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Employee Spotlight: Dumplings with Dan Mellinger

Jan 6, 2022
Gretha Loubser
Product Marketing Manager

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It’s always wonderful to see your colleagues and your company’s name out in the wild—whether it’s in a news article, analyst commentary, or research, or social media. The Kenna Security brand become synonymous with security expertise, transparency, and trust, and a lot of the work behind the scenes that can be attributed to Dan Mellinger, fearless leader of all things Kenna Corporate Communications.  

Building a strong brand is no small feat. It requires a ton of creativity, critical thinking, patience, and persistence—qualities that Dan has in spades. Over the last four years, Dan has led the charge of telling Kenna’s unique story to media and industry analysts and, subsequently, our buyers, investors, partners, and peers. And his hard work has yielded incredible results, with prospects regularly approaching Kenna as the number one brand for risk-based vulnerability management.  

It goes without saying that Dan plays a critical role in Kenna’s success to date; it’s just the cherry on top that he also happens to be a much-loved and tremendously fun colleague to work alongside.   

Q: Where did you grow up?  

A: I grew up mostly in Northern California, but I was= born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. My father was contracting for Lockheed Martin during a stint in the U.S. Air Force, and my mom was a nurse who had wanted to get out of Taiwan. She would travel to Europe for three months of the year and then work as a nurse for the other nine. In Saudi Arabia, women couldn’t work, and they had a lot of demand for nurses at the time. I was born in the hospital where she worked.  

 Not too long after, we went to Thailand and then Taiwan (to introduce me to her family). By the time I turned 2, we were back at Travis Air Force Base. Right before my fifth birthday, we moved to Elk Grove, California, and then we moved again.  

 Q: How did you come into this field of work?  

A: I studied Communication/Public Relations (PR) in college, but I didn’t go into the PR field right away. I graduated in 2008—peak Recession time. The job market was a challenge. I initially wanted to be a lobbyist and go into public sector work, and I snagged a job working for a California Republican Senator doing public affairs. I became disillusioned quickly thanks to the realities of doing PR or public affairs for politicians.  

I moved to become retail manager for JC Penney. I had done an internship with them in college, working at a store in Roseville. The manager was incredible and created a position for me, and I joined their management training program. They moved me to Fremont where I managed a small store. We turned a good quarterly profit, so they moved me to Concord—the biggest store in the district. I was assigned their two biggest divisions: women’s accessories and apparel. I managed roughly $33 million in annual revenue for those departments.  

I enjoyed the gig and learned a lot, but I really wanted to get into the tech space because it’s always been an interest of mine. I took a haircut on my salary and became a sales development representative (SDR) at Ziff Davis. I worked hard and ended up moving to sell more complex technology over time. I eventually transitioned to a research analyst role, which gave me a chance to do content marketing.  

From there, I went on to spend some time with a PR agency working with Dell and eventually moved over to Fortinet, which was kind of a holy grail for me at the time. I took on a ton of responsibilities and learned so much about how to apply PR practices in cybersecurity, which is extremely complex. I spent nearly four years there before being recruited into a position at Kenna. I was excited about the prospect of building a communications program from the ground up, and Kenna’s marketing lead at the time had done a stint at Fortinet as well, so the commonalities in our background seemed like a great fit.  

Q: What is your favorite thing about the career you’re currently in? 

A: Seeing the results. Brand awareness and public perception is a very long lead game. It takes time to see results, and it’s as much instinct, intuition, and judgment calls as it is a science in certain things, so it’s really satisfying to see your work pay off.  

When I started at Kenna, the term risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM) didn’t exist, and we spent a lot of time discussing how to label what we do. What do we call it? What is going to help people understand what we do and see the value in it? Ultimately, we came up with the risk-based terminology. We started referring to it in analyst briefings to differentiate ourselves and put it on our booth at Black Hat. A few weeks after the show, Gartner published a note on risk-based vulnerability management. It was fantastic to see our language influence what has now become a standard industry term.  

It’s also really satisfying to see prospects come to us because they perceive us as the leader in the market. There’s so much work that goes into building that kind of brand recognition.  

Q: When you were a kid, did you eat the crusts on your sandwiches?  

A: Definitely. I  just ate them whole—my mom didn’t cut them in half or anything. I still love sandwiches. My favorite is a hot pastrami melt on Dutch crunch.  

Q: “They” have decided to build a spooky amusement part based on your biggest fears. What rides would it have?​ 

A: I don’t like heights, so the actual roller coaster itself is one of my biggest fears.  

In my junior year of high school, I broke my jaw playing rugby and had to miss out on a rugby tour with my team. Instead, I ended up going to Disney World with my parents and sister with my jaw wired shut. I couldn’t move my jaw or eat food or anything. We went on the ride that drops and I hated it so much. But everyone laughed when they saw the photos from the on-ride camera. I looked stoic and bored, and folks thought, “Man, this guy just doesn’t care.” Little did they know I was probably the most scared person on that ride.  

Q: What made you decide to play rugby? 

A: I played multiple sports—basketball, football. I ran track, too. I got won gold and silver medals at our county finals my freshman year, and my coach never gave them to me (he liked to display them in his office instead). I was a bit annoyed with this, so during the next track season I decided to play rugby instead. I ended up being rgood at it. It just clicked for me. The strategy made sense to me, and I’m naturally a very competitive and physically aggressive sportsman so it was a great fit. I began playing on our varsity team my sophomore year when their scrum-half got injured, and then I started my junior year as our varsity team captain.  

I primarily played scrum-half, but I had started as almost every position in the back line. They put me wherever they needed me. I was relatively small but didn’t play like it. I would blow up rucks and was really good at form tackling. And I was fast. It was a ton of fun.  

Q: What is the next place on your travel bucket list?​ 

A: I want to go back to Hawaii. My wife and I did our honeymoon and babymoon there, we just love it. We’ve done Maui and Kauai. Maui has fantastic beaches and delicious (but expensive) food. But Kauai is special because of the landscape and nature. The Kalalau Trail is one of the most beautiful (and dangerous) hikes in the U.S. It’s literally on the side of a cliff face, so you can also get swept off if the weather changes too quickly. But it has incredible views of the Nā Pali Coast and runs all the way down to a waterfall/natural river that runs into the ocean. Kauai has a number of waterfalls, actually, and that’s one of my favorite things about the island. It’s a little bit of heaven.   

Q: What is your ideal way to spend a weekend?​ 

A: I’ve always been a homebody, so for me a perfect weekend would involve hanging out with my son and wife, playing around, going for a walk with the dog, a three-to-four-hour bike ride, and maybe doing a bit of chores. I’d love to go watch a movie at a movie theater, too. That would be amazing.   

Q: What are the top 5 songs on your road trip playlist?  

A: I like listening to whole albums, so I’d go with:  

  • OK Computer by Radiohead  
  • Black Cow by Steely Dan 
  • Anything from Plini  
  • The MTV Unplugged live album by Alice in Chains
  • Lateralus by Tool

Rapid-Fire Round 

Q: Chips or pretzels? 

A: Chips 

Q: City or countryside?  

A: Countryside 

Q: Dine-in or delivery? 

A: Delivery 

Q: Book or eBook? 

A: Book  

Q: Unlimited battery life OR free WiFi wherever you go?​ 

A: Unlimited battery life  

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