How I Pivoted My Career to Cybersecurity and Why I’m Paying it Forward

Sponsored by KPMG

Grace Jung

Photo courtesy of KPMG.

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In her role today, Grace Jung is a Senior Associate in KPMG’s Cybersecurity Services, where she delivers large-scale modernization initiatives for their clients. “I am the go-to person for my client, and I oversee our team’s work to help ensure that we are consistently delivering work products with quality and proactively mitigating risks,” she explains. 

Using her cybersecurity and program management background as well as her ability to lead cross-functional teams and collaborate with diverse stakeholders, Jung excels at this role, and it would be easy to think that she’s been in this field for a long time. However, Jung hasn’t always been in cybersecurity — in fact, she didn’t even have a technical background when she started! So, how did she get where she is today? 

“I proved myself by demonstrating what I’m capable of,” she states, “but breaking into my profession would have been difficult if someone hadn’t taken a chance on me by opening the door to cybersecurity.” Welcoming of career pivoters is key in the cybersecurity field. “With the cyber talent shortage, we need to be more open-minded about recognizing talent and upskilling capable people,” notes Jung. “I am so grateful for the support given to me, and I feel strongly about offering the same to those that come after me.” 

This dedication to help others is why, in addition to client delivery, Jung invests her time in leading the Identity and Access Management (IAM) Community Enablement Team and supporting their Women in Cyber group. She considers her participation in these employee groups as an important element of her authentic identity.

“In addition to client work, a crucial part of my development is to invest in the broader IAM network,” Jung tells us. “When you share your authentic self — your strengths along with your vulnerabilities — trust increases, relationships strengthen, and everyone benefits. I’ve had opportunities at KPMG to precisely do that, and I’m looking forward to continuing to impact our people.”

Want to hear more? Read on for your daily dose of career inspiration, including how Jung pivoted her career to become the tech leader she is today, how her company supports her efforts, and her best advice for taking charge of your own career. 

A career journey of opening doors and taking chances.

After graduating college, Jung’s first professional role was at the International Affairs Department at the U.S. Postal Service. “It was a highly visible role, leading tours and facilitating meetings between foreign postal service delegations and USPS leadership,” Jung tells us. Thanks to the vastness of the USPS and the visibility of the role, Jung knew that her career would be going places.

One catalyst for change in her career journey occurred due to a shift in the USPS itself. “The postal service was going through a digital revolution, recognizing that reliance on physical mail could no longer sustain the business,” Jung recalls. “As the organization sought digital business that could generate revenue, I was introduced to digital identity. I was a part of the team that launched the pilot of identity verification services in partnership with the FBI at three Washington DC post offices, which eventually led to a successful expansion nationwide.”

It was this project that sparked Jung’s passion for the IAM domain, she tells us. As a result, “I pivoted into a project management role at the USPS Corporate Information Security Office,” Jung notes. There, “I managed enterprise IAM initiatives including my favorite, privileged access management. It was rewarding to lead cybersecurity initiatives impacting millions of identities.”

But what sparked Jung’s switch to the private sector after being in the public sector for almost five years? “I had always been interested in the private sector and how large corporations operated,” Jung explains. “With that curiosity, I started interviewing with multiple consulting firms.” One of these firms was KPMG, where Jung reached out for referrals from a few KPMG cyber team members whom she’d met at conventions. 

As for the interview process itself, “my conversation with the hiring manager and partner at KPMG was hugely impactful in my decision,” Jung tells us. “I was sure after our conversation that KPMG would be the best place to cultivate this next phase in my career.”

“Since the first day, the team here has helped me navigate through various challenges,” says Jung. “I felt safe speaking up when I was facing challenges, both professionally and personally. I already feel like I’ve been here for a long time.” In fact, “some coworkers I’ve met here have turned into friends, and I know we will be friends for a long time.”

And, after joining the KPMG team, Jung quickly confirmed that their collaborative and supportive environment would always be there to help further her skills. As Jung puts it, “I’ve met some of the most impactful mentors of my career here. Our leaders show a genuine interest in helping you grow and challenging you to move outside your comfort zone.”

As for her activity in the KPMG Women in Cyber group, Jung tells us that the support the members in that group have for one another is uplifting. “Whether shared or new challenges, we overcome together with each other and our allies,” she says. “The leaders here take every opportunity to teach and guide me. They seek feedback and value everyone’s perspectives, no matter what level. I can be my authentic self and the differences that make me unique are valued.”

Sharing advice and tips for other career pivoters.

“Before joining KPMG, I was almost always the youngest person in the room,” Jung recalls. “I grew a lot from the valuable feedback I received, and I was surrounded by people who wanted to see me succeed. Now that I am no longer the youngest person, I enjoy making connections with the younger team members and mentoring them. Understanding the different needs of the newest part of our workforce and learning their views helps me become a better manager and leader.”

Today, Jung wants to share some of this valuable advice with you. For those who are looking to branch out and grow their careers like she did, Jung suggests:

  • “When looking for a new company to join, look for alignment in values, focus on the quality of the people, and, when in doubt, go with your gut. I think alignment in values is table stakes for any job. If you don’t have that, eventually you’ll realize it was the wrong fit all along. When optimizing for job satisfaction, the people are the best indicator of if you’ll enjoy working somewhere. Finally, go with your intuition when choosing between opportunities.” 

  • Also, when trying to expand your skills by taking on new projects and challenges, be patient. “When introducing change, you can’t expect people to show up or agree with your idea,” Jung says. “You have to do the work and go the extra mile.” One way to do this is to make an effort to listen to others with different viewpoints. “Hearing opposing views allowed me to build relationships, unlocking the power of collaboration and diverse ideas,” Jung recalls. “By the time I left my previous job, we had built an environment of collaboration and innovation.”

Considering a career change like Grace Jung? You should consider growing, learning and taking that leap at KPMG! Check out open roles below.

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