How I Pivoted From Finance and Accounting to Engineering and Why It’s Important to Try New Things

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Polina Rogov. Photo courtesy of Squarespace.

Polina Rogov. Photo courtesy of Squarespace.

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Fairygodboss
June 15, 2024 at 3:55AM UTC

“Do what’s uncomfortable. If you’re at a place where you feel like you know what you’re doing, try something new.”

That’s Polina Rogov’s tried-and-true advice for career pivoters, which she’s also utilized to grow in her own career. Rogov successfully pivoted from finance/accounting to engineering — a challenging transition!

“I’m not going to lie, there was definitely a big knowledge gap,” Rogov shares about her pivot from compliance to a technical security/privacy role. So, how did she overcome this challenge?

Well, first, Rogov focused on reaching out to the people around her. “I spent time partnering with engineers and Security Team members to make sure that I truly understood how the various pieces of technology worked and the processes they had implemented,” she says. Rogov also spent a great deal of time upskilling herself, which involved teaching herself difficult concepts via resources like StackOverflow. And this hasn’t stopped! Today, Rogov says “there are still plenty of topics that I spend time researching to make sure I have the right inputs to provide the best recommendations.”

Rogov’s career pivot didn’t just involve learning new skills: many of her existing skills were transferable, too! For instance, her client service skills and experience  working with others to complete any type of task — which Rogov honed during her public accounting days — serve her well in engineering.

“Another transferable skill was the ability to assess risk and communicate this to stakeholders in addition implementing new technologies or processes to mitigate risks,” she explains. “Lastly, I relied on my experience looking at processes and identifying gaps and inefficiencies. Having those tools in my pocket has helped me provide valuable recommendations and facilitate positive change in my new role.”

Today, Rogov has used these skills to grow into a Staff Governance, Risk management, and Compliance (GRC) Analyst role at Squarespace. In this position, she’s empowered to meet with and learn from all of the talented engineers at Squarespace. And that’s not all! She’s also able to follow her own advice and constantly try and learn new things. “There's so much I want to do and so many areas where I want to improve that it’s hard to pick what to start,” she muses.

Here, Rogov shares more details about her exciting pivot, internal career mobility, and how Squarespace has supported her growth and desire to learn new things!

We understand that your career started in Finance/Accounting. Please talk about that experience and when you decided to transition into tech. What were your previous roles and experiences like?

In college I majored in Accounting; I always loved the rules and that everything had to balance. I intended to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) when I graduated. However, in the year leading up to my graduation, the housing bubble burst and my focus became getting any internship or job that I could. I originally wanted to work in financial audit, but I was instead offered an opportunity to work in a new team focused on technology audits.  At that time, technology audits were fairly new in the industry, and most colleges didn’t even offer classes on the topic. I believed that I could apply the attention to detail required for accounting/financial audits to this new area. While I did pursue and obtain my CPA, little did I know that this internship would change the entire trajectory of my career. 

While at this company, I worked with organizations across all industries (Technology, Shipping, Education, etc). The focus of my work was looking at processes and controls around systems at the companies I was auditing while also working closely with my colleagues who were performing audits of the financial statements.  I was really intrigued by organizations that used technology to allow individuals and other companies perform tasks more efficiently or develop their own innovative technologies.

Eventually, I transitioned to more internal auditing roles where I got a chance to dig into how our own systems worked, what controls were in place, and look for  opportunities to improve processes using new systems. During this time, my interest in tech continued to grow. I really wanted to be in a position where I could influence the technology used by a company to help increase its efficiency and security.

As a result, I next joined a new company as a senior auditor in their internal controls team. While the team was still very much part of the Finance group, this role enabled me to interact more directly with Engineering teams. This only added to my desire to be more integrated into the processes and workstreams of an engineering organization. I believed that this integration would give me the ability to truly understand the problems and opportunities at my organization and allow me to add real value through my experience.

When transitioning out of Finance/Accounting, what made you decide on Squarespace specifically? What has kept you at the company for over five years?

When transitioning out of finance/accounting, I wanted to be on an engineering team at an organization that used technology to make people’s lives better. It’s very important to me to work for a company that I can be proud of what they do and how they contribute to society, and Squarespace fits that bill. Their Governance, Risk, and Compliance team at Squarespace met all my criteria. Working in engineering and getting a chance to learn, be directly involved in, and contribute to its Engineering Department processes and controls was a dream come true.  

I’ve been at Squarespace for over five years now because my role has evolved so much over the years. I’ve been given opportunities to work on new projects, even in areas where I may not have had extensive experience. Squarespace is also always changing, and I am never short on new things to learn. The people and culture at Squarespace are a big reason as well. Squarespace is a company that genuinely cares about its employees and has policies and programs in place to support them. I’m especially grateful for my Manager, who has been a big part of my success.

While at Squarespace, you’ve been promoted three times — congratulations! What actions did you take and/or skills did you develop that helped you achieve such rapid advancement?

The biggest thing that contributed to my growth at Squarespace was not sticking to what I was comfortable with. Prior to joining Squarespace, I worked mainly on compliance (SOX, SOC, Data Privacy, etc.). When I got to Squarespace, I took those experiences and applied them to areas outside of compliance, such as  security risk management, vulnerability management, and identity and access management. I hope to continue expanding my knowledge and the scope of my work to better support the Security Group at Squarespace, as well as the Engineering Department at large.

How has Squarespace supported you throughout your career transitions?

Squarespace doubles down on its values of learn fast, act fast, and protect creativity. Our culture supports ideas coming from anyone at the company, no matter your title or experience. We even hold semi-annual hack weeks to block out time to generate such ideas.  

We also have various groups like Women+ in Engineering and the Women+ Global employee resource group (ERG), where I have found support and encouragement. There are informal peer coaching groups for Women+ in Engineering that have not only helped me work through some of my own challenges — like being new to Engineering — but also allowed me to support and coach others.  Squarespace also has group Slack channels, other ERGs, and programs (e.g., backup care) for parents, which have been helpful in supporting me as a mom transitioning from having one child to two, while simultaneously shifting my role’s focus. 

I’m also thankful for the support of my mentor, manager, and our CTO, who has been super supportive and patient as I have transitioned to my new role and the ups and downs that go along with this move.

Finally, is there anything else that you’d like to mention? 

My family and I Immigrated from Uzbekistan where we were discriminated against for being Jewish. My parents gave up their successful careers there to build a better future for my brother and I, and I’m grateful for them and the opportunities I had available to me here that have allowed me to reach the point in my career I am today.



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