Tetra Defense values a well-rounded approach when it comes to cybersecurity. Preparing for cyberattacks, strengthening defenses, and responding to incidents are all important separately, but they are far more effective when combined. To that effect, we learn from Amanda Robinson, Software Engineer, as she describes her journey to programming with a security focus.
“Classes are important, but joining clubs and branching out to other contexts within cybersecurity is what helps you gain hands-on experience, no matter your grade level.”
How did your career begin?
I knew in high school that I was interested in working with computers. Going into college, I gravitated towards the fields of engineering and computer science, completing as many pre-reqs as I could for both. By my second semester in school, I knew that computer science was the right path for me. Something that really helped solidify this specific career path for was the jobs I had in college. I was lucky and I gained really relevant experience as a student while working at the campus’ tech store and fixing computers. From there, I met IT teams from the University of Wisconsin — Madison and honed my interest in cybersecurity. About two years into my own schooling, I noticed a job posting within cybersecurity to truly explore other facets of this field.
What first piqued your interest in cybersecurity?
I had had an interest in security since high school as well. Looking back, I considered other aspects of computer science, but I knew security would be the best vehicle for learning the “most” about this field. My understanding of security is that it is only effective when you know how all technical concepts play together, and I wanted to keep this over-arching understanding in mind during my studies. Luckily, through an internship towards the last half of my schooling, I worked on Incident Response and SOC teams that showed me what my strengths / weaknesses, interests / abilities were. Security is a broad field, which has always been appealing to me, and now that I can focus on development within security, I feel I’ve found a good fit.
What is an average day like for you?
An average day is just working through tickets or ongoing projects, and some weeks vary. Some weeks I can stay really focused on one project in particular, and other times there’s room for collaboration, which gives me a nice variety. Compared to our Digital Forensics & Incident Response (DFIR) teammates, I’d say there’s usually less urgency, but still important work to be done to support them. With development, projects take the time that they take, and problems are solved and time is saved through being able to collaborate with everyone under one “roof.”
How does your team interact in relation to others?
I’ve had a good amount of collaboration with our DFIR team, which I definitely think is a good thing. It’s really nice that my teammates from DFIR know they can come to me when they need development assistance, and it also gives me a window into how they need to use what we build. It’s something I really enjoy since I can see exactly how what I’m doing connects to a larger picture for the rest of my teammates, too.
Any advice for aspiring cybersecurity professionals?
It can be really daunting to find a focus within cyber. There’s a lot to consider as a student, and you’re often at the mercy of whatever school or whatever curriculum you’re exposed to. My best advice is to keep two things in mind: “What are the actual classes I’m taking?” and “What do I enjoy doing?” Being sure to sign up for the classes that interest you is important, but students shouldn’t be too hard on themselves to take every class of every domain under the sun. Join clubs, find your own way to get experience, and connect with other fields like business or engineering if they speak to you within the context of cybersecurity. It will help you not only bulk up a resume, but also gain insights early on into what you’re good at, what interests you, and what experience you’ve gained. If you’re a student, always look to other resources outside of your set curriculum to find what you like.
A non-work related question: What do you do in your free time?
I try to stay away from screens when I’m not working. My typical activities these days are running, spending time outside, and cooking. I generally focus on non-work things when I’m not working. Something I’ve really liked about Tetra from the beginning is how a work/life balance is a priority, even as our jobs change every day.