What is your current role and where do you work?
During the day, I am a Security Engineer with a focus on delivering and managing Tripwire solutions for NERC-CIP compliance at a major power utility. I’m also the Founder of hiddencyberfigures.com, a blog dedicated to sharing knowledge & insights to increase the number of women in cyber security.
How did you get into tech?
I’ve always been an avid reader, and technology provided a bottomless source of knowledge to satisfy my desire to always know more. I was never content with just consuming tech though. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to know how things worked, from operating systems to web applications to security appliances. Then I found a career that allowed me to combine my commitment to lifelong learning with meaningful work engineering technology: cyber. I am in love!
What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
Blogging software is my favorite tech right now because it allows me to publish content that encourages, educates, and celebrates people who look like me. Women are less than 11% of the cybersecurity workforce. Of that number, we can probably safely assume that black women are a small percentage of that total. I’ve had high school and college students alike tell me that their guidance counselors did not tell them that cyber careers were an option. One girl even told me that she did not know a security engineer existed. That broke my heart. Blogging allows me to pay it forward without boundaries.
What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
I am proudest of building www.hiddencyberfigures.com. I was really moved and inspired by Dorothy Vaughan’s character in Hidden Figures. Played by the lovely and talented Octavia Spencer, she portrayed everything I aspire to be: a fearless leader willing to create my own opportunities by any means necessary while being a rising tide that lifts other boats.
My favorite scene in the movie was Dorothy’s reaction to her and her team’s jobs being replaced by the new IBM computer. She taught herself to program the IBM and trained women under her to code too, delivering a small army of black women into new technical careers at NASA.
Dorothy chose herself and her team.
I have chosen myself to deliver an army of women into cyber careers.
My mission is to to educate, connect, and empower women to thrive in cyber via blogging as a central medium. I also want the Hidden Figures conversation to go on until kingdom come. While I am sure Margot Shetterly does not need help keeping her work out there, she has a fan who will ensure that women know this story long after it fades from Hollywood.
Also, black women were noticeably absent from the top women in cyber/top bloggers lists in 2016. I will change that, even if it means creating my own list. I’ve started #WeCyberToo Talent Spotlights on my blog to get that list going.
What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
Autonomous vehicles and the job opportunities that will be created for cyber security professionals!
If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
Technical skills are necessary to get jobs, but business savvy is needed to advance security careers. If I wasn’t in tech, I would teach business skills to cyber students. The discipline is challenging and has people under the impression that tech skills alone drive hiring and promotion decisions. We need well-rounded professionals in the field, so I would teach the business skills that universities are not covering in cyber programs.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
Have thick skin and a short memory span.
What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
When they are in meetings and everyone in the room looks exactly the same, stop, reflect, and ask the difficult question: why? Then dig further and ask: are we stagnating or innovating? Go another layer deeper: what weaknesses exist on my team could be improved with diversity of thought? What problems could we solve if we bring in talent with the skill sets that my guys are lacking or have no bandwidth to learn? What new markets could we tap if we had people who understood the nuances of those demographics?
Finally, put the shoe on the other foot for a minute: what if you were the only person in the room who looked like you?
What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
Parenting, being a good wife, and graduate school! I am scheduled to complete my M.S. in Cybersecurity this summer. I also write for Tripwire’s State of Security blog.