My Journey into Security (So Far)
One thing that really resonates with me is how every person in Security has had a nonlinear, diverse path into the profession. Honestly if a manager told me he used to be in the circus and now he is in Security, I wouldn’t even question it! Below I’ve detailed an overview of my journey into Security from a liberal arts college in Florida to an innovative start up.
I started at Rollins College intending to major in Business and take some History courses, a long time passion of mine. Quickly I discovered that I couldn’t relate to the Business courses but loved the History department. Major Change #1. In an effort to make money during college, I applied to every work-study position open. The first person to give me an interview became my first mentor and I went on to work for him in the university’s PCI Compliance Office. Doesn’t sound very glamorous, right? I learned about managing financial systems, calculating risk, network segmentation, and a variety of other topics. Realizing that this path could be really interesting, I decided to see where it could take me. I added the Computer Science major in an effort to gain some background in what I was working in. Major Change #2 (the second among many to come).
Like many young women in technology, the first turning point in my career was at the coveted Grace Hopper Celebration. The convention was occurring only twenty minutes from my college and I learned about it the weekend prior. Unable to get a ticket, which are incredibly expensive, my childhood neighbor offered to get me in. I didn’t really question it. So that’s how I ended up the next morning in the loading docks of the Orlando Convention Center, sneaking into the Grace Hopper Celebration. Without a badge, I was confined to the Career Fair where I told recruiters I accidentally spilt water on my badge. I spent the day walking up and down the aisles asking if any company was hiring security interns. That’s how I discovered Palo Alto Networks where I later interviewed for a position in their Information Security department. Securing the internship, I planned to join them the summer between my sophomore and junior year in Santa Clara, CA.
There’s no way to explain how life-changing going to the Bay Area is for a young women in tech, especially one who grew up in a rural area. The culture, the people, the food, the workspaces, the projects… everything was different from what I’ve seen before. I felt like I finally began understanding my field and that it was definitely something I wanted to be apart of. The summer I interned at Palo Alto Networks I attended every meetup, conference, and workshop I could to learn, network, and actively join the industry.
Towards the end of the summer, I began attending some all female hiking meetups and that led to the second turning point of my career. I met a woman who worked at Cloudflare, my future company. She spoke of the innovation, transparency, and ethics at the company; later, I was connected with the small but mighty Cloudflare Security Team. However, I was still skeptical because I knew I wanted to be in the Washington D.C. area for the summer in order to get experience and exposure on the other coast. I spent my entire fall semester, in which I was living amnd studying in Ireland, interviewing to find the best fit for me. The more I looked into Cloudflare, the more I was intrigued and then finally, I applied. The company’s values of hiring smart, curious, diverse people to build a better Internet through collaboration and transparency really spoke to me. Then when I interviewed with the Security Team, their own vision and values were exactly what I was looking for. They were currently building out new teams from scratch and I asked to join the Detection and Response Team. Despite it not having a single team member, I was promised it would exist by the time I started the following June. I suppose I could say the rest is history!
Security, in my belief, is an interdisciplinary topic that weaves complex situations together whether digital, physical, or purely theoretical ethics. In a way I would have never expected, my love for history continuously allows me to understand and analyze complex issues whether they are “big picture” or a database of logs. Finding patterns and correlating results come natural to me. I find explaining the reasoning behind my findings and the subsequent documentation equally enjoyable.
This post provides some brief insight into my adventures on becoming a full time Security Engineer; however, my Security career is just starting and I anticipate many twists and turns in the future.