Fabianna Rodríguez-Mercado can pinpoint exactly when it clicked that she wanted to enter the world of cybersecurity.
“I was a social media manager, and one of my clients got hacked,” Rodríguez-Mercado explains. “In that moment, I knew that I could wait for someone else to figure out how to fix it or I could be part of the solution.”
Rodríguez-Mercado tapped into the network of tech professionals she’d met through her work in marketing and social media to find a way to help her client. In the process, she realized what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. But to land her first cybersecurity role—at multinational financial services corporation Citi, no less—she would have to trust in her passion and develop her tech skill set, one educational milestone at a time.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rodríguez-Mercado moved to New York City in the hopes of pivoting away from social media. Through a local work development program, she heard about an opportunity that would set her on her current path: tech training through an organization called Per Scholas.
“I call Per Scholas my first step into technology,” Rodríguez-Mercado says. Although she had hoped to dive straight into cybersecurity, she decided to complete a tech support program instead, on the sound advice of a Per Scholas admissions specialist.
“I’ve met cybersecurity bootcamp graduates who know cybersecurity, but not how to apply it to network or tech support,” she explains. “They skipped what I initially wanted to skip.”
After graduating from Per Scholas in February 2019, Rodríguez-Mercado obtained certificates in security and cybersecurity from LaGuardia Community College and Fullstack Academy, respectively. She then began putting her tech support fundamentals to use at professional services firm Accenture, while further growing her expertise through a cybersecurity-focused MBA.
Rodríguez-Mercado moved into a program management role at Accenture before making the jump to Citi in April 2022. “I always wanted to be in cybersecurity, and I never stopped asking myself how I could get there. Now, I’m the chief of staff and business manager for cybersecurity services at Citi,” she says.
To get to this point, Rodríguez-Mercado had to find her own niche and discover how to add value in the ever-changing tech industry. Her drive to be resourceful pushed her to continue learning—and learning from her mistakes—and to connect with mentors and peers who could point her in the right direction.
As a member of the Per Scholas board of directors in New York, Rodríguez-Mercado remains ready to return that favor. “I’m constantly looking for ways to give back,” she confirms. “I spend a lot of my spare time connecting with recent grads, alumni, or current learners at Per Scholas.”
Rodríguez-Mercado also continues to step up through the New York City chapter of Latinas in Tech. She hosts events and runs social media campaigns for the nonprofit—a full-circle moment reminding her not only of how far she has come, but also of the many possibilities the future still holds.