Career Notes 10.30.22
Ep 123 | 10.30.22

Jenny Brinkley: A cybersecurity rollercoaster. [Security]


Jenny Brinkley: Hello, my name is Jenny Brinkley and I'm a Director in Amazon Security.

Jenny Brinkley: I've always had this weird, righteous streak in me, so there's always been this sense of how can I help and what can I do? I think so much of it was just trying to make those around me better. I grew up with parents telling me I could be anything and I've always been so thankful for that. I'm sure it's also has driven people around me crazy. Cause I'll come back and say, no, we can do this and so there's this element of having parents that give you that philosophy of daring greatly and like bleeding into the edges that you can't believe that you'd be able to bleed into or work into or dare to dream and when I get into those spaces and I get into those moments, it really pushes me to really tackle things without fear and, and creating a lot of safe spaces for people around me to try and do their best work as well and that really has, has been prolific throughout my career.

Jenny Brinkley: I've been doing a lot of self-reflection lately on how I got here and when I first started, so much of my background was really serendipitous. I would find myself in situations where no one had done the job before. No one, nothing had really existed like it before, and I was this unusual creature that could bring together, thinking big, communication strategies, and trying to connect people to do things and believe it or not, like one of my first jobs was actually working for a property, um, based out in the Pacific Northwest where I live called McMenamins. Um, they developed these properties that have everything from breweries, and wineries, and distilleries, and hotels, and movie theaters, and really created these spaces where people could come and experience getting a beer in a very different and I continued to move through roles where I could bring together what I care deeply about, which is people, their experiences and how, how you connect them.

Jenny Brinkley: So technology started seeping in more and more as I started going through the course of my career where I started seeing ways of how technology could be leveraged and used and a big part of that was working on how technology was actually being implemented in retail environments. I did a lot of that work actually, um, in partnership with Nike, within their retail spaces. So being able to build out the infrastructure to manage and distribute a lot of that content was something that I completely had to learn on the fly. So I had to context switch a lot, um, but it ultimately got me to this place where I was able to work with up and coming technology just in time information, while also thinking through all the different dependencies around it and when I got into security, I mean, I completely fell into this space, if you had told me 10 years ago I'd be doing what I'm doing today, I wouldn't believe you.

Jenny Brinkley: So prior to joining AWS, I had the opportunity to co-found a cybersecurity startup and you know, again, talk about serendipitous opportunities. So when we started the company, I did everything but code. So, you know, raising money, working with customers, working with our board of directors, like everything you could think of of what was involved. And after 18 months, we had, uh, really great traction in the market and had started talking to AWS about the possibility of being a strategic investor and as we started talking, more and more realized, there was just a really awesome partnership that could be had. So it's been about six and a half years. Um, we sold the company to AWS and I first came on board working in products and then made the change to actually look at our compliance space cuz it felt that there was so much opportunity to really learn about how do you make compliance easier for customers. And then quickly started realizing the marriage between compliance and security and privacy really needed some thoughtful ways of how you can engage and build not only communication, strategy but also programs for both internally and externally to really explain how people should perceive security and compliance at the type of scale that we were talking about at AWS. 

Jenny Brinkley: I've had people give me feedback before where like, you have sold a company to AWS. There's a lot of people that can't say that, and I think that there's a line in a Rihanna song with Paul McCartney and Kanye West that I play back in my head from time to time about us seeking kindness for weakness. I think that we're living in such an interesting time where empathy, kindness, compassion, honesty, partnership in the security space, I mean, heck for any industry, but really for security and cyber security roles today, it's, it's the life blood and to be underestimated, especially as a female or because, you know, my background doesn't follow a cookie cutter pattern of what individuals think of when they think of individuals in security roles. We're changing it and we're changing it because of, of the dynamic nature of where we are in the world today. I think in an industry that is met with, you do this, this horrible thing is gonna happen to you, that sometimes doesn't align. And so I really wanna change that dynamic and change the way that people really do perceive security as not only just a business enabler, but some, a team that's there to really help and be this department of yes and that's where you get to see a lot of the excitement and the joy that comes out of this job.

Jenny Brinkley: I think that the roles within security today are evolving and changing daily. So I think my advice is, you know, think about your own experiences as you're trying to create and build. Where are those points of friction? How would you solve it? How would you change it? And that could be from being on the front lines of teams that are building and creating those technologies and services and, and managing them or it could be something a little deeper in the stack. When I talk to candidates that are considering AWS for roles, I talk about this place being a rollercoaster. I mean, my highs are my highs, my lows are my lows and what I love about that is it's completely unpredictable about what the day's gonna bring and when you have those moments where you're riding those highs, I always try to bank some of that magic to remind myself on the days where it's not so great, but I also, during this pandemic, have picked up cold water surfing and the reason why I did it was for, for a couple of ways for me just to get away from being connected. I think when you're in a security role, you're always waiting for that next page, waiting for that next slack, it's like this adrenaline hit and I had to figure out ways to get other adrenaline that that got me away from a device. 

Jenny Brinkley: If you think about the scale of the responsibility of what we need to support, so much of it is these like little iterative pilots. And so I would really wanna be remembered as someone that created opportunities for people to try new things while at the same time felt that there was a nice landing spot on the other side, but really could push to make security an equal partner at the beginning of a conversation because I think right now when people are dreaming, they think of security as this blocker in the background without realizing that if you start in the beginning with security as that point of view, there is a lot actually that you can move even faster and so it, it's probably a little bit of both, like creating those areas of experimentation and also having security be front and center at the beginning of any conversation when you're starting to try something unique and different.