Find your Road, Create your Space: Alumna Clarissa Cecchi
Alumna Clarissa Cecchi (class of 2015) graduated from John Cabot with a major in Communications and a minor in Creative Writing. Before working as a Cybersecurity Information and Communication officer at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, she was a trainee in the Events and Creative department at Verve International in Shanghai, China.
Tell us about your background.
I’m from Rome and lived there until my second year of high school. Being an athlete at the time, I often had to travel in order to receive the best coaching. This brought me to Madrid, Spain, where I completed my International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. In 2012, I decided to move back home, in order to support my family during a stormy situation. John Cabot University entered my life by chance. I was looking for a university that could help me leave a mark, while stimulating me to study in different languages. After visiting the JCU website, I was instantly intrigued by its international environment, and I decided to apply.
You’re currently working as Cybersecurity Information and Communication officer at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. What does your position entail?
My position requires me to engage in different fields, including the development and implementation of cybersecurity awareness-raising activities for all European Commission staff. I often train speakers or give presentations but I also work in strategic planning, crisis communication, and external communication.
How did you get interested in Cybersecurity?
My career in the European Institutions was never planned. After completing a Master’s in International Relations at SIOI Rome (Società Italiana per l’Organizzazione Internazionale), I started as a trainee for the European Parliament in Brussels, where I was working for the Foreign Policy Instruments department in the General Secretariat. I was dealing with public and international relations and inter-institutional communication. Cybersecurity, therefore, was not part of my life yet. By the end of my traineeship in 2019, I received a call from the Directorate-General for Informatics of the European Commission, who was interested in my profile.
What tips and advice would you give to someone interested in Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is an incredibly interesting and fast-growing field. It doesn’t matter if you have IT skills, analytics skills, communication skills or you are more experienced with threat intelligence. There is space for you in cybersecurity, and if you cannot find it, you can always create it. The best candidate profiles are those who can apply and transform knowledge. I don’t believe in the idea of getting specialized in one, unique, field. The more you know, the more you will have to offer, and professional growth is a never-ending journey.
What professors and classes had the most impact on you?
Even though I would like to thank each professor I had, there are three names that I keep in my heart and silently thank every day: Professors Peter Sarram, Antonio Lopez, and Thomas Govero. Not only did they prepare me for any future career, they also trained me to face challenges, make my voice heard, think critically and listen carefully before speaking. If Professor Sarram and Lopez taught me how to develop my ideas, Professor Govero provided me with the tools to express them and deliver them in a clear and accessible way. All their classes left a mark on me, from Media Culture and Society to the Comics class, from Visual Communication to Media Ethics, and the incredible Public Speaking and Advanced Public Speaking courses. Thanks to their precious teachings, I now find myself giving training sessions and conducting conferences in front of more than 35,000 people on a regular basis. I don’t know if I was the ideal student, but they were indeed the ideal professors to me. It is true that I work in communication, but no words will ever express my gratitude to the JCU professors.
In 2016 you worked in the Events and Creative department at Verve International in Shanghai, China. Tell us about this experience.
When I joined the company, I was ecstatic about starting the new experience. I was working with the communication, events, and graphic design teams. The whole experience was a mix of positive emotions and fear, as it was not easy to be alone in a country where people spoke a different language and had a different culture. My colleagues were phenomenal, and I am still in contact with many of them. Living in Shanghai was overall a wonderful experience. I met great people and I studied a little Mandarin by going to classes every day after work.
Tell us about a challenge that you encountered as a young professional. How did you overcome it?
The hardest challenge I had to overcome as a young professional was breaking out of the infinite traineeship loop. When I left JCU, I had difficulties finding a job. I was offered many internships, but none of them ever resulted in a full-time job offer. However, I never lost faith. There is no magic trick to transform your career, but there were a few things that I am sure helped me:
• Always stay true to yourself, don’t pursue a job because it pays well or because “it is important,” do what you like, only this way you will grow and get inspired;
• Know your strengths and weaknesses. Self-assessment and self-awareness are extremely important in order to really make a difference and bring added value;
• Change until you find your way. Being a trainee is the reality of our times and I received hundreds of “nos” before finally getting a “yes.” Each “no” I received brought me closer to where I am now.
• Lastly, remember that people don’t want you to fail, they want you to succeed. I had to let go of my fear of being judged, in order to let my skills and expertise take over and shape my professional profile.
Five years after my graduation, I still cherish all the memories I made at JCU, and how my professors prepared me to face the world. JCU allowed me to develop a strong and versatile communication profile, which made me the ideal candidate for my current position at the European Commission in Brussels.