Choosing your path, finding support and resources
At Datavant we empower Datavanters to set the trajectory of their own careers. How do we do this? We structure roles around big charters with a large degree of autonomy, and managers work with the people on their teams to devise lofty stretch goals. We promote tours of duty (internal, permanent transfers to other teams) that better align with long-range interests, as well as temporary team rotations to try things out. We also support Datavanters pursuing external professional development opportunities they think will be impactful for achieving their goals.
Tatiana Zwerling is a Security and Compliance Lead on Lucienne Roe’s Quality and Compliance Team. We spoke with Tatiana about her experience pursuing her career goals before and while at Datavant.
What led to you taking a hands-on approach toward your career growth?
Throughout my life, I have wanted to be great at anything I undertake. I’m also really open to the idea that I don’t know everything and there is always a lot more I can learn. (This goes for everything in my life, not just my job.) These aspects of my character have helped me focus my energy professionally, but finding that focus has been quite a journey. Since I decided to make the move into cybersecurity, my biggest driver has been transforming myself into a high value cybersecurity professional.
Many Datavanters have nonlinear career paths. What did you do before moving into cybersecurity?
I worked in IT for about 15 years, 9 of which were at Penn State where I was an IT Consultant for the Nursing Department working with nursing faculty to develop simulations for nursing students. I also did classroom and lab machine management and led tech trainings for faculty, staff, and students. After that, I worked with the University Libraries as their Emerging Tech Specialist where I worked with faculty and students on VR offerings. Before that I worked in film and media in Philly and NYC as a production assistant and freelance videographer and video editor.
Getting into such a specific technical field must have taken a concerted effort. Where have you looked for professional development guidance?
I’ve sought direction from a variety of venues: conferences (presenting and attending), book clubs, podcasts (some of my favorites are Cybersecurity Interviews, Trust Me I’m Certified, and Darknet Diaries), as well as webinars, hands-on workshops, and mentoring. I also went back to school to get my Master’s in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. Out of all of these, I have found mentoring to be the most valuable for me.
Tell us more about your mentors.
I’ve been very lucky to have some great professional mentors. Some of these were accidental relationships (an old CIO of mine), and some I intentionally sought out through professional groups and formalized mentoring programs (Women in Cybersecurity and Women’s Cyberjutsu are two great ones). “Cybersecurity” is a broad field, and the most valuable things these people offered was guidance around finding the niche area I wanted to focus on, and offering some concrete steps needed to move deeper into that niche.
I was really fortunate to be part of a small, formal, group mentoring program through Women in Cybersecurity. As it happened, I had gotten involved in the mentoring program towards the end of 2020 and the stresses of that year seemed to help galvanize our group quickly. Sherry Naleszkiewicz was a great mentor for us and fostered an environment where we could talk about all of the challenges that we faced in finding jobs in cybersecurity and building up our skills to help us get there.
Why have you found mentorship so valuable?
Mentors helped me think more strategically about my career goals and develop a voice for myself that could articulate my professional needs and desires. All of my mentors have been women who were working in cybersecurity long before it was called “cybersecurity.” They helped me bolster my technical skills, helped me navigate being a woman in this field, and helped me prepare for interviews. It’s a major step just to realize you’re not alone on your path.
The biggest thing that one of my mentors helped me do was to find a company to work for that aligned with my values. I really wanted to work in the healthcare field for a company that values and fosters individual growth, cultivated a positive work culture and had excellent benefits. This was my unicorn. My mentor at the time, Sherry, encouraged me to keep applying to places until I found what I was looking for. I’m really glad that I had her in my corner, because this led me to apply to Datavant. It’s been almost a year and I could not be happier with my work here.
The heavy lifting of figuring out what you want your day-to-day life to look like, what you’re good at, what you want to get better at, and how much effort you’re willing and able to invest falls on you.
I’m so grateful that I’ve had good experiences with my mentors, but I do want to mention that formal mentoring is a BIG time commitment that requires a lot of introspection on the part of the mentee. Your mentor can help guide you, but the heavy lifting of figuring out what you want your day-to-day life to look like, what you’re good at, what you want to get better at, and how much effort you’re willing and able to invest falls on you. Guidance is wonderful, but ultimately you’re the only person in the position to answer these fundamental questions. For me, right now, this entails spending time getting more certifications to showcase my technical knowledge, and spending a substantial amount of time developing my leadership skills.
Your journey and your inner drivers are unique to you. What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years? …We can help you get there.
You’ve taken a particularly active personal approach to your professional growth. How has Datavant facilitated your vision of your career growth?
Managers at Datavant are here to help you reach your career trajectory goals through big charters and stretch roles. Teams also have professional development funds that can be used to attend in-person learning opportunities, but these funds can be used for the thing that you think will best help you achieve your goals. Below is a photo of my professional development reading. Datavant reimbursed me for many of these books.
I want to also can’t overstate how important it is to have a manager in your corner. Lucienne Roe has been really instrumental in my growth while here at Datavant. She has encouraged me to take risks while supporting my decisions, and she’s also been a big proponent of me getting additional training in areas I’ve expressed interest in. Communication with her has been very open and transparent, which I really appreciate. Because of Lucienne’s support, I’ve felt more confident in crafting solutions that impact the broader company.
She has also encouraged me to own the “Lead” in my role title. As a result, I’ve signed up for a leadership course, bought some books on leadership that I’m making my way through, and I’m shadowing leaders in my area whenever possible.
Do you have a parting message for the reader?
One of the tenets of one of my favorite “career” books is, “The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.” Or, as Samuel Beckett said it, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Personal growth and career development are rarely linear paths. Give yourself the flexibility to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. One of the things we say at Datavant is “Perfect is good, done is better.” I’ve never worked anywhere that was so committed to accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time while at the same time taking time to actively learn from our missteps through retrospectives. It’s a really important part of our culture.
Your journey and your inner drivers are unique to you. What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years? Start talking with trusted colleagues. We can help you get there.
About the authors
Tatiana Zwerling has a background in IT, emerging technologies, cybersecurity and data privacy and is a compliance lead at Datavant. Connect with Tatiana on LinkedIn.
Nicholas DeMaison writes for Datavant where he leads talent branding initiatives. Connect with Nick on LinkedIn.
Considering joining the Datavant team? We’re hiring remotely across teams and we would love to speak with any potential new Datavanters who are nice, smart, and get things done, and want to build the future tools for securely connecting health data and improving patient outcomes.