My career journey has been nothing if not improbable. Every step has led me to where I am today, leading the Sales Engineering organization for WhiteHat Security. It’s a great opportunity to help my team demonstrate to organizations how application security works in a hands-on demonstration, and how to architect their AST solutions. But how did I get here?
I started in tech when I was nine, and my neighbor had just gotten a VIC 20 computer. It was glorious. It had a keyboard! It had a cassette deck! It plugged into the TV and it could play Pong! Wait… Pong? My 9-year-old brain couldn’t fathom that a machine so extraordinary could only play a game where you hit dots with little straight lines. I asked my friend’s dad if I could borrow the manual. I taught myself how to create the simplest of programs: a BASIC program that repeated my name across the screen – forever. I was hooked. I was going to be a programmer.
Fast-forward and I graduated with a Bachelors of Business Administration in a track they called “Business Analysis and Research,” which was the fancy term for a computer-focused business degree. I started working for a consulting company coding in PowerBuilder with a Sybase backend. I picked up Unix scripting to make things easier for my team. I loved my job – I got to build things every day. From there, I stayed in software, but moved to a software company handling post-sales consulting needs – troubleshooting, architecture advice, code reviews, and projects.
So far, my journey may seem straightforward, but here comes the detour. In 2000, I had my first child and decided to retire from the workforce. But I got bored. I loved my baby, but I missed the action of the workforce. I found ways to keep busy and keep engaged. I was Volunteer Coordinator and IT Manager for two very important mayoral elections. I worked with sorority sisters to found a non-profit focused on the emotional well-being of at-risk high school women. During these volunteer years, I had three more children. My hands were full.
In 2007, the CEO of the first company I’d worked for out of college called. He was looking for people to join a new start-up he was sponsoring, and he was experimenting with “non-traditional” labor models, which meant I could work flexible hours from home and get paid. I joined, jumped in with both feet, and was asked to become a full-time employee within a month. I spent 18 months there running the recruiting department, and then was offered an opportunity to get back into technology as a technical sales person for BMC Software.
All along, I took advantage of every opportunity to grow my career. When someone else said “No, I don’t know how to do that,” I said, “I’ll learn it and I’ll do it!” And that made all the difference. By saying “yes” when everyone else said “no,” I expanded my skillset and my reputation for getting things done. That’s one of the secrets I advise all women to understand – you have to embrace your uncertainties and fears.
But the missing key to happiness in IT engineering is how do I make the world better? How can I help secure digital business to protect my kids when they go online?
I took the next step in my software and applications career by joining WhiteHat, where we are dedicated to helping customers understand the value of application security solutions for their businesses. It’s up to businesses and organizations to protect their employees and users, and AppSec shows the way.
If I have advice for anyone looking to get into the AppSec ranks, it would be to take the opportunities you’re offered. Be the one to volunteer to do the hard jobs. Look for ways to include security in your day job. And always – ALWAYS – believe in yourself.