How did you learn about PDXWIT and what keeps you coming back?
I first learned of PDXWIT a couple of years ago from a co-worker. They were going to attend the Summer Soiree and invited me to attend with them. I was amazed at all of the organizations represented and the number of women who had come to just network and to get to know others. That started me on my way to attending events more often like the Westside Mixer. I have been in the Portland area high tech market for 30+ years and have a reasonable network of professional acquaintances, but this allowed me to expand it exponentially larger than I ever thought possible. I truly love the PDXWIT slack channels, especially to stay involved in Diversity and Inclusion practices. The D&I slack channel has resulted in some excellent discussions and learning from others. I never leave this channel without some thought-provoking ideas to keep me busy.
Can you give us some background on your career in tech? Did you intend this career path?
In 1989 I decided I needed a career change and went to work for a small company called Precision Interconnect as a machine operator. These machines I worked with put the braided wire shielding on coaxial cable. Who knew that was how it was done? Over the next year I moved into QA and then into Test Engineering. The following year I was asked to join the R & D team and work with the design engineers developing new cables. This set me on a path to attaining patents for connector design and process. But I was bored drawing circles and squares all the time and took the first step on my path to my current position at Intel as Open Source Product Security Expert (PSE). I have had a wonderful career of learning hardware at the lowest levels, i.e. my first position at Intel was implementing SDIO (Secure Digital Input/Output) for a system on a chip (SOC) all the way through the SW stack including writing a Dialer for a cellular device in C++.
My current project is defining the next generation of security tools to lower the risk associated with using open source components in products. This is a very daunting task as there is so much open source in use. I am actually one of the final voices to be heard on whether a component can be used. If a business unit feels it needs to use the component they can request that I re-evaluate the component. I make the yes-or-no
decision based on a large set of criteria. What I do can be seen as a process roadblock, so learning to work with teams and explaining the reasons why they cannot use a component has refined my skills in the art of people management.
Where I am at in my career was definitely not where I had intended when I started as a machine operator so many years ago. I was always open for change, to try new technologies, and to do things that no one else wanted to attempt. I found this to be very rewarding and an amazing way to learn and work with new technologies and people.
What is a passion or activity you pursue with dedication?
My passion now is working as hard as I can to make the tech industry more inviting to the next generation of women. I have had my issues throughout the years and consider myself very lucky, in some respects, with the directions my career path took. I am also keenly aware of the biases that take place in tech offices and how they play into creating a toxic environment. I have had many women friends leave positions because they didn’t feel valued. Some have left tech completely because of how they were treated or perceived. There is a very large discrepancy between what many companies report about their diversity and inclusion programs and what underrepresented communities actually experience. Once I started really looking at what was going on, I realized that I needed to work on making changes from the inside. Oftentimes, standing on the outside and yelling about everything wrong does not work (and is certainly less than productive), so I have spent time over the last 2 years volunteering with different organizations. The benefits have been amazing for me and the future of the next generation of women in tech fields. I am currently an Evangelist on the leadership team for Women Who Code Portland (professionals promoting women in tech fields), board member of The Diana Initiative (promoting women in infosec), and have recently volunteered for both DefCon and BSidesLV (hacker conferences in Las Vegas). I was asked to return to both conferences next year where I hope to be more involved with their administration, such as Code of Conduct creation for BSidesLV. I am currently a director on IGlobe (Intel’s LGBTQ Employee resource group) and also work as a Crisis Counselor for TrevorChat, helping counsel LGBTQ teens that might be considering suicide or need assistance.
While I know change can be slow to come, I’m thrilled to think that I will have plenty of work to pursue in future years. Recently, I’ve started writing about my experiences in tech (links below). I am amazed every day at the next generation of women entering tech with not only their savvy and self-confidence but also their willingness to do things I would have been so afraid to do during my early years. I am very hopeful that the future will eventually be parity and full equity for everyone in every field.