I, I think you're such a great example of someone who has all these different skills and is putting them to use in all these different ways. Like, you're clearly a great communicator, and you're using that I'm sure in your role at you know, New York Times in on your blog to help educate people about cybersecurity. You also have these technical skills about security well, that you're, you know, helping others learn. And then you have these design skills that you're also using on your Instagram, on your website, on your branding. And I'm sure there's like 1000 things we had talked about that you picked up along the way from your previous roles and your education. Just being a mom, and that you're putting to use in all these different ways so it's really awesome. It's my knowledge knology for that. And the other thing I want to know like how do you do all of this like you like like you work full time you have this website this blog, you're creating an online course you're you know, a wife, you're a mother, you're a pet Mom, how how are you? Like, are you really great about productivity and time management?

Kristen Kozinski 32:26
Um, so I would not say I'm super great about this. I feel like I'm actually super lucky because my husband is a stay at home dad. So he he'll cook dinner and he manages a lot of things with my son so I can actually devote more of my time to these side hustles and he's been incredibly supportive of it along the way. So I would not have been able to do it without him. He's amazing. And I know I'm incredibly lucky that I have that because it is really hard to make time to do these side things, especially when you have a full time job and a family. Aside from that, I'm always looking for ways to better streamline my productivity. I actually have been working with a business coach that's helped me learn about batching content and help me strategize a little bit of where I want to take them. Don't click on that. And I have resources to other people who work in marketing, and work in customer service and analytics, who are also a part of this business coaching group I've been, and they've been a really great resource to help me out kind of along the way.

Kristen Kozinski 33:31
But I will say, this whole journey in tech has been such a strange experience. I jump from wanting to do design to wanting to code and then now educating. But I really appreciate that opportunity to change jobs. And I feel like I've been so luckily lucky to be in a company that's given me the opportunity to explore the different areas, and then not guilty myself when I realized that something doesn't fit me well. And that's part of why I didn't decided not to be a designer because I did an internship and design. And after going through several iterations of a webpage for a client, I realized that I like doing this more on my for myself that I liked doing it for other people. And then the same with coding, I realized I like doing it more for myself in small projects and building my own websites, but I don't love doing it every day. But through all these positions, I noticed that my favorite thing was actually educating people and helping them along the way. And I feel like I found that for now, and we'll see where this career takes me.

Laurence Bradford 34:37
I love that you said that because I get emails all the time from folks, whether they're already in tech, whether they're transitioning in tech and about how they're thinking of changing directions, and they're not sure because they already invested you know, time and money and whatnot, maybe pursuing one thing and now they want to kind of switch or pivot a bit because you're more interested in something else. And I always say, I mean, I feel like Tech is like the best industry to do that. It's totally normal I think in any industry, especially tech to like, re evolve yourself and change and switch gears. I mean, I just, I look at my own path just the last several years into tech in from, you know, thinking I wanted to be a full stack developer to realizing to then think I want to be a curriculum designer.

Laurence Bradford 35:20
So like, instructional designer, like creating online courses for a company like Udacity or Lynda or something to then I'm interested in like technical writing than to product management and now, you know, running my own business. So I and this is all just over the last few years, I think in tech, it's like totally fine to reinvent yourself and to evolve and that's like technology's evolving. So are we as humans, it's just natural. And it's so awesome to hear that you really found like this place that but like you found what you truly enjoy it right with like educating people about cybersecurity. It's just so it's so needed. It's also so awesome to see a woman doing this because, you know, as we both know, like Women are, I think particularly underrepresented in cybersecurity over some of the other technical fields out there. So it's really great to see that.

Kristen Kozinski 36:08
Yeah, and I feel I'm kind of lucky because at MailChimp, I want to say 30% of our team was women. And at the times, half of our team is women, where it's normally around 10% of women are in cybersecurity. And if you're ever looking for a good team in cybersecurity, seeing how many women they have on their team is actually a great indication on if it's a good team to work on. And I've lucked out twice with amazing teams and security and kind of that variation of intact where if you move around I feel like no matter what that those skills are useful in your next job. So if so, with the design, I had that background in design, so when I was altering code, especially front end code, I had that in mind, and then if you work a project management and then you go into engineering Then you have this really great background on how to work with a project manager and understanding the responsibilities that they have and what who they need to be accountable for.

Kristen Kozinski 37:09
So you can work together more smoothly. So I feel like even if you kind of move around in tech, that those different jobs are still really valuable to your current position 100% and customer support, I mean, where you started off on MailChimp and I know other folks that have started off in customer support in one way or another and now work in a more technical role, or maybe a design role. I feel like that helps build so much user empathy, especially if you're staying at like the same company. So you can really like if you're answering you know, support tickets all day, you really have this understanding of the customer that someone who may be on the engineering team and never really interact with customers they don't have and that's so much value that you're bringing to the table and just how you, you know, approach problems and figure out you know, what, to what to build or what not to build and what the customer is really dealing with. Yeah, it's just a lot of empathy there. Yeah, anyway, Christina was really great to have you on. Where can people find you online?

Kristen Kozinski 38:05
So you can find me on my website, or you can find me I'm mostly on Instagram and Twitter. And my handle is also dontclickonthat for both of those.

Laurence Bradford 38:16
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on.

Kristen Kozinski 38:18
Yeah. Thank you so much.

Laurence Bradford 38:26
Thanks so much for listening today. If you want a reminder of anything that was covered in the episode, just head on over to, you can see all previously published episodes there. And if you enjoy Learn to Code podcast, please consider becoming a patron of the show. By pledging just a few dollars per month you'll get access to a bunch of patron only bonuses and privileges, like the ability to vote on the topics of future episodes. To find out more go to Thanks and I'll see you next time.

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Kristen’s Path to Her Tech Transition Role

In short, here are the four steps Kristen took while making her career change.

1. Got her foot in the door with an entry-level role

“I was working on my degree in web design and development, doing the whole thing online and kind of on my own time,” Kristen says. “And I really wanted to work for MailChimp, but I didn’t have the experience. So I figured, there’s another way to get my foot in the door of this company. I started working on their support team, and did that for a year.”

The best thing about this strategy is that once you have an in at a company, you’ll make connections and be the first to know when new openings appear. That’s exactly what happened for Kristen.

make connections

“While I was there, they had a job opening for ‘deliverability engineer,’” she continues. “And this was a job that frequently people from support would transition into. One of my friends on the deliverability team told me I should apply. So I moved from our support team to the deliverability team and worked there for about a year and a half before I moved into our information security team.”

2. Got an apprenticeship transition role in cybersecurity

“MailChimp had this really great program where they offered apprenticeships with certain teams,” Kristen says. “The program was three months long and at the end of the three months, you’d sit and have a conversation with the manager and decide if it felt like a good fit for you. It was a really great opportunity, and that’s how I made that jump from deliverability to information security.”

3. Showed interest and willingness to learn

“When I took the apprenticeship, I had really no experience other than an interest,” Kristen explains. “I kept an eye on blogs, and I would read about it, and I had done some research on the OWASP top 10. But luckily, since I was doing the apprenticeship program, the expectation on what I understood about cybersecurity was really low. And I find that when a lot of companies recruit internally for information security, that expectation is relatively low. They’re mostly looking for a passion and interest, not understanding you to come in and be able to pentest a server or automatically start patching vulnerabilities in the application. There’s not a whole lot of college programs that are offering cybersecurity, so most people don’t have a formal education.”

eagerness and willingness to learn

4. Used social media to look for jobs she wanted

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for your next ideal role, but you don’t have to restrict yourself to the standard job boards. “I followed Runa Sandvik on Twitter—she’s the Senior Director of Information Security at the New York Times—and she actually tweeted about an analyst position in the information security team,” Kristen says. “I reached out to her, had a conversation, and told her what I was looking for. She gave me the heads up that they were going to be hiring a trainer in a couple of months. So I kept an eye out for this job opening.” (As you can deduce, that worked out pretty well for her career change!)

social media

Links and mentions from the episode:

Other resources Kristen recommends:




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