Guest Author Derrick Buadum, Lockheed Martin

Derrick Buadum, Splunk User, Splunk Power, Sec +, CISSP

Senior Cyber Test Exploit Analyst | Lockheed Martin

 Tone: Storytelling, Transparent, Personal, Disappointed, Informative, Inspirational

Life doesn’t give handouts over here! It’s going to take countless job rejections, many interviews, and several offers, before you’ve earned your way into your first real job. You’ve always imagined the workplace environment full of people rooting for you and playing fair.

Finally got your dream job only to find out that you are at a disadvantage simply because of the color of your skin.

As young professionals, you’ve only heard of stories like this in the media, a work environment not catered to minorities, it’s now your reality. Once we realize this, there are key measures to be taken to separate us from the bunch, and excel in an environment not originally developed for us to win. There’s no greater expert than Derrick Baudum, Senior Cyber Test Exploit Analyst at Lockheed Martin, to share his battle to victory, as a minority in IT.

No One Is Held Accountable for Your Success, Except You 

First experience working in IT? An absolute disappointment. Graduating with a Master’s in Information Security, I was excited to start working in the IT field. Expecting the CSI: Miami feel, open area, my own office, multiple computer screens, working with a team, making big money. Living my best life, you know, “The Dream.” Wrong. The utopia was so far-fetched, that I became a bit depressed. Although I was sitting in an open area, I had two outdated monitors, and wasn’t doing anything the job description entitled. Constantly disrespected, overlooked, and passed up for opportunities like: certification trainings, exam vouchers, promotions, bonuses, conferences, high visibility assignments. I basically did all of the work, while my white coworkers took the credit and reaped the benefits financially. Being a person of color automatically puts you behind your white counterparts in this field. Why? This is just the reality of America. Of course, times have changed a bit, we aren’t in the same position as those who came before us.

Yet, we still have to work 200 times harder, just to get a snippet of the opportunities they recieve. 

Trust me, with my credentials, if I weren’t a person of color, I would’ve been able to do half the work and still receive all that company has to offer. However, this was my experience, within this particular company and their values. Do not let this discourage you. It’s not worth your time or effort to be upset and complain about a position that was given to you, only to meet the company’s minority quota. This doesn’t help your situation. While they assumed you were oblivious to this, or the fact that you’re doing the same work at a cheaper rate than your white counterparts, you have to push through adversity. Determine your goals, and achieve them with a set of strategies. You can’t rely on the company to put you in the best position to reach your goals, you have to put in that extra work for you, there won’t be a job or salary unattainable.

A Flourishing Career, Depends On How Well You Brand Yourself

Days when I felt down on my luck, the negativity that surrounded me, almost consumed me. Yet, I soon realized that sitting around feeling sorry for myself, changes nothing. Plan and Action is what gets you past the dark days. I planned to remove myself from the toxic work environment, knowing that in order to work in another department or another company, I needed to make myself more marketable. To get out of this department, I had to conduct research and discover the specific certifications needed, learn all of necessary criteria to become eligible for a different department. Despite management’s refusal, I studied for the certifications, took the exams using my own expenses, and applied for the higher paying jobs I deserved. When you want your circumstances to change, you can’t wait for an opportunity, you have to go get it. Do the necessary groundwork, finesse, do whatever it takes to be the best man, or woman, for that position. Of course, struggle is inevitable, but you have to concentrate on your mission, and make sure that your name sticks out from the rest. 

Progressing in your career, starts with branding yourself within the company. Performance x Reputation x Network = Your Brand! Performance is how well you are executing your responsibilities, reputation is what your peers/general public think of you, network is your support group and mentors. In order to build your brand in a company, you have to perform well, have a great reputation and have influential people in your network. All easier said than done, but lacking in any of these categories, causes your brand to lack as well.

For example, you could have strong performance, and a good reputation, but if you don’t have a network, then your brand is ultimately nonexistent.

Without a network, you have no one to vouch for you. When it comes to promotions, you want someone to put in a good word for you to earn greater opportunities. Another example, if you have strong performance, a terrible reputation, and have a solid network, your brand will be tarnished due to the destructive things people could say about you. As people of color, we need these essentials to survive in the workplace. Understanding this formula and how it coincides with your current agenda, nothing will be able to stop you from advancing in your career.

Surround Yourself With Winners

Striving for a better situation, takes preparation, and considering real, attainable solutions. Networking was my best bet at reaching my goal, and working in another department. My first opportunity, was during a presentation with Lockheed Martin in Colorado, in the presence of Vice Presidents and Directors. This was the one chance I had to connect with someone who will help me to reach new heights, so I took it. Believe me, networking with higher-ups is not, and won’t be “that easy”.

Steps to Networking Properly:

  1. Connect with someone that you can have an actual conversation with. 

  2. It doesn’t have to be the VP, but Senior Manager or someone within higher ranks.

  3. Communicate your passions and your plan to help the company with long-term growth. 

  4. Be open and teachable.   

  5. Build a relationship and they can ultimately help you get to where you want to be. 

Following this guide, builds your network, and could also gain you a mentor as well. I was not always this eager to learn and build, it took some time.

Although minorities are faced with more obstacles and misfortune than most, you can never let that stop you from getting to the places you want to be.

Focus, always have a plan, and seek mentorship from influential players. Mentors provide fresh insight on all of the essential strides to take, to progress in your career. The empowerment of mentorship, allowed me to: implement tasks I never thought I was qualified for, earn a promotion, and obtain honorable certifications in my field, all under two years. Anyone is capable of all of this and more, with the right guidance. Get an influential mentor!

After you get to where you want to be in your career, take the initiative to help someone else. A lot of people get to the top and don’t share their experiences or newfound understanding. I never wanted anyone to experience what I had, I even shielded my mentees from the stress that I had endured. It takes hard work, dedication and the ability to push through adversity to accomplish any goal or progress in any field, especially when all odds are against you. There is a saying, “A Man/Woman with a plan, is a dangerous one.” Because that person will always have a plan or a goal to better their position, despite the situation. Through the setbacks and the disadvantage, minorities continue to push past the limitations in the corporate world, proving that when we’re dedicated to greatness, we will be triumphant.