Employee Spotlight: The Women Fighting Cybercrime at SNC
November 16, 2020
Women make up 20% of the global cybersecurity workforce, but at SNC the Security department is trailblazing ahead to increase that percentage. In fact, we have four female cybersecurity professionals fighting cybercrime ever day! Their mission to protect SNC and our employees is unwavering, regardless of the malicious campaigns targeted at our government and the company.
More importantly, they love their jobs and appreciate their leaders in Security. Collaborative, inclusive, refreshing, valued, and empowered are only a few of the adjectives used to describe the culture within SNC’s Security department.
Who are these cybercrime fighting women? Find out more below!
What enticed you to join SNC and work in a STEM field?
Cassie C: I have worked at SNC for about 13 years. I actually started on the Finance side of the company as an associate business analyst (ABA) which offered four month rotations in Program Finance, Finance, and Accounting in 2007. After completing my rotations, I took a job as the first business systems analyst (BSA) in the IT department at SNC, due to my analysis skills. From there I grew my role in IT working as an application administrator, developer and manager. Last year, I made the jump to Cybersecurity, taking on a role as a data scientist. My mother is an IT leader so I’ve always seen STEM careers as a place where women can thrive.
Lindsey C: I have always had my eye on SNC as an organization that I wanted to work for. I had the opportunity to see some of the products the company develops when I was in the military’s intelligence field. Seeing the direct impact of a company that is supporting our troops has an incredible draw for veterans. As far as being in a STEM field, it is exciting to be in a career that really focuses on technical data and processes. There is always a new technical challenge, which is awesome!
Sasha D: I was attending the University of Nevada, studying Computer Science. By the end of my academic career I knew I wanted a technical position, but I didn’t want to be a programmer. I joined SNC as an intern, focusing on Systems Administration, in my last year and was hired on full-time after graduation. About five years later, there was an opportunity to join the Cybersecurity team.
Trish R: I’ve always had an inclination towards all things computers / tech and was thoroughly impressed with all of the advancements SNC has made in recent years, particularly in the realm of Cybersecurity. When I learned that SNC’s Cybersecurity team was looking for a new analyst, I jumped at the opportunity.
You’re a data scientist or cybersecurity analyst. What does that position entail and what does a day in the life like?
Cassie C: As a data scientist, I spend my day with data: analyzing it, visualizing it, interpreting it, and helping communicate its significance to my team as well as to people across SNC.
Lindsey C: This is such a hard question because our day-to-day is never the same. One day we could be repelling a giant increase of traffic from foreign countries and another day we could be looking into malicious malware campaigns that are targeting government organizations. We also have threat reports, legal hold processes, auditing network traffic in general, following up with compromised vendors, etc.
Sasha D: As a cybersecurity analyst, I balance my week by reviewing cybersecurity incidents, investigations, alerts and threat hunting. I also focus on ongoing projects, such as forensics and eDiscovery.
Trish R: What I love about the analyst position is that there are no two days that have ever been the same. We are constantly on our toes, looking into new things and ensuring the safety and integrity of SNC’s networks. Most days, we are actively threat hunting; so this means using intelligence we receive around active threats, threat groups and vulnerabilities to ensure that our systems are safe.
What is the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work?
Cassie C: I love problem-solving. This position brings new problems everyday which keeps things exciting. In this role, I strive to clearly communicate the meaning behind data and provide actionable insight to those who use the dashboards and analytics I create.
Lindsey C: There are actually a few really meaningful and rewarding aspects of this job. One is working with an amazing group of individuals who are all mission oriented and have a great sense of humor. When a high priority tasking comes down the pipe, everyone jumps in to get it done. There has never been a situation where someone has to be alone on a huge tasking. The support of the team (and family) is wonderful. This also extends to our personal lives where if someone is going through something challenging, we reach out. Especially in these unprecedented times. Another aspect is seeing just the sheer amount of traffic from our adversaries that hit our security defenses daily and being able to proactively stop them from succeeding. It’s a great feeling when you finish up work after successfully identifying a foreign campaign that we were able to proactively block.
Sasha D: I enjoy working behind the scenes, supporting all the facets of SNC – protecting SNC intellectual property, performing incident response and threat hunting, and providing user education. All of the engineers and technicians build complex, innovative solutions. I like knowing that I help support their efforts. You build all the cool stuff.
Trish R: My work is rewarding in two-fold:
- Helping others is very rewarding, even if it’s something as small as “Hey, make sure you don’t click on links you don’t recognize, and here’s why.” Being able to empower employees to use SNC network assets safely and securely is one of the most important functions of the Cybersecurity organization, since our users are our first line of defense against malicious actors!
- Working in Cybersecurity is the embodiment of “learning something new every day”, and as a person who always wants to know the how and the why and how it can be better, it really is fulfilling.
Women Working in STEM
What is the best example of leadership in inclusion and diversity you’ve seen within Security, Cybersecurity or SNC as a whole?
Cassie C: I think Security, in particular, strives to hire people from diverse backgrounds. My background is not traditional for Cybersecurity but that has been viewed as an asset, which has helped me grow quickly in my new role as a data scientist.
Lindsey C: I know I keep going back to the team, but every level of leadership in Cyber – from our Cybersecurity Manager, the Director Business Systems Cybersecurity, and our Vice President Security have made it crystal clear that all of our experiences, no matter who we are or where we come from, is valuable and it is to be leveraged and incorporated into our team culture.
I know I’ve referenced the military quite a bit already as well, but that’s part of our identity. We have someone from each branch (almost), and we like to leverage their past experiences and what they learned. We have some folks who have traveled the world and have a different way of seeing things and that in itself brings a lot to the table. Having an open discussion is ALWAYS welcome and a difference in opinion really lets us analyze the best solution or possible attribution of an attack. This isn’t a section where groupthink exists. On top of that, our leadership team encourages all of us to attend women empowering webinars and events. If it wasn’t for them, I would have missed many opportunities to become further involved with some of these organizations.
Sasha D: Cybersecurity has grown from a handful of employees five years ago – we started with approximately five employees. Our vice president of security has worked to unify Cybersecurity with the numerous Security departments across the company, focusing on a cloud-first approach, and has built relationships with all members of the department. I’ve never had that kind of relationship with a director or VP – it is refreshing.
Trish R: I think what’s more important than a single “AH-HA” moment of inclusivity and diversity is that there is an attitude in our organization that all of our voices matter; so really you could say our organization’s culture is made up of thousands of smaller moments that illustrate a larger inclusive space. Our Cybersecurity teams are truly a community of individuals, where all voices/opinions are heard as we work towards common goals.
As a woman, describe the impact you’re having in your role at SNC.
Cassie C: I think all types of diversity can have a positive impact. Different people bring different ideas and a variety of ideas help us make the best decisions. I hope that the diversity of people in Security and at SNC as a whole continues to increase.
Lindsey C: In the Incident & Response team there are three women. We make up half of the team. This is HUGE because again, if you look at other organizations, it is a male dominated career field. This goes to show you that we certainly can do anything just as well as our wonderful counterparts.
Sasha D: I like to think that I help keep the rest of the guys in line. All joking aside, I’m very meticulous and detail-oriented, try to contribute to Cybersecurity’s objectives and propose goals for the upcoming years.
Trish R: That’s a difficult question to answer, as it’s hard to definitively say; I know that I bring a different perspective to problem-solving in our organization. On a larger scale though, I would like to think that other women who are looking to get in the field (cybersecurity/security operations) would see themselves reflected in me and my female colleagues, and that that would remove any barriers or reservations they have about seeking out a role in Cybersecurity.
What advice would you give other women working at SNC?
Cassie C: I would say this advice is really for anyone at SNC: try different paths, figure out what you love to do, grow the career you want, and be happy! Also, never underestimate the benefits of a good mentor.
Lindsey C: I defer to a quote by Eddie Rickenbacker for this. “Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.” No matter how hard something appears, or how many times you may fail, it is not impossible.
Sasha D: I would say don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. For example, if you see a position in a department that interests you, reach out and talk to the hiring manager or the team. You don’t necessarily need a degree in Computer Science or Cybersecurity to make a career change. A majority of your skills will come from on the job training. You don’t have to be crazy to work in Cybersecurity – we’ll train you.
Trish R: Trailblaze, even if it’s a bit scary; just because you don’t see other women in a job role doesn’t mean you don’t belong there. Who knows, maybe if you do defy a stereotype and take that first leap, it’ll inspire others to join you.
Why is supporting and protecting explorers and heroes important to you?
Cassie C: I have three nieces, they all love learning about the Dream Chaser® spaceplane. The oldest is seven and her life goal is to be an astronaut someday. I love the idea that not only are we contributing to space missions in the near future but we’re also inspiring future generations to pursue STEM careers.
Lindsey C: I know it’s cheesy and incredibly cliché, but I’m a patriot. I love my country and I respect those who defend it.
Sasha D: I have had family serve in the military, but was unable to enlist, so working for an organization that continues to support our military is rewarding.
Trish R: Our explorers and heroes are who make the innovation we do at SNC possible; they’re fundamental to our efforts. It’s important that we ensure there’s nothing inhibiting them from succeeding in their mission, because without them, where would we be?
Security Department Culture
While many SNC employees worked from home at the start of COVID-19, it seemed like Cybersecurity made an effort to keep culture alive. What are some of the things your department did to have fun while working from home?
Cassie C: I joined the team in May, fairly early on in the pandemic. I enjoy the collegial attitude of the team. They try to keep things light-hearted while still getting serious work done. It is certainly an attitude I appreciate.
Lindsey C: The team is very familiar with my love of “Top Gun,” so when someone had notified me that someone had a Top Gun background in their meeting, I decided to take it up a few notches. I grabbed my old flight suit, my old flight helmet, pieces of my husband’s flight simulator (Rudder pedals, joystick, and throttles) and staged my desk like I was flying in an airplane so I would be prepped for our meeting. Of course, our meeting ended up being cancelled because of a high priority tasking so I just took a picture and sent it in lieu of our meeting. (I think Sasha will surprise us at one of our next meetings in her T-Rex costume.) We try to make things as fun as we can, and when we can’t, there’s some good dad jokes that pop up.
In the office we have two Navy vets and since I’m relocated at the Naval War College for my husband’s assignment, I am given “homework” so I can get up to speed with Navy terms pretty quickly (You would be surprised how different Navy terms are from the Air Force!). They are usually impromptu, which makes it more fun!
Sasha D: To be honest, nothing has really changed since COVID-19. Cybersecurity continues to leverage team chat and video calls to stay connected. Although most of our colleagues work in the Sparks, Nevada office, we do have teammates working from Colorado and the East Coast.
Trish R: We’re a pretty close team and use Microsoft Teams daily to keep in touch, using both the chat and conference call functionality. I think we all try to keep things fresh and fun, and it’s led to some shenanigans on calls (Lindsey in her flight suit, I think Sasha changed her virtual background to the Swiss Alps once).
Interested in joining the Sierra Nevada Corporation team? Apply today at sncorp.com/careers.