Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Alexander Greenberg (CAS ’03) Shares his Experiences as a CAS Alumni Mentor

Alexander Greenberg
Alexander has acted as a CAS alumni mentor for the past four years. He works in Law and Cybersecurity as Counsel in Intellectual Property, Technology and Cybersecurity, Americas, for Barclays. He shared with us his experiences as an alumni mentor and the advice he wishes he had been given when he was a student.


Can you tell us about your experience acting as an alumni mentor?

I have been a mentor to NYU students since 2017 and it has been one of the most professionally fulfilling experiences. I love the feeling of having a positive influence on students’ academic development and career journey—no matter how small. My time at NYU has set me up for success; by being a mentor, I am giving back to the NYU community.
Alexander Greenberg: his story continues


What advice did you give your student mentees?


I don’t believe in cookie-cutter wisdom. I approach each student as an individual. First I share my own experiences and the decisions that shaped my education and my career. By being open about my life I set the tone for the conversation. Then I listen. A lot. It is important not to assume that a student’s goals are the same as my own would have been in their shoes. For example, I have always aimed at being a lawyer in private practice, but students who want to work in public interest law are dealing with a completely different set of considerations.

Most of all, I try to share as much information with my mentees as I can. That includes my own experiences, things that I have observed during my career and other resources that I know about. I have successfully brought in other colleagues and friends to help me mentor, when I saw a good match. Last year, I asked a co-worker with nearly two decades of experience in the technical cybersecurity field to share her path with one of my mentees and also to share what it means to be a woman in this field—neither perspective I could add on my own.

One thing that is often overlooked in the mentorship relationship is that it should really be a mentee-guided process. This is why some mentorships succeed more than others. While mentors are always willing to share, to advise, to help; it is mentees that truly control the journey. The burden is on mentees to ask questions and to demonstrate to their mentors the most useful path for the mentorship relationship. Sometimes, that’s as simple as actively keeping in touch!


Can you tell us about your career trajectory?


I have had a relatively linear career, going from CAS to law school, to a large law firm, to a boutique legal practice, to my current job as a lawyer at Barclays. If there is one distinguishing feature about my progression it is that I have always tried to stay “benignly opportunistic.”

To me, that means recognizing and pursuing career opportunities, even when they are not quite what I had in mind and even if the timing is less than ideal. This is how I switched from being a patent litigator at a large law firm to working on protecting brands and content creators in one of the world’s premier intellectual property boutiques—because of a cold-call from a recruiter that I didn’t reject offhand. This is also how I got involved in cybersecurity law at time when no one could agree on how to spell cybersecurity (of course, the Brits went with “cyber security”). I saw a gap in coverage and I offered my help.

It is a lesson that I always share with my mentees—yes, be strategic and plan, but at the same time, keep your eyes and your mind open to the opportunities that you have not anticipated. Those opportunities are your golden nuggets.


You work in Cybersecurity and Law. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in Cybersecurity?


Cybersecurity is a booming field. There are so many opportunities to get involved and to have a rich and fulfilling career. The most important thing at an early stage is to understand the wide variety of jobs that exist in cybersecurity and to aim for one that suits the student’s individual talents and interests. Being a cybersecurity professional doesn’t mean being a hacker—in fact, there are many in cybersecurity who do not know how to code (including me!). There are careers in cybersecurity governance, regulation, incident response, intelligence, compliance, law, and many more. Take your pick.


What advice do you wish you had been given when you were a student?


Cynically, it is to stop romanticizing my future profession. Being a lawyer is not constantly parading in front of a jury; and working in cybersecurity is not trying to out-code famous hackers in real time. It is important to have a sober and well-informed view on one’s future profession and to understand what it takes to get to the level of professional ability and a career stage when the day-to-day is starting to look a little closer to what you may see on TV.


Would you act as a mentor again in the future?

Absolutely! I’d love to be a mentor for as long as you’ll have me.


If you are a CAS, WSC or Heights alumnus/a interested in participating as an alumni mentor to current CAS students, please fill out this online form.

NYU alumni of all schools are also invited to join NYU’s new mentoring platform - the Violet Network. Find out more and join at violetnetwork.nyu.edu.

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