The Road to Cybersecurity – Kendall Washington | AT&T Careers - AT&T Careers
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The Road to Cybersecurity – Kendall Washington

Kendall in cybersecurity

On Kendall’s first day with AT&T, smartphones were still new. Kendall was one of six recent hires on a technical support team that focused on TV and Internet issues. To him, and to many others, AT&T was known as a telephone company.

That was 2007.

Today, Kendall can answer your questions about the upcoming technology that’s changing how we live and work today: Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and software-defined networking (just to name a few). He’s earning his master’s and is preparing for a move into the strategic planning field in our Cybersecurity Technology Development Program.

“Now, AT&T is more like a utility for the world,” he said. “It’s amazing to see the transition to cell, cybersecurity, television, technology … we have our hands in so many different things. It’s surprising to see from when I started to where I am today.”

 

Skills Through Mentorship

As Kendall’s familiarity with AT&T grew over the years, so too did his opportunities and the need to tackle them. From technical support, he was introduced to other positions within similar fields: support as a team lead and later taking on a new role in case management. The work was good, but he knew there was something more beyond the horizon.

“If it wasn’t for mentorship, I would probably be in the same place as when I started.”

In 2015, Kendall joined The NETWORK – the African American Employee Resource Group at AT&T, and the oldest in the company. ERGs introduce our people to other teammates of similar backgrounds, building connections that lead to a better understanding of the corporate environment and career development. So much of Kendall’s growth sparked from the first mentor he met through NETWORK: Nina Mack-Cain, Systems Architect.

“Nina helped me learn the ropes,” Kendall said. “I had the luxury of learning from her, and speaking with her mentor, too. That person helped start one of the largest online directories. They helped me understand the value of going all the way.”

With insights from his mentors, Kendall began his journey in preparing for a future in STEM. He returned to school to earn his Master of Science degree with focus on Cybersecurity while picking up various topics through Future Ready training. AI, Software-Defined Networking, and Machine Learning were areas he predicted as necessary tools for the future.

But it takes more than being tech-savvy to make an impact.

Building the Network

“Once you’re out of high school, things change. There are no leadership courses that help prepare you for networking. I had to really adjust to that. The NETWORK helped me put myself out there.”

Change starts at home, so Kendall enrolled as NETWORK Secretary in his home state, Wisconsin. He helped prepare events such as eSTEAM to connect kids from the inner city with STEM learning tools that may not have been available in school. Online mentoring sessions with students helped Kendall pay the knowledge forward, helping kids with assignments and sharing the value of leadership skills.

“The work really focuses on that community aspect, which is why I like to get involved.”

Through his work as Secretary, Kendall joined national events such as the ERG Leadership Academy and ERG Conferences. There, he made further connections outside of home, meeting with executive leaders in person.

“Almost every person I approached took the time to talk for five minutes. That’s the benefit of being in a company with an inclusive atmosphere. Not even the higher-ups like VPs will reject you. One VP thought it was bold that I approached him! He said a lot of people just don’t do that sort of thing.”

Looking Ahead

Kendall keeps track of his development and checks in on his progress with five mentors. He continues learning new skills and participating in events through his membership with the NETWORK and the larger AT&T community. The Technical Development Program marks a new chapter in his journey, one that is far from over. When asked what advice he would give himself – or other kids – today, it all wraps back to communication.

“I tell the kids I mentor, ‘Make sure you’re always planning.’ Even if you’re an introvert, you have to learn how to speak to people. You don’t have to jump through hoops to get noticed, just be strategic. If you prepare them early and have them start thinking early, you can have the next generation get ready faster.”

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