McKenna Dallmeyer: From Veterinarian Aspirations to Pentester

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About the Guest:

McKenna Dallmeyer is a technical account manager at, specializing in offensive security and penetration testing. Starting her academic journey in biomedical science and political science, she eventually pursued cybersecurity, driven by a combination of personal interests and family influence. McKenna has experience working with the NSA as a developer intern and later full-time in a development program. She holds several certifications in penetration testing and network security and is also part of the Synack Red Team, conducting side work through her LLC.

Episode Summary:

In this engaging episode of The Phillip Wylie Show, host Phillip Wylie sits down with McKenna Dallmeyer to discuss her unconventional journey into the realm of cybersecurity and penetration testing. McKenna shares how her initial aspirations of becoming a veterinarian transitioned into a passion for cybersecurity and offensive security, ultimately leading her to her current role at Along the way, she highlights the importance of hands-on experience, continuous learning, and the role of soft skills in a technical field.

McKenna provides insights into her background, from her academic shifts and internships to her work at the NSA and her current involvement with Synack Red Team. She emphasizes the value of diverse experiences, outlining how coding, networking, and certifications like GCIH and GWAPT have contributed to her skill set. McKenna also offers practical advice for those aspiring to enter the field of penetration testing, underscoring the necessity of taking on challenges, saying yes to opportunities, and leveraging any available resources to facilitate learning and growth.

Key Takeaways:

  • McKenna's journey showcases the fluidity of career paths and the importance of remaining open to new opportunities in evolving fields like cybersecurity.
  • Gaining hands-on experience and practical certifications is crucial for anyone looking to establish a career in penetration testing.
  • Soft skills, combined with technical expertise, can significantly enhance career prospects, particularly in customer-facing roles within cybersecurity.
  • Networking, staying updated through podcasts, and participating in community events like DEFCON and Black Hat are invaluable for professional growth.
  • Embarking on side projects and involvement in specialized teams, such as Synack Red Team, can provide robust, real-world experience and career development.

Notable Quotes:

  1. "It takes all of us to make the world a safer place." - McKenna Dallmeyer
  2. "You learn more after you fail than when you succeed." - McKenna Dallmeyer
  3. "Start talking to people who are pen testers and gain an idea of what their day-to-day is like." - McKenna Dallmeyer
  4. "Don't shy away from opportunities thinking, 'Oh, I've never done anything like that.' Just say yes and see what happens." - McKenna Dallmeyer
  5. "Always try to learn everything that you can. If you see something unfamiliar, look into it at a surface level." - McKenna Dallmeyer


For more insightful discussions and expert advice from the world of cybersecurity, be sure to listen to the full episode and stay tuned for future episodes of The Phillip Wylie Show.

McKenna Dallmeyer: From Veterinarian Aspirations to Pentester
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