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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

It’s Never Too Late to Make a Career Change—Just Ask This Engineering Sales Manager

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Brooke Andrist, manager of sales engineering at CrowdStrike.
| Courtesy of CrowdStrike

Making a career pivot is no easy feat, especially when you’re completely changing industries. But music industry veteran Brooke Andrist succeeded in doing just that, thanks to a lot of hard work and persistence—and today she is a manager of sales engineering at the cybersecurity tech company CrowdStrike.

Andrist began her career in music entertainment, working at a radio station in Boulder, Colorado. She showed interest in the engineering side, and her role became more technical in nature.

“At a certain point, I realized I was completely disconnected from the actual art and music that had brought me into the music entertainment field—and I felt completely unfulfilled,” she says. “So I did some soul searching and asked myself what would make my heart and brain happy and provide me the personal ROI I’m driven by.”

Here, Andrist shares why she decided to pursue a career in cybersecurity, what makes CrowdStrike an exciting place to be right now, and the skills that have helped her succeed.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the cybersecurity industry?

One day while I watched my two young nephews play on iPads, I realized that eventually they’ll be playing online games, have smartphones, be involved in social media, etc. and it triggered fear in my heart. I wanted to protect them from online predators and identity theft, and make sure they know their way safely around the digital realm. Coupled with all the data breaches that pop up in the news, my focus on cybersecurity was born.

I resigned from the streaming audio company I had been working with for seven years, and leveraged my house so I could dive uninterrupted into a threat analyst bootcamp for three months and learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity. It was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my career history and while difficult, I loved every minute of it. I still do.

How were you able to successfully pivot careers?

Failure was not an option. I went all in. I’m not suggesting that’s what everyone needs to do, but it certainly increases your odds at being successful.

I took different elements of experience and knowledge from previous roles and augmented my career profile with cybersecurity-specific schooling. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. I had a lot of great experience to build upon.

I also used my network, conducted countless informational interviews, and kissed my social life goodbye for a period of time to study. I researched companies in the realm and found a couple of fantastic advocates and mentors. I was persistent in all the above.

What led to your job at CrowdStrike, and how did you know the company would be a good fit for you?

During my cybersecurity schooling, CrowdStrike repeatedly came up in lectures as a company making waves in the industry. With a motto of “We stop breaches,” how could I not be intrigued?

It was a startup and still small. I wanted to get in and grow with the company, learning and contributing as much as possible. And now here I am, loving what I do, who I work with, and what we stand for—every single day.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I manage a team of corporate sales engineers, and we are responsible for presenting the efficacy and value of the Falcon Platform to prospective organizations in order to stop breaches.

Why is CrowdStrike an exciting place to work, especially within the field of engineering?

The role of a sales engineer is to demonstrate how our solution will make our prospect’s jobs easier by taking the looming burden of potential cyber threats to their organization off their hands. We are always working on new and different ways to quite literally demonstrate why CrowdStrike’s technology is top notch, and each technical demo is tailored to the specific customer based upon what their concerns or wants are. We are ultimately helping organizations to be better protected and more effective, and that makes my heart happy.

What skills are necessary to succeed in your role and why?

Time management, organization, curiosity, communication, and a genuine interest in helping others are all requirements. With the recent uptick in and increasing severity of cyber attacks, we are incredibly busy working with organizations to explain how our software and services work, and demonstrate their efficacy. Our audience can range from tenured IT security staff to those that are brand new to the realm, so reading the room and adjusting your communication accordingly is crucial.

Also, threat actors don’t take breaks, therefore neither do we. Playing with the newest variants of ransomware, conducting internal attack testing, reverse engineering malwares, staying up to date on the latest cyber news—it doesn’t stop. We are always learning and sharing.

What do you like best about the company culture at CrowdStrike?

CrowdStrike as an organization really places a lot of emphasis on company culture, far more so than any organization I’ve ever worked with. They invest in their employees by providing access to online learning tools, encourage inter-departmental collaboration, and recognize and award those who go above and beyond or innovate. The executive suite has been very transparent in their vision and actually executes the plan they set forth. The company as a whole is incredibly agile, which is key as we continue to create the needed changes in our industry. It’s an exciting place to be, and be part of.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

A mentor I had early in my career in the music business admitted that he himself absolutely hated technology. He wouldn’t email and didn’t text. He sat me down and told me to focus on digital, because as much as he didn’t like it, that’s where he saw everything going, and he was 100% correct.