66. Marissa Russo – SAP Security Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

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“Being a woman in tech doesn’t mean that you’re a developer. There are so SO many careers out there. I would have never imagined I would be doing what I’m doing.”

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

My weeks start with a Monday morning flight to my client, where ever that may be! Right now i’m in Atlanta and I love it. I typically stay at the client site until Thursday, when I fly home.

Being project based, we are on tight timelines to achieve our goals. Because of this, my days are pretty pre-planned, with clear goals and objectives, client meetings, milestones, and deliverables. This could mean performing analyses, configuring the system to match security requirements, testing, or go lives! I love the structure that consulting provides, it really fits who I am as an individual.

After work, there’s typically other people who travel with me, and they encourage me to stay healthy and hit the gym, before we all meet for dinner.

How do you stay passionate in your career?

Sometimes the travel can be exhausting, but the people that I work with really keep me going. I learn something from them every day, and now i’m getting opportunities to teach what I know.

Also, delivering an operating security model, whether I’m assisting on an implementation or doing a redesign of their current security design, is really fulfilling. The best part about consulting is that if you don’t like a project, wait a few months, it will change!

Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?

Yes! I majored in Information Science and Technology with a minor in Security Risk Analysis.

What I didn’t do is go to a big school, I attended Penn State – New Kensington campus all four years. I’d like to stress that it doesn’t matter where you go to college, there are opportunities for you to excel and achieve your goals at any school on any budget. My colleagues, at work and in personal initiatives, come from all backgrounds. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad because you didn’t go to an Ivy.

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

I think in tech, 90% of your job happens in Excel. Doesn’t matter if you do game design, are a developer, network engineering, SAP security consultant. Get good at it.

Meditation apps, specifically Calm, have really helped. No one at your job is going to tell you that you can’t have five minutes to clear your mind, and if they do, quit your job. Meditating has helped my overall job performance and happiness levels. I’m still a ball of stress, just a way more organized one.

It’s common knowledge that women and femmes often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?

My favorite story is that my college classmates and I were looking for jobs, we all applied to pretty much the same ones on the college job portal. We all applied to PwC, which is a highly coveted job right out of college. I got an interview, but my male colleague did not. He said to me, “Well, you know the only reason you got the interview is because you’re a girl.” I scolded him, mentioning how I was president of Student Government, worked 2-3 jobs, volunteered, and held a high GPA. Don’t let anyone use your gender to discount your hard work and make you feel less deserving.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the #womenintech community?

The community! I love talking to women, hearing their stories, and uplifting each other. It’s really helped with things like imposter syndrome, which I’m sure every one of us experience regularly.

What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?

Being a woman in tech doesn’t mean that you’re a developer. There are so SO many careers out there. I would have never imagined I would be doing what I’m doing – I didn’t know what SAP was when I graduated college. Open yourself to opportunity, be kind and competent. You’ll find your way.

Also, don’t take a job that doesn’t fit you. Your job has certain expectations of you in your position, you’re allowed to have certain expectations of them, too. If you don’t feel supported in your current employer, it’s time to find a new one. For example, in tech, you could easily find yourself working non-business hours for things like a system build or code release. It’s something that your job expects of you, but if you find you’re doing that consistently, every weekend, every night after 10pm, and that doesn’t work for you? First step, communicate the problem, and if you’ve done your due diligence and are finding that job isn’t working for you, then it’s time to look elsewhere.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year. 

Last year, I completed my first end-to-end SAP S4/Fiori implementation in a security role. With a team of myself and a manger, we delivered a functional and compliant security design for a client. It felt so good to see the goal myself and a ton of other people had been working towards for a year go-live. I had actually herniated a disk in my back that week and was in the worst pain I’ve ever been in, but still flew down and sat in that room as the first order was placed.



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