Career Notes 2.5.23
Ep 135 | 2.5.23

Yasmin Abdi: Find your community. [Security Engineer]


Yasmin Abdi: My name is Yasmin Abdi and I am a Security Engineering Manager at Snap, and I'm also the CEO and Founder of NoHack.

Yasmin Abdi: When I was younger, I always saw myself as becoming a criminal judge or, uh, something in the criminal justice field. I was super fascinated by crime and law and so I think for me back then, that was probably one of the things that I saw myself becoming.

Yasmin Abdi: I was really interested in the intersection and the interlap of cybersecurity and crime and law. Um, as you know, crime is becoming more and more regular to be committed online rather than in person. So for me, it was really the intersection of cybersecurity and crime and law during high school and really when I started off in college figuring out what exactly it was that I wanted to study, all I knew is like, oh, I really like crime. I really like law, and like I'm really good in technology. So really finding that overlap between those two is what I was thinking about in my early days.

Yasmin Abdi: I took my first class in high school and then continued at the University of Maryland where I studied computer science with a focus in cybersecurity and I actually minored in technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation so, during my time at the University of Maryland, I really, really, really got to know the, the computer science background and the research and really understanding like the binary zero and ones of how a computer works and I, uh, just fell in love with it, fell in love with everything computer science, uh, had to show and really got my hands dirty then.

Yasmin Abdi: At my time in Maryland, I was able to have the opportunity to intern at the biggest tech companies. Um, my first summer I interned at Snapchat and learned everything from command line terminal, GitHub, like really the basics of software engineering and how, how all that works. Then I actually was able to intern at Google. Uh, Google was great, and then I interned at Facebook. So I really had a plethora of a internship experiences while still in school. All of them were software engineering, but my second internship at Snap really had the security aspect and security composure of what I wanted to do. So I was working on, uh, taking down bad content, uh, as fast as possible. So at Snap, as you're familiar, people can post any sorts of things that they want. It's a public company and you can post public to your story. So there are bad people in the world that post bad things. And my team was really in charge of platform integrity. And what that means is to really upkeep the integrity of the company and of, of the users on the platform. So I was tasked to help take down that bad content and I really enjoyed that experience as my second internship. 

Yasmin Abdi: That was, uh, my first job out of college and I was a software engineer for two years, helping take down bad content. Then I actually noticed that, hey, I, I kind of wanna get more of hands-on security and privacy experience. So I, uh, took it upon myself to create this new team, the access control, access employee management team, and really answer bigger questions within the company in terms of security and privacy. So, hence what I do now, um, I lead our access control management team in really trying to make sure that employees only have the appropriate data that they need for their workflow and they don't have over provisioning of data and, uh, all things related to access and identity management.

Yasmin Abdi: I think for adversary, um, I really try to think about the bigger picture and the goals that we have and understanding that yeah, there will be some hard times and there will be hard days that happen, but just knowing that in the bigger picture, in the grand scheme of things, just taking that one step forward and pushing in the direction and just always understanding that there will be times that will be hard. There will be days or even sometimes weeks that you might not be sure what's happening next, or you might not be sure of the next right thing to do or the next answer to have, so just letting yourself, uh, acknowledge that and being kinder to yourself and giving yourself that space and that time to, to, to resonate with that, I think for me has kind of helped me move forward and still listen to and acknowledge the goals that we have. 

Yasmin Abdi: One of my biggest passions is actually giving back and helping young minority kids and not even kids, sometimes anyone at any age get their first job in tech or their first job in cybersecurity. So it really resonates with me and what keeps me going and, uh, puts a smile on my face, actually brings me joy. I laugh sometimes and I say, if there was a lucrative position in mentorship, I would definitely take that and I hopefully when I retire, I can just spend all of my time doing that stuff. I had such great mentors in my life and always pay it forward. Um, and would love to, uh, help as many young minority kids, and honestly anyone that's looking to, to get into this field.

Yasmin Abdi: I would say my biggest piece of advice for the next generation is really form a community of like-minded people. People that you can bounce ideas off of, people that can help support you when times are low. Find mentors, find people that you aspire to be like, and really find that community of people and I would also say if you are trying to break into tech or break into cybersecurity, get really good at one or two things. Become the subject matter expert at one or two things. Cause cybersecurity is such a huge field, technology's even bigger. So trying to learn it all in one or two months or one or two years and get overwhelmed, I know that speaking to my younger self. And my second piece would be get really good at one or two things. I chose cyber and even that is too broad of thing. So I chose access management, identity management to get really good at, so that would be my two pieces of advice.

Yasmin Abdi: I think one thing that I would wanna leave off with is what people would remember me by. Um, and I really want people to remember me by, uh, making people feel safe online. So my cyber security mention is to really just help guide people and give them the tools and give them the opportunities to help them have a safer online presence. So, really always rotating and changing your passwords, enabling MFA and two FA on your devices and just overall having really good personal hygiene online and protecting your data is really important.