Not Good on Paper – How I got my job as the Head of People at a cybersecurity startupFeatured

kuan's profile thumbnail
Thank you Alison for sharing your story with us! If you have a good story to share, or know someone who does, let us know via DM.
Olia's profile thumbnail
Yours and your family stories are so interesting! I notice that I hear less and less about people "who made it" without a uni degree. Some people will say "nah, it's a boomer thing", others will say "thanks to student loans everyone can have some sort of a degree".May I say that you found yourself in a situation where you always have to prove yourself? I feel the same. I attended a top university in Russia, but people in the West don't bother researching good schools in other countries. So you end up, well, always proving you are not a giraffe. (That said, things are changing, and a lot of big companies hold recruitment events in local universities.) And at 30, it still matters.But I view this positively. This constant "proving yourself" always pushes you forward. I will never forget how I once interviewed a guy to be an intern. He happened to attend Cambridge. And you could see it in his behaviour. He leaned back, relaxing, in the chair so far, it almost fell. All this during a technical interview! #privilege he was just waiting for the job to be handed to him. (Just to make it clear: not everyone is like that!)I have heard of a person who dropped out of high school. He ended up leading a technical team in a prestigious firm. But at 40 he quit to pursue a degree, because he always had this chip on his shoulder, I guess.
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for reading and sharing Olia! Absolutely, I've met some of those candidates in my time too :)
lcavalcanti's profile thumbnail
My sister-in-law is back after 10 year break taking care of her kids and working in tech, everything is possible.
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Absolutely! And the transferrable skills from child rearing to the workplace are infinite! Sarah Lacy does a good job of explaining this in her book:
Gentry's profile thumbnail
@alisoneastaway Félicitations et bien jouée! Et quelle tenace! Bien evident, vous méritez votre succès. C'est toujours difficile de réussir, mais dix mille fois plus dure à Paris.
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Merci beaucoup! Ca commence a changer toute doucement à Paris mais ça reste l'exception de ne pas avoir un Bac+5 et je le sens tous les jours :)
whitneycaneel's profile thumbnail
Loved reading your story, Alison!"Work is such an important part of our daily lives and so the choices I make have real world impacts on individuals and their families." This is something that so many quickly forget so it's nice to see your sense of humanity injected into everything you do. Has your experience resonated with others in your current workplace? Or has it changed their perspective in how they approach their job/ interactions with other colleagues? Thanks for taking the time to share!
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for reading and for your note! Absolutely, we're very transparent at Sqreen about who we are 'as whole people' vs. just the jobs we do and most of the team have either sat with me in candidates interviews or had a 'career conversation' with me so I've been lucky enough to share my approach with them.
CPeer's profile thumbnail
Alison! How are you? Thank you for sharing your story with everyone. I would hire you anytime. :) Let's catch up soon! I still have "Botbot at the Career Fair" here on my desk, figuring out who I'm going to give it to. I hope you're doing great! Carolyn Peer
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for your note Carolyn! I may just hold you to that one day :) I'll be on the west coast again soon, will definitely let you know.
CPeer's profile thumbnail
Perfect! Hope to see you soon. A bientot!
KellyM's profile thumbnail
Alison, This is a great post and super inspiring and relevant to me as I have just moved from SF to France. I agree that most people are so much more than what they write on their resume's and that we need to value people's experiences as much as we value our technical skills and diplomas. Good for you for taking the path less traveled! 🙌🏼
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for the note Kelly! If I can be of any help settling in, just let me know :)
jessicagrayson's profile thumbnail
This is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I totally relate to this: "Some rough stats, in the past I’ve been rejected without interview for 90% of the jobs I’ve applied for, but received offers for 90% of the ones where I’ve made it into the room. So I’m doubly aware of this when I sit in the decision-makers seat - a little too much sometimes. I have a clear bias for self-taught candidates and for the ones who worked minimum wage jobs in little known schools."I think I've received offers for every job I've physically interviewed for, tbh, but it is really tough to get there sometimes. Especially in tech. It was nice to read about your experience and be able to relate to it.
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thanks for reading Jessica! Absolutely, getting into that interview room can make all the difference!
rachelclifton's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for sharing, Alison! Your story resonates with my own (no university degree, 'unconventional' story and professional experiences, also working in cybersecurity), albeit at 21 I'm definitely earlier in my career, and I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for what you've achieved. If you're open to it, I'd love to connect offline and discuss further. Take care and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Hi Rachel, thanks so much for reading! Absolutely, you can reach me at I'd be happy to chat further :)
rachelclifton's profile thumbnail
Hey Alison, thank you for this! Will be in touch v soon. :)
quinneyeQ's profile thumbnail
I love this so, so much -- thank you for sharing! Reading about nontraditional journeys is one of my favorite things.It's interesting how our resumes shape internal and external perceptions of a person. I actually spend a lot of time trying to communicate that I'm much more dynamic and creative than my relatively linear CV implies. :D
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
I love this! I think we're all SO much more than our CVs and finding that narrative (and getting recruiters and hiring managers in a position to listen) is that first step to building better teams. Thanks for reading :)
Ayisha's profile thumbnail
Thank you for writing this! Gave me such a boost of inspiration and confidence to know that there are other women out there without degrees doing something they are passionate about and getting paid for it!I'm moving to LA soon for a short contract (and for love), and I've been feeling so nervous about taking on this journey and leaving a full time job. But I know there are a lot of companies I'd love to work with, just have to get through the 90% rejections without an interview like you mentioned.
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for reading Ayisha! Excited to see what you do next in LA :)
michellebajurny's profile thumbnail
Alison, your story hits home! All my work to date has been referral based and it seems no one is interested in my resume / portfolio when I apply online. Yet I get offers to join companies when I meet someone in person and connect! I'd love to get your feedback on how I present myself. I just moved back to North America after 3 years in the UK and feel unattractive to employers that I'd like to work for!
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Hi Michelle, absolutely, thanks for reading! Feel free to ping me at I'd be happy to chat :)
EllenD's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing this Alison it is beautifully written and captures the essence of what brilliant HR leaders today should be bearing in mind when it comes to unearthing talent in unexpected places. I have a similar role & responsibility to your own and would love to chat further if you're keen to connect!
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you very much for reading and for your kind words Ellen! I'd love to chat further, feel free to ping me on: !
apriltmr's profile thumbnail
Wow Alison, really impressed by your story and so inspired as my unconventional choices have always made me feel insecure when applying for jobs. Thank you for the confidence boost 🤗
alisoneastaway's profile thumbnail
Thank you for your kind comment!!