Employee Spotlight: Croissants with Colette Custin
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Since Colette Custin started her career at Kenna Security, every new employee has literally or virtually shaken her hand. As the leader of Kenna’s Corporate IT team, Colette’s responsibilities are both ample and varied: implementing policy and procedures for office and remote employees, onboarding new employees, participating in technical security audits, managing internal hardware and applications, and so much more.
Her duties may sound typical for an IT manager, but Colette is anything but typical. Anyone who spends just five minutes with her will quickly witness a powerful combination of invaluable qualities. Colette is exceptionally sharp, well-spoken, eager to help, and friendly. And while she excels at her role in the world of IT, she can’t hide her inspirational creative side and sincere passion, the latter of which is never more apparent than when she speaks about her hometown of Chicago.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in California, but when I was young, my parents decided to move to Chicago to be closer to my grandparents. So, I actually had the opportunity to grow up between San Diego and Chicago. Of course, I’ve always considered Chicago my true home. I like to think that I was really supposed to have been born here.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: I studied Psychology in college, but I’ve always tinkered with computers. A little over 10 years ago, I began working in IT. I started in a helpdesk role and was soon supervising said helpdesk. I eventually became a systems administrator, working with Windows and Linux servers, and I saw the transition from traditional data center to virtualization. I also worked on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for a Kenna Security customer, which is actually how I got to know our company. In September 2018, I saw a job opening at Kenna and I took it, and it was probably one of the best moves I’ve ever made. It was a really interesting transition moving from higher education to “startup-land.” I use a lot of the things that I learned in higher education technology in my work supporting everyone here at Kenna.
Q: What keeps you motivated to get out of bed and come into work every morning?
A: I would say the primary thing that motivates me everyday is the opportunity to work with a lot of really awesome, talented, intelligent, and creative people. I have a unique experience here at Kenna in that I get to touch base with each and every employee that comes through the door.
I also have appreciated being able to build the Corporate IT team from the ground up at Kenna. Before I started, there was no formal internal-facing IT. I like to think that we make a difference for employees across the board.
Q: What is one thing you can’t live without?
A: One thing I can’t live without is my camera equipment. In my free time, I work as a freelance concert photographer (@colettecustinphoto on Instagram), so being without my camera equipment would be unimaginable. I cover all kinds of shows in the Chicagoland area—stuff ranging from little metal shows at Reggie’s Rock Club to Smashing Pumpkins at Tinley Park.
Photography has always been a love of mine, but I didn’t expect I’d get to do the things I’m doing now. My grandfather really loved dark room photography, and inspired me throughout my childhood. When I was very young, my parents gave me one of those disposable cameras and I just loved taking photos of everything. I studied darkroom photography in college and went digital, and have been addicted ever since.
After I moved back to Chicago, I became friends with some local music journalists. We were sitting at dinner one night and one of them asked me, “Why don’t you just do this?” I love music and photography but didn’t realize it could be an option for me to combine these passions into something real. But I made it happen and I’ve truly fallen in love with it.
Q: Best vacation you’ve ever taken?
A: The best vacation I’ve ever taken is without a doubt New Orleans. I went for the first time in 2017, and returned to New Orleans again for Mardi Gras this year. It’s just the best combination of European influence, jazz, and art that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. If I could have a second home, it would be like a little walk-up in the French Quarter. New Orleans is so much more than Bourbon Street.
On my bucket list: I’d love to go to Italy. We have a lot of Italian art and horror film influence in our house. To be honest, the theme of my life is usually: food, people, art.
Q: Top three highlights of your life so far?
A: I would say number one would be moving back to Chicago. I absolutely love Chicago. The minute that I was surrounded by all my boxes moving from San Diego, I realized that I was home. Even through all the stress of moving cross-country, I was so at peace.
The second highlight would be covering the Smashing Pumpkins at Tinley Park. I’ve admired Billy Corgan for a long time, and it was just such an incredible experience. Even shooting from the soundboard with a telephoto lens still felt so incredible. Truthfully, I still get butterflies any time I walk into the soundboard to cover something.
I think the third highlight would be graduating from the University of San Diego. My school gave me a lot of opportunities, like studying psychology (which I still love) and learning more about myself. It was also the place where I discovered my love for technology and realized that I truly wanted this to be my career.
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
A: Honestly, I think my guilty pleasure is taking advantage of being in the West Loop. Sometimes I sneak over to Stephanie Izard’s Cabra for a (not so cheap) lunch. Being in the West Loop is a real temptation for me when it comes to the options for some fancy, delicious meals.
Q: What are 5 must-have songs on your road trip playlist?
- Tonight The Streets Are Ours – Richard Hawley
- Get Yourself Together – The Black Keys
- Gold Rays – Vinyl Pinups
- Lake Shore Drive – Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah
- Apocalypse Dreams – Tame Impala
Q: Hot coffee or iced coffee?
A: Hot coffee. Black.
Q: Mac or PC?
Q: Coldplay or Nickelback?
A: Coldplay, if I have to choose.
Q: New Year’s Eve or 4th of July?
A: New Year’s Eve.
Q: Superman or Batman?
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