Three Lessons I’ve Learned Battling Cancer and Cybercriminals

By Celeste, Senior Principal Engineer

With our people at the heart, we are McAfee

As Chief Data Scientist, Senior Principal Engineer, a Ph.D. in engineering, and the most senior female technical lead at McAfee, some might say my job is complicated and technical. But I believe we at McAfee are all technical, no matter the field or position. In fact, any marketing or human resource strategy leaves me glazed over with awe, trying to understand that which I will likely never completely grasp in those fields. The common underlying fundamental we do have in all of these areas, however, is our resolve to make the world a safer place for our families, our children and our communities. We all play a vital role in the battle against cybercriminals.

My story just so happens to involve two battles—one against cybercriminals and the other against cancer—which have both shaped my career at McAfee and my personal life at home. Let me share how these worlds have collided and three lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Balancing home and work life is key for a healthy you

As a metastatic breast cancer survivor, I appreciate the precarious balance of home and work. While in remission (two years and counting), I’m still subjected to maintenance chemotherapy every three weeks that pulls the rug out from under me. The nightly side effects are brutal and require additional medication that – you guessed it – have even more side effects. It’s a never-ending cycle, and I will likely be on the maintenance chemo the rest of my life. Thankfully, I have a great support team at home and within a Facebook-post away. I believe that has helped me keep a positive outlook and strengthened my grit to beat the disease. The same is true at McAfee. Even though I work remotely, I have a great connection with my manager and team. Because I have the full support and trust of my manager, I can easily balance my work priorities at McAfee and the day-to-day things that are important – like my chemotherapy treatment.

2. Tenaciousness and determination will drive you to success

Adding to the attributes for juggling home and work are tenaciousness and determination.  These qualities have been key in my battle against cancer, as well as my 38-year career in tech. I can single-handedly drive an oncologist insane with my never-ending questions about my care. And I suspect that I do the same thing with anyone speaking analytics with me! You’ll find this type of mentality throughout McAfee; it’s through our passion, curiosity, and tenacity that we unite and remain laser focused on keeping people protected.

At home and work, I bring the same perseverance that has guided me throughout my life. As I pursued my graduate studies, my professors would say, “Celeste is like a dog with a bone.” If you believe in something, I think it is important to resolutely pursue it, just like a dog after a bone. While it took seven years to complete my Masters and nine years for my Ph.D., I never let go of the dream and was determined as I could be in everything I pursued.

3. Never stop learning

The cybersecurity world has brought my work and my passion under one roof. While I have applied analytics for nearly four decades to many markets outside of the cybersecurity industry, having that experience has helped me to think of new approaches to security. I also have great colleagues that teach me security nuances as well as those analytic skills I’m not familiar with; I believe it is important to surround yourself with very smart people and, at McAfee, there is no shortage!

Sometimes my passion and work-life balance falters. Sometimes the analytic model doesn’t work. And at times, sitting in the chemo chair drains my energy and resolve. It is then I reach out to those around me to give me a dose of reality. I continue to learn about security and analytics. I continue to be in remission. I constantly remind folks to get their mammograms. I chew on that next set of security data. I work at beating the bad guy every day, whether it be cancer or cybercriminals. It typically brings my perspective back into focus, and my positivity, tenacity, and determination return. Whether it be at home or at work, each comes with a choice to be passionate and be the best we can be, fighting for what’s right for our health or what’s right in security. I, for one, am very fortunate that my worlds collide at McAfee!

For more stories like Celeste’s, follow @LifeAtMcAfee on Instagram and on Twitter @McAfee to see what working at McAfee is all about.

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