From Dance to Cybersecurity: An Interview with Chelsea McGinnis

By C3 Staff
Jun 14, 2022

“As a naturally inquisitive person, I have always had a dire need to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for everything. Computers provide a wonderful outlet for my mindset, a harmonious balance of logical, critical, and creative thinking where there is always something new to be learned.”

Not everyone begins their cybersecurity journey the same way. For some people, cybersecurity is the result of a life-long love affair with anything relating to technology. For others, however, cybersecurity comes as a surprise, a pairing that is as unexpected as it is uniquely well fitting.

Chelsea McGinnis at her program graduation

Four months ago, Chelsea McGinnis graduated from the Carolina Cyber Center’s part-time Cyber Defense Analyst program. Although she now has studied CompTIA ITF+, A+, Network+, Security+, Windows Server, and scripting basics, her background isn’t what anyone would expect: dance and education. “When I began dancing at the age of seven, it felt as if it came to me as naturally as breathing,” says McGinnis. She pursued her love of dance throughout college, and after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Dance Education, performed and taught dance professionally.

Unfortunately, a health diagnosis changed all of that. “After receiving a diagnosis of a rare connective tissue syndrome, it was necessary for me to reassess my relationship to dance as my body became unable to keep up with my work,” she revealed. Even as she found herself unable to continue her career in dance, another opportunity presented itself: learning cybersecurity through the Carolina Cyber Center. Instead of giving in to discouragement, McGinnis has found a way to play to her strengths, using her experience as a dancer and an educator to complement her cybersecurity training. “Educators and artists are typically skilled at seeing the big picture and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks” McGinnis notes, “As a defense analyst, you must be able to see the problem or risk from a big picture perspective while breaking it down into manageable solutions through specific methodologies.”

Chelsea McGinnis at her program graduation

Not many would find a connection between art, education, and cybersecurity, but the fact that McGinnis has says something important about the field of cybersecurity: it’s not a one size fits all. Once, McGinnis was propelled and engaged by what she identified as “the discipline, focus, creativity, and rapid thinking required to be gifted at dance.” Now, she has turned circumstances on their head by using the same discipline, focus, creativity, and rapid thinking to become a gifted cyber defense analyst. “The difference between being happy and miserable in your job or even in your life,” she says, “is loving your choices. If you choose to love learning and pursue it daily with an open mind, you will inevitably become successful.”

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