Shana Osterloh started singing professionally before she was a teenager. For almost three decades, she graced the stage and the classroom practicing, performing, learning, and teaching. With music as her first love, why did she leave a musical and teaching career behind and transition into the fast-changing, ever-evolving world of technology?
We asked Shana that question. Her answer is compelling, inspiring, and may even surprise you.
You have an extensive musical background, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance from the University of Utah. How has music shaped your life? What’s life like for a professional musician?
I started singing professionally when I was about eleven. The first time I sang in French I thought, “I’ve got to do this for a living!” Opera included travel, different cultures, different languages, seeing the world, all of which fascinated me. And I did all those things, from learning and speaking German in Germany and Austria, to learning Italian in Italy, traveling to and singing in Croatia and Corsica, England, Switzerland, and across America. It was an amazing ride!
I studied under wonderful, prestigious teachers—first receiving a Bachelor’s and Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from East Carolina University in North Carolina, and later, a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance with a secondary emphasis in Opera Directing and another in Music Technology from the University of Utah. I also taught music technology courses at the U of U for 4.5 out of my 11+ years of teaching at the collegiate level.
Being a professional musician has its risks and rewards. There are few jobs in classical music. Consequently, the level of professionalism is intense and high, and many, many years of quality practice are needed. I learned discipline as well as the confidence to present and the ability to control the fear of being in front of people. There is also a heavy emphasis on networking and making people quickly feel comfortable and at ease. I think music and teaching give you the confidence to talk to people and the bravery to learn things that may be hard.
It also taught me humility, which helped on my journey from a doctorate and teaching college back to an Associate's Degree and learning in college. Music, especially my doctorate, taught me to love learning. I think the biggest lesson I learned in music is that just because someone else succeeded does not mean I failed.
A few years ago, you took an unlikely pivot into the growing field of Cybersecurity. What prompted you to make this pivot? And why Ensign College?
I was teaching music technology at the University of Utah. Up to that point, my knowledge of tech was mostly front end. One of the classes offered was composition using C++; however, I wasn’t much of a coder (and am still not). In an effort to learn as much as possible about tech, I decided to continue my education and explore both software development and Cybersecurity. Through some spiritual guidance and personal curiosity, I went over to Ensign College because of its cost-effectiveness, its reputation, and I liked the serious efforts of gearing the curriculum toward practical, marketable skills. What I realized was how a lot of the skillset I had already gained from my past work history and degrees translated well into Cyber.
Music jobs are difficult to come by, and technology positions are more available and higher-paying. After 25 years of singing and teaching, and finding a new love in Cybersecurity, combined with the threat of lockdowns from COVID, the timing seemed right to make the change.
What made your experience at Ensign College memorable? Were there any professors or projects that serve as a source of inspiration for you?
I can honestly say it was the Spirit. I was associated with colleges, either attending and/or teaching, for 19 years, and didn’t realize you could learn secular things from the Spirit as well. It taught me to incorporate the Spirit more fully into everyday life.
I also appreciated my professors and colleagues who accepted me into their groups even though I was older and returning to college. There was no judgment or awkward questions. Many of my colleagues and I are still in touch helping each other find jobs, answering questions, and supporting and cheering for one another.
I loved working with Brother DeGraw in networking and his ideas of career paths, Brother Williams who kept us laughing through Windows Server, Brother White who was so sweet and supportive, and Brother Light’s incredible patience in coding. Every class I took at Ensign College, including the Microsoft Excel and Project Management classes I thought I’d never use, I find myself using on an almost daily basis!
You left Ensign College in 2019 and have been heads down in Cybersecurity ever since. You have glowing recommendations from your peers on your LinkedIn profile. Your work in Cybersecurity has obviously been impactful. What’s ahead for you? How do you see your career evolving?
I was searching for an internship as part of the degree and was offered a full-time position instead! Being a full-time mom and Cyber professional meant I had to put my last few courses on hold.
There are so many different avenues in Cyber. Currently, I’m in sales, traveling to different conferences, and networking with companies across the country. I have a side gig in governance and compliance. I originally started in risk management, which evolved into project management and customer relations. I would like to support and grow a few companies in forensics. For the long term, I see a need for COO’s (Chief Operating Officers) who thoroughly understand the technical side. I plan on taking the steps necessary and gaining the qualifications needed for this position.
We hear a lot about risk/reward when it comes to taking chances. How do you consider risk when it comes to making life and career decisions? Do these opportunities to pivot present themselves or are you proactively seeking them out?
Great question! Life decisions start with goals, then steps, prayer, and refinement, followed by a rinse-repeat cycle. I’ve come to realize that a goal without laying out steps to reach it is just fantasy. I think the main thing is to be brave enough to move while listening to the Spirit for guidance. Some opportunities present themselves, but I find being proactive moves you along the path much quicker.
The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, but the harder the journey. I do have the opportunity to be a single mom of three amazing kids who at times need extra help, which factors into what sort of career risks I can take, but they also give me purpose and reason.
In general, what advice do you have for Ensign College students?
Soak in as much as you can. It’s not about grades, it’s about knowledge. Be excellent at what you do. Take the time, even on the tedious, boring projects to get as much out of it as possible. Be thorough. And above all, never forget to learn things through the Spirit. The world needs you and your talents. Embrace and trust that. Your best is good enough and you are needed.
Visit Shana's LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shana-osterloh/