“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.
Hey friends! As always, I am excited to share my next guest with you and the first for the series in 2018. I met Elizabeth only a little over a year ago in a young adults small group we were both in, but she gained so much my respect in that short amount time. I was bummed that she moved at the end of last summer, but of course happy for her since it was a move that she had been patiently working toward. Plus, the move was to the Pacific Northwest, so can I really blame her?!
Anyway, Elizabeth has one of those personalities that make you feel at ease. She’s both quirky and an old soul, has such a big heart for others and is a great listener. Although we are really close in age, I often almost felt as if she took on the role of a big sister. Below she says, “I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be,” which is a sentiment that I really appreciate and can relate to. I thought her guest post was both comical and insightful, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Plus, if you are fan of The Bachelor franchise, you’ll be happy to know that you aren’t the only one who lists being a fan as one of your hobbies 🙂
Name: Elizabeth Grimes
Hometown: Southern California
College: Bachelors: University of California San Diego (UCSD) // Masters: California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB)
Degree(s): Bachelors: Political Science – International Relations // Masters: Public Administration – Information Assurance and Security Management
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Job: IT Specialist – Information Security
Right away it is probably best to explain that as an adolescent I never really thought I would live this long, which means that all of my decisions have come out of a place of “Wait, I have to decide where to go to college? … Four years later, I am still here; now I have to do something when I graduate college? … All right well I have a master’s now, and I guess I am here for a while, so let’s adventure!!” And no, I am not terminally ill; I think I just watched Little Women too much growing up and it gave me this weird sense that I was going to have the same demise as the character Beth. Or maybe it just became such a good explanation for why I hated making decisions that I morphed it into an actual memory. We may never know. But here I still am! I do not believe everything happens for a reason (that is a deeper discussion for another time) but I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be. And for me, right now, that is the greater Seattle area working for the Navy in Cybersecurity – a career I never knew existed until five years ago.
How did you choose your college and your major?
In high school, I was more interested in history and yearbook than I was in science and math, so choosing to major in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations was pretty straightforward. I thought I may want to be a teacher, or after watching the movie The Interpreter, some sort of international diplomat. In the last couple years of high school, I was able to go to Morocco for a couple weeks with a team from my church to teach an English camp for kids, and spent two weeks in New York and DC with Lead America – a leadership forum with an emphasis in diplomacy. Along with being a Christian and having the ideals of impacting the world with love, these opportunities and an interest in service landed me at UCSD to major in Poli Sci IR. I could give the long explanation of all the schools I applied to and how it all whittled down, but ultimately I chose UCSD because it was affordable and lauded a good study abroad program — which I never took advantage of, but hey, it got me to go there. My one piece of advice to a student in their senior year of high school: Choosing a college because of affordability is the BEST reason to choose a college, and I think everyone should do it. I know that I speak from a place of privilege that UCSD was affordable for my family, but if community college or a trade school is someone’s best option, I would recommend doing that. College is 100% what you put into it.
Jumping ahead to what got me to CSUSB to study Cybersecurity for my master’s, well that’s where God really went to work. You couldn’t get me out of undergrad fast enough; I was so done always have an assignment due, a paper to write, or a test to take. I could write a book on how in the world I then ended up in graduate school, but the short run-on sentence version is: I got restless at my post-grad job as an administrative assistant and decided I wanted to work for the government, but that I didn’t know enough and should get my master’s in something, but that I didn’t want to pay for said master’s because I didn’t know exactly how to then get a job in the government. Notice a theme of making a decision on education out of affordability? It is the best. Through crazy kismet, God-driven, serendipitous, coincidental, life happenstance, I got into the Scholarship for Service (SFS) CyberCorps program at CSUSB having no technical background but a simple logic that: If the government needs people in cybersecurity, and I want to do something that the government needs, then I will do cybersecurity!
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I will go with organizations for my undergrad and internships for my masters. I was on executive leadership in Sigma Kappa Sorority and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I cannot say enough good things about Greek life. It is the primary reason I stuck it out and finished college; It gave me social and leadership skills that you cannot get anywhere else (what other organization teaches you how to speed date with other women once a year for recruitment?); and I met the most incredible women that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Intervarsity kept me grounded in the faith I grew up in, while expanding my understanding of cultural diversity and making some of my best friends to this day. Together, they kept me incredibly busy and made college an experience instead of a degree. Over the summers, I worked at different non-profits from my hometown in telefundraising and food service, and the summer before my senior year, I served with Children of the Nations for 8 weeks in Uganda. THAT was my version of study abroad, and is also a story for another time (see my blog post titled He Stays the Same on elizgrimes.wordpress.com if you want to know more about it.)
Part of my scholarship program was to do a ten week internship with a government agency in Cybersecurity. I lived in DC for the summer and interned with the Department of Homeland Security in their Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch. Interning was the best way to learn what it is to be a public servant within the federal government. If I had known it at the time, I would have made more of an effort to intern during my undergrad, but like I said — life gets you exactly where you need to be.
Tell us about your career so far?
Probably best to explain that my job according to the government for my internship and the last two years of my career is an Information Technology Specialist (IT Specialist) in Information Security (InfoSec). But that is just the formal title and what does that even mean? After grad school, I moved to DC and worked as an IT Security Auditor in the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Commerce. I was there for two years, thus completing my scholarship for service commitment to the government. I really enjoyed the work and people I worked with, but the east coast, metropolis, long distance relationship life just isn’t for me. Through the experience I gained in the OIG at Commerce and connections I had from my master’s program, I was able to get a job with the Navy in the Pacific Northwest. This was also a completely God-driven, fell in my lap, couldn’t be more perfect for me adventure. I have been in this job working as an information system security engineer on Naval submarine projects for three months now, and I have never been more challenged or more proud of myself in my worklife.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Remember when I talked about how awesome Greek life is? Well interviewing for a job and working on a team are some of the things that being in Sigma Kappa set me up for success in my career. I loved my sisters, but were some of them as different from me as night and day, and were we all better humans because of it? Yes. And is that what you encounter in your career and post grad life? Yes. I also think that the nature of my scholarship program, in a field that I was completely new to, set me up for a fake it ‘til you make it, problem solving, and work hard attitude that has gained me a lot of respect in the workplace. It can be hard being the youngest one in a group, or in my case sometimes the only female, but coming from CSUSB’s cyber program’s atmosphere that encouraged and challenged me didn’t just set me up for success but truly catapulted me into it. Along with God and life getting me where I need to be, I am also a firm believer in sharing the credit for any of my success with the incredible humans who walked ahead of me, alongside me, and behind me in every element of my life. They are the ones who set me up for success, and I feel like I am just along for the ride!
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I have already talked a bit to the challenge that comes from being in a field where I may be younger or a minority gender, but those were expected and I was sufficiently prepared for them. My first year out of college I remember not being prepared for the “this is it” aspect of life. Prior to graduating, my entire life had been a set of structure and milestones laid out before me: elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Society has fine-tuned this process for us, with pretty minor decision making necessary on our part. (Because like I said, college is what you make of it, not where you make it.) But after I graduated, there was this life in front of me that I had near absolute control of where its phases began and ended. It was daunting and a little depressing at first. We just do this until we die? For some, the natural inclination is that marriage is the next milestone or children or buying a house, but that was too ambiguous and at the time, unattainable for me. I still don’t even want kids and a house only seems cool now because it’s more economical. Additionally, even now that I have found who I want to partner in life with, getting married doesn’t feel like the next milestone I can structure my life by in the way graduating from college did, nor, I would argue, should it. While my scholarship program gave me a structure of two years for a degree and at least two years working for the government after, the year I had between my undergrad and grad school alerted me that “this is it” was coming again soon. It made such a difference to be prepared for it by the time I finished my masters, because then life was about living in the now and not the what’s next. Let me tell you there is nothing more freeing in life than living now; than recognizing that life got you here, so here must be where you are supposed to be, so why not stay awhile and enjoy it for what it is? (As I mentioned before that I must share credit where it is due, I should call attention to the fact that I cannot take full credit for coming to terms with this post-grad challenge. I am so lucky that an incredible man came into my life and continues to love me into this mindset of living in the present.)
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
See previous question; I am just so happy to be here! Although, I do desperately want a dog, so maybe we’ll count that as the next path I am looking to take. And I guess maybe a house to give the dog the most freedom possible 🙂
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Someone at my new job asked me what my hobbies were, and after stressfully scrambling in my brain for “what in the world am I doing with my life?!” I landed on: The Bachelor. Laugh all you want, because I am laughing too. Now what makes a television show a hobby? Well when you watch all the shows in the franchise: Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, (and let’s not forget Winter Games coming soon!), sometimes blog about it, keep up with all the most interesting contestants from the last few years on social media, have group texts and instagram DM chats about it, investigate all the scandals down to every correlating detail you’ve deduced from said social media you follow, THEN I think it becomes a hobby. I think it is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever, and I am so here for it.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Breakfast. Breakfast is essential. I don’t mean a granola bar on the way out the door; granola bars are for mid-morning snack a few hours later. I mean sitting down at a table and eating a bowl of cereal or a couple eggs or a bowl of fruit and yogurt.
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I wouldn’t call this a must-have, but I have photos of my loved ones on my desk and it gives me life. It is also a great conversation piece if you update them to keep them current.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
A flight attendant. That is actually what I decided I wanted to be as I was finishing college. You don’t even need a college degree for that, so you can imagine why those last few months of school were difficult. I love traveling, and I am pretty even tempered when people get ridiculous about a situation. But it just so happens that in yet another one of life’s ways of getting me where I need to be — my boyfriend is a pilot. So looks like I have the best of all worlds after all and can stick to my day job.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
My friends! In college your network all live in the same city and have relatively similar frivolous schedules and financial commitments. It is a plus to now have friends all over the world to visit, but man was it convenient when so many of them just lived with you.
Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest and share your story. We miss you so much here in DC, but hopefully we can catch up when I am in Seattle this summer!