After watching a presentation by a cybersecurity consultant as an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, Marianne Casgrain concluded two things—that representation mattered when it came to envisioning a future career and that cybersecurity was the very career she could envision for herself.
“The fact that the presenter was a woman had an impact on me,” she recalled.
And the fact that the presenter worked for Deloitte inspired Casgrain to apply and begin her technology career as a cybersecurity consultant at the venerable advisory and accounting firm. In her three-plus years there, she tackled the steep learning curve of cybersecurity fundamentals, embracing the high-stakes challenge of protecting data and systems from malicious actors. After rising to senior consultant on the way to a role in management, however, she decided that she would rather focus on cybersecurity from the technology side and found her way to the Master of Science in Technology Management at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.
I was considering MBA programs, but an MBA is a two-year program, and with the tech industry moving so fast, I had a hard time justifying being out of the workforce for that long.”Marianne Casgrain, '19SPS, Technology Management
“I was considering MBA programs, as well as master’s degrees in technology management,” Casgrain said. “But an MBA is a two-year program, and with the tech industry moving so fast, I had a hard time justifying being out of the workforce for that long.”
Having only worked in Canada, she was keen to explore opportunities in the U.S., as well as to relocate with her boyfriend to New York City. Columbia's program offered “the right mix of business management, technology and geography”—and provided the business foundation, professional network and invaluable time to find her pathway inside the technology industry.
In addition to refreshing her knowledge of finance, Casgrain particularly appreciated Thomas Cowan’s “literate” approach to helping students understand digital transformation, as well as Alison (Walling) Chaney’s Strategic Advocacy course, which emphasizes the importance of communication in leading transformative change. “You can be the best technical person,” she said, “but if you don’t know how to work with and align with people, you won’t be able to make large scale impact.”
For her Capstone Project, Casgrain reverted to consultant mode in order to help an institute for learning disabilities based in Quebec develop an online learning platform (well before remote classes became ubiquitous during the pandemic). She also interned for the Career Design Lab at Columbia, where she created a newsletter for sharing jobs listings, event programs and professional development opportunities.
The program gave me the time to figure out what I wanted to do and the necessary skills to pivot my career."Marianne Casgrain, '19SPS Technology Management
Upon completing the program in fall 2019, Casgrain moved to Seattle, where her boyfriend began a new position at Microsoft and she conducted her job search. With the looming expiration of her work visa adding to her sense of urgency, she leveraged dueling offers from Microsoft and Amazon to secure a role as a Program Manager for Microsoft’s information security division.
Reflecting on the journey that led her to the forefront of an industry she characterizes as “still very much the Wild West,” Casgrain appreciates how much the Technology Management program helped to advance her career.
“I like the fact that the program gave me the time to figure out what I wanted to do and the necessary skills to pivot my career,” she said. “I had my head down at work and wasn’t considering other opportunities until I felt I wanted a challenge and something new. For anyone considering the program, I would encourage them to take the time to look around at different opportunities, because careers are no longer linear. They’re a jungle gym. You have to figure out how you’re going to leap into your next role—or into the program that’s going to help you get to the next role. This program was a great step for me.”
Learn more about the M.S. in Technology Management program.