A (Tech) Road Less Taken

July 20, 2023

Stories

A (Tech) Road Less Taken

Pignotti Shares Her Detoured Path into a Career in Tech

by Elizabeth Drolet

kendra

When the road ahead becomes grossly unknown, Regional Director for DE-CIX, Kendra Pignotti, welcomes and embraces the curve, making all the difference.

Pignotti has a lot of experience managing a detour. She has learned how to pivot into opportunity and follow her internal compass.

Life is Full of Transition

From a young age, Pignotti learned that life is full of transition. Her father was a Navy fighter pilot causing her family to move every few years. 

"So, that meant a new school and new friends. I am very used to change," Pignotti said. 

She describes herself in high school as "an athlete who enjoyed people more than academics." She saw value, however, in attending college. 

"My family was very much 'you earn your keep,' and so if I were to go to college, I would have to pay for it.”

From “Fun Kendra’ to “Focused Kendra”

Pignotti received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from San Diego State. In order to pay her tuition, she worked at the DHL shipping company during the day and attended school at night. 

"I look back on this with pride as it instilled a hard work ethic. I learned to go from fun Kendra to focused Kendra".

Pignotti climbed the corporate ladder and worked her way up from secretary to administrative assistant to senior project manager. Then DHL moved its headquarters to Florida. Pignotti was not ready to be that far from her family in California, but was ready for a change.

Chasing “The Next Big Thing”

"At the time, the baby boomers were getting to that 50+ age. And so I said, Okay, healthcare, that's going to be the next big thing.”

Pignotti would spend the next 13 years in healthcare. An offer of a promotion to director enticed her to return to school. She received her Masters in Legal Studies from George Washington University. 

"The whole reason you go to great schools is for the network and the alumni. So, I loaded up my car and drove across the country to the East Coast."

wrong-way

When the Destination Looks Like a Wrong Turn

On the way, she discovered this route was not for her. 

"I'm a people person, and yes, I understand contracts well, but it just wasn't my passion nor my path."

There, Pignotti stood at another critical juncture in the game of life. She had only pursued the degree to help her move up in her position, but was no longer interested in the job.

"I said, okay, what's next? What is the next big thing that the world can't live without? And it was glaringly obvious that the next big thing, bigger than the Industrial Revolution, was the Internet."

A Pivot into Tech 

Pignotti began researching job posting sites for opportunities within tech. 

"I knew nothing about the tech industry. I didn't even know what a router was or that information was kept in data centers."

It didn't matter, however, as Pignotti knew where there was a will, there was a way. 

"I came across this operational job at the London Internet Exchange. I got hired to handle all the administrative marketing and sales tasks."

Pignotti is a quick learner and used her keen social skills to develop relationships with her engineering team. 

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Shortly after, she attended her first NANOG meeting. According to her, it was difficult not to have imposter syndrome.

"Sitting in those sessions can make you feel like the dumbest person in the world because the smartest people are presenting, and everything is new". 

Pignotti confessed she could have had a better experience at her first NANOG meeting. 

"It was around NANOG 69 and back then we weren't as culturally aware of women being minorities in this industry. I didn't feel like these people wanted me there and it was hard to fit in."

That's when she made a decision. 

path

Creating Her Own Path 

"I told myself I'm going to be part of this industry, whether or not anybody wants me there. And that's what I did.”

“But, in a polite way," she added.  

Pignotti started talking to the engineers and asking good questions. 

"I was humble and honest about not knowing anything."

"I found that people, especially in the NANOG community, are more than happy to sit down and explain how or why they've designed a network," she continued.

When NANOG Became Home 

It wasn't long before Pignotti began to feel at home. She attributes a lot of her success to NANOG. Since her first meeting, she has only missed one conference and that was due to COVID. 

"The community began going out of their way after meetings, saying, 'Here's my business card. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.' I said to myself, this is a place that I want to be."

"I understand how things work now because of the kindness that has been shown to me and I want to pay that forward," she continued. 

Pignotti is a mentor at NANOG's newly formed Mentorship Program. Are you interested in serving as a mentor or being mentored? Find out more here.

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Elizabeth Drolet

Elizabeth Drolet is NANOG's Multimedia Story Producer

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