In this ELEVATE session, Danielle Good (Channel Account Manager at Thales) will discuss her career pathway from an opera singer to cybersecurity sales, the skills and principles she learned in the arts that she applies to technology, and the words of wisdom she learned from Anthony Hopkins and Julie Andrews.
Danielle Good shares her journey from being a professional singer to working in the cybersecurity industry. She emphasizes the importance of adapting to different audiences and roles, soliciting feedback, and celebrating wins in one’s career. Good concludes by offering advice on how to pivot into the cybersecurity industry, including networking, reading industry publications, and finding the right fit in a company.
Danielle Good: Thank you, Angie. It’s great to be here. My uncle came to visit us in Florida when I was six months old. One morning my mother was talking to my uncle and he said, “Your daughter has a beautiful voice.” My mother thought he was crazy. Flash forward a few years later, I was jumping up on our coffee table, belting out my favorite songs. This passion led to voice and piano competitions, musical theater productions to majoring in music in college, singing in Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and even for Pope Benedict XVI. I moved to Manhattan to pursue my master’s degree in singing. I sang locally and wrote my first musical called Okay Cupid. Yes, it is based about online dating.
I loved everything about performing, the people, the places, everything but the pay and my rent was rising. My voice teacher recommended I work at a law firm as a day job. I was organized, worked well with clients, and by 5:00 PM I was jumping into rehearsals for my musical, auditioning, and gigging around the city. While I could now pay for my rent, the dream and glamor of a professional singer was starting to fade. I got an audition callback for a show where I was asked to line up on the back wall with a dozen other women where the director pointed and said, “Yes, no, no, yes, no.” I was a no. I turned my focus to my day job and my musical. I used the latest music software, the best recording devices, the best technology for Okay Cupid, but when I arrived to my nine to five, the law firm technology was behind the times, heavily paper-based, on-prem, and no backups.
So I proposed to modernize the tech. I owned the migration, the integration, and the education of all the lawyers, and this is where the start of my new passion came, helping people through the power of technology. At night, I was singing in a musical, and by day I was speaking in a boardroom. At night, I was telling stories of love and loss, and by day I was telling stories of data loss. At night, I was directing actors and by day I was directing a team. I finished writing my musical, raised money, cast it, staged it, worked with lighting engineers and sound engineers to produce my show. Seeing the culmination of my years of work all come to life on stage was a dream. And doing all of that made me realize it wasn’t just performing that I loved, it was putting on a show.
Today I may not be singing on stage, but I do put on shows. At Thales, I have the privilege of working with technology partners to make our customers safer. And as a channel account manager, I educate sales associates at resellers on cybersecurity solutions. In my day-to-day, I jump up on stage in front of 50 to 200 sellers leading technical and sales training. In this role, I’m creative and I’m filled with passion and purpose because I help companies protect their data, protect their people. It seems like every day we’re hearing about a data breach. Did you know that less than a quarter of companies know where their data is and that 52% of companies have experienced a breach at least once in their history? Now, more than ever, it’s important that companies are in the driver’s seat of their data. And there are so many jobs out there where you can help them, from marketing to engineering, to sales, to channel. My way into cybersecurity was not a straight line and yours doesn’t have to be either.
In my career tree, I have many branches, music, legal, operations, customer success, and channel sales. In music, I became a strong communicator, a strong presenter, but I needed money, so I worked in law. I was a customer of legal software, realizing it could be better, and spearheaded a successful implementation. I put the success of the migration on LinkedIn, and before I knew it, someone called me to consult and that led to a string of consulting gigs. If you follow me on LinkedIn, you’ll see I’m very active. I hit a ceiling as a director of operations and law and wanted to continue to grow, so I decided to move fully into tech and after six months of interviewing, I got a position with a ServiceNow partner implementing ServiceNow for customers. I then moved into leadership where I enjoyed growing my team and building their careers and helping our customers.
I wanted to move into sales because I wanted to be at the beginning of the customer relationship instead of joining in the middle. I could set customers up for better success by meeting them at the beginning and selling them the right solutions. In channel sales, I train resellers on Thales solutions, which means I am a teacher, a presenter, a panelist, from boardrooms to big stages. I’m still performing just as I was performing as a professional musician only now it’s to sellers and to customers, and whenever I jump up on stage, I remember the lessons I learned in music. What is my role? Who is my audience? Am I the lead in this customer meeting? Am I the supporting actor? Am I the comic relief as this customer is having a bad day or am I a teacher? For instance, as a supporting actor, I need to ensure not to upstage the lead role. Let them lead the questions because if I jump in, I might undermine their credibility.
Who is my audience? As an artist, I would adapt my singing, my body movement, and acting to my audience. How I perform in a small theater for an Italian-speaking audience is completely different to how I would perform in a large auditorium for American children. In tech, we must do the same. What level am I speaking to? What is their native language? Is it storage? Is it networking? Is it security? And what language are we technically speaking to? 2 inches deep, 20 feet, or 200 feet deep. Perfect practice makes perfect play. I grew up playing piano and for my four other siblings, they did not like listening to me practice because practice did not mean playing a piece from start to finish, it meant focusing on one measure over and over forwards, backwards, with piano pedal, without, with different accents, at different speeds. Now instead of listening for the melodic line in a measure, I’m listening to my customers refining their use case and measuring how I can bring value with the best solution for their needs.
I also apply this same discipline when presenting. My father once told me, “If you prepare 10 minutes for a 10-minute presentation, you’ll present for one hour. But if you prepare one hour for a 10-minute presentation, it will be 10 minutes.” Perfect practice leads to perfect performance. Whether it’s on a call with your customer, your team, or your boss, showing up prepared demonstrates your dedication, respect, and pride for producing good work. Solicit feedback. What landed and what didn’t? I used to record every performance when I was on stage. Not to listen to how I had done, but to listen to my audience, to hear what landed and what didn’t, what joke got laughs and what fell silent.
Soliciting feedback of what went well and what didn’t has helped me tremendously in my career. After a customer meeting, I do a team huddle. I ask, how did we do? What resonated with the customer? What could I have done better? When you’re a manager, it’s a little trickier. Your team can be reluctant to give any negative feedback, but by asking what would’ve made this meeting even better can set up a conversation that’s more positive versus critical. Soliciting feedback from your team, your direct reports, and your bosses can help you identify how your efforts are landing. Remember, all the world’s a stage and stage lights are bright. It may be difficult to see everyone’s perspective, but through collaborative feedback, we all grow.
Celebrate the wins, create the applause. After a performance, there’s always a big applause. Recognition of good work, recognition of performers. In today’s tech world, we do not celebrate our players enough. Take the opportunity to celebrate the wins, create the applause through kudos that echo up and down the company chain. CC their boss, their boss’s boss. Like any production, it takes a team, and when people feel a part of a team, the team will be more successful. Find your spotlight. In theater, you can walk out on stage, start to sing, only defined the spotlight didn’t make it to your mark. While maintaining character, you have to feel for the warm light on your face until you find it. In my career, there were times I could not feel the spotlight. I did not feel valued and I did not know which direction to go to find it. But by being true to myself, embracing change, being open to opportunities, and feeling for the warmth, I found my spotlight.
These are some of the principles I’ve followed in my career. While pursuing a career in music, anytime I met accomplished artists, I would ask for advice. And while at the time they were speaking about the arts, I realized that what they shared with me is still applicable now. I’d like to share two stories with you today. I was singing in a music festival in Perugia, Italy. One morning I woke up early and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and much to my surprise, no one was there except Anthony Hopkins eating his meal in the corner. I gathered my food, walked past Sir Hopkins, and said, “Good morning.” He said, “Good morning,” and asked what I was doing in Perugia. I said I was singing at a local festival. He invited me to join him for breakfast and told me one of the pieces he composed for orchestra was also premiering at a festival.
We chatted about life, the arts, opera, and piano. He told me he wasn’t good at school, but he was great at piano and that was going to be his future until one day he auditioned for a community theater production, and that’s when he knew that acting was the path he was meant to lead. I asked him, “What advice would you share to young artists?” He said, “Stay on top of your technique. You won’t notice a change day to day, but six months will go by and you’ll notice a wrinkle. Thank everyone around you. It’s the effort of the group that makes something extraordinary. And the minute you think you’re good, you’re dead. You stop growing.” Even in his eighties, Anthony has always had this always-growing, always-learning mindset. Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar in 2020 at the age of 83.
A few years later after I graduated school, I attended a Julie Andrews book signing. She asked how I was doing. I said I was wonderful, and she said, “Yes, you are.” I congratulated her on her book and asked what advice would she offer to young artists? She said, “Always be prepared. Do your homework. You never know when an opportunity will pass right by your nose. And speak forward and out. Let your words carry. Let your voice be heard.” Although I originally applied this to singing, I still apply this to my day-to-day life. My voice can carry on stage, can carry in a boardroom, and as a leader, I embrace my voice and my message.
As women, we too often feel upstaged or that we need to stand in the chorus, but like Julie Andrews said, “We must let our voices carry, let our voices be heard.” I’d like to close on one final note. It’s okay for your dream at 5 to be completely different at 35 or 55. I’m still an opera singer. It’s part of my dream, but my dreams only got bigger. My dream of helping people through the power of technology, my dream of being a wife to my husband and a mother to my daughter. Dreams are complicated and messy, but as they come to you, awake within you, they are beautiful. So please imagine me on a coffee table as I sing. (singing). Thank you.
Oh gosh, I love all these comments. Thank you everyone. I see some comments in the chat regarding how to pivot into cybersecurity, and I’d love to offer a few pieces of advice. First and foremost, the cybersecurity industry is huge. I would say focusing in on the role that you think you’d be a good fit for is a good start, and then meeting with five people in that role. See what they like, what are the challenges, what are they seeing with their customers kind of learning the language of that role.
Next, I recommend reading. Every single day I wake up, I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, all of the tech sections to see what are some of the problems that my customers are experiencing, why did this data breach occur, what solutions do we need to make sure that we’re providing for our customers. In addition, Krebs on Security is also a great thing to follow. He’s an amazing journalist that focuses on cybersecurity. And then after that, once you start interviewing and connecting with different companies, you can see what’s a really good fit for you and how you can grow in that company.
Angie Chang: Thank you so much for your talk on your career transition, and we’re really excited to connect with you on LinkedIn, and now we’ll be moving on to our next session. So thank you, everyone.
Danielle Good: Thank you.