From Exec. Assistant To Cybersecurity Specialist: Dawn Charles

Brianna Rhodes

#Diversity & Inclusion#Sales#Culture

Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech’s website.

It’s never too late to reinvent your career or make a pivot into the technology field. Just ask Dawn Charles, Business Support Specialist at MongoDB. Charles worked as a personal trainer for 12 years before she took an executive assistant position that eventually led to a career in cybersecurity.

MongoDB is a database platform that provides the back-end infrastructure used by many popular apps, including the online game Fortnite. It’s an attractive option for tech professionals all over the world, including Black tech professionals who are looking to elevate their career.

Charles spoke with AfroTech to share her experience working for MongoDB as a Black tech professional, gave advice on individuals looking to make a career switch and provided tips on how to keep your personal cybersecurity measures up-to-date.

How Dawn Charles Made a Career Pivot

Charles started working for MongoDB five years ago and has been a crucial part of the success of many departments at the company. When she first joined the company, she was a recent cancer survivor and knew she wanted a job that could provi​de financial security. MongoDB fulfilled both requirements, and although it was her first time joining a larger company compared to previous employers, she was able to become involved with many teams, including the developer relations, solutions architecture, sales, and product marketing functions.

As a Business Support Specialist, she now works in the global security department and supports the Chief Information Security Officer. Charles aides with special assignments, manages the security brand and works as a liaison for global teams to guarantee their “personal security is aligned and secure.”

“Initially, I started at MongoDB as an EA [executive assistant] to two sales leaders,” says Charles. “Everything revolved around making quotas and performance of the sales teams. I would volunteer to get involved with other team projects, one being our sales bootcamp, which was a very small program then.”

“I offered to help in things that interested me, not necessarily looking for a change, but just to explore new things and make my day to day more interesting” Charles adds. “It adds to your workload, but gives you insight to what other roles might entail, and also proves that you are up for the task before even making a change.”

Over the last five years, Charles’ exposure to new areas of the company contributed to her versatility, and she still has large goals she’d like to see come to fruition. Charles suggests that those who are looking to switch roles should shadow someone in the role they’re pursuing, and get as much insight as possible.

“In all of my career I have always been very social, building great relationships with people I have worked alongside on different projects.” Charles adds. “Having this has enabled me to have access to amazing people who are always willing to provide advice and support.” Which has led to having many champions on her side who believe in her.

When it comes to working for MongoDB as Black woman in particular, Charles describes it as being “great and interesting.” As a UK native, she says it’s been amazing because she has the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, not just from the U.S, but from all over the world. Her experience helps her realize that she is her own biggest advocate, which means she learns to not only speak up for herself, but to also speak up if she comes across something that is not “fair or just.”

The Importance of Online Safety

Since MongoDB is a database company, cybersecurity plays a huge role in guaranteeing that their customers and the company are protected. Charles believes that online safety is just as important as everyday security measures, such as locking your doors and cars, which is standard.

“Our whole lives and all of our personal information are online, but security is an afterthought for many,” says Charles.

Below are a few key steps Charles believes are necessary to keep yourself safe online.

  • Secure your home's WiFi connection
  • Make sure your phone and computer OS are up-to-date along with specific apps.
    • Enable an auto update feature so that you don't have to remember.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and password managers.
    • Use MFA to mitigate risk of password loss.
  • Create passphrases instead of passwords e.g. DawnLikesSmoothies9492!
    • Make sure nothing personal that people can search about you like your animal name or the year you were born.
  • Use a password manager
    • Avoid password reuse since hackers use breached credentials (e.g, credential stuffing).
    • Sign up for 1Password for your one stop site to store all of your passwords.
  • Email is the most important asset to secure
    • Email provides access to all your accounts via password resets.
    • Protect your email! Once again use MFA and a secure pin on your phone. Use biometrics if available.

Considering her effort and dedication to ensure safety for all based on these tips, Charles said that she is “proud and incredibly lucky to work at MongoDB.”

“Our work environment and culture is amazing and we are encouraged to actually have fun in what we do,” Charles says. “I truly enjoy the people I work with and have made some amazing connections that will last a lifetime. MongoDB continues to grow, and we are always welcoming new people to the team.”

One of the MongoDB core values is to “Think Big, Go Far.” If this is a motto you can see yourself working by, explore current job opportunities on their career page.

Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here.