Career Notes 10.22.23
Ep 172 | 10.22.23

Jennifer Reed: Balance the gender scales. [Principal]


Jennifer Reed: Hi, I am Jennifer Reed, and I am a Principal Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services.

Jennifer Reed: When I was in the second grade, uh, we had a career day, and I wanted to be President of the United States. I remember getting my dad's briefcase, and trying to dress up fancy and the reason was, was that, uh, I really wanted to help people and make things better. So later I found out that isn't always what the president gets to do, it's much more complicated than that. Then from that, uh, you know, when I went out of high school, I actually joined the Marine Corps, which kind of helps people, uh, you know, uh, to protect the country and with that, I learned how to program and got my first exposure to security.

Jennifer Reed: A couple of weeks after I graduated, uh, high school, went right into Marine Corps training at Parris Island. I think that the shocking part is the shocking part for everyone. It was when I got out into the fleet and every single place that I went, I was the only woman. Uh, became very, very challenging because that often had baggage associated with it, where there might have been someone before you who had gotten away with something, that they wanted to make sure that you wouldn't, so you're often punished because of the actions of someone else other than you, because you're just kind of categorized as, well, you're a woman, so I'm going to punish you because I couldn't punish that other person who got away with something, so that was a little challenging. At the same time, I'm a person that really loves the technology. So I really loved learning how to troubleshoot things and figuring out how software worked regardless of if it was something I was formerly trained to do and that's where I spend a lot of my time because there was a lot of evolution from the late nineties, uh, moving forward into, you know, uh, the two thousands.

Jennifer Reed: When I was in the Marine Corps, when I went to the Marine Corps imagery support unit, I had a great CO, and, uh, he gave me unreasonable tasks, uh, according to my gunnery sergeant, to actually learn how to, uh, fix something that I had no training to do. Then if I figured it out, then he would send me to training. And so he sent me to, uh, to do network security training, Cisco training, at that time, Sun Microsystems, uh, training, Java training, SQL training, all of it. And so when, uh, I was getting out in 2000, that was a perfect time to actually, um, leverage those skills, uh, in outside of the Marine Corps and so, because I'd had such a hard time dealing with my first duty station, uh, in Okinawa, where, uh, it really didn't matter about how well I did. I had a non commissioned officer that believed that women didn't belong in the military, and so I'd always get the lowest proficiency in conduct marks. When I went to my next duty station, it was like night and day better, but you can never be sure that the next one wouldn't be like that first one and so if you sign up for a contract, it would be another three or four years, and I just didn't want to take on, uh, that risk.

Jennifer Reed: I decided to take my chances, uh, in the commercial space, and so I got out and did, uh, programming. Um, I did some COBOL conversion to Java as a consultant, which I had to teach myself, and then around the time the dot com bubble burst right before, I actually started working, um, in the financial services industry doing systems engineering, which was great fun. So we got to play around with technology that, um, a lot of ISVs and startups were pitching to, um, a lot of the brokers and we get to see how it broke, uh, as well as if it's something we wanted to use. So that was very interesting and learning how, um, to secure those environments, but also learning how to performance test and seeing how we could make something fail.

Jennifer Reed: Later that just kind of evolved, uh, you know, into going back. I got called up in, uh, 2003 for the, uh, lead up to the, um, war in Iraq and so I got called back up a little interruption in the career path, uh, to report to active duty again for the liberation, um, and enduring freedom. Then when I got out again, I went to be a consultant to help lead, um, a fortune 500 company with their governed migration, uh, into AWS of all places and cause at that point, I, you know, from my. Uh, application development background, I knew you could deploy everything into AWS without having to use the console, everything scripted and, uh, from that, then I was recruited to be a CISO of an ISV and so because I had that experience, both on a system engineering, but also software development and, um understanding, uh, data analysis and data privacy really helped when I stepped into that role as a CISO to really understand how all of those different things come together to really understand the risk, uh, to help our, um, our software that we were deploying meet our requirements of our customers, but improve that security posture.

Jennifer Reed: When I was a CISO, I was speaking with a group and they're, they, you know, what I tried to get across to them was don't do it because it's your job to protect this, the company's IP or to, uh, reduce the number of vulnerabilities, do it because the fact that your software that you're deploying is a line of defense to protect your grandparents data, your aunt's data, your mother's data, people that won't be able to get their identities back, uh, because they don't understand what happened. So whether you're developing, um, networks, uh, software, whether you're developing application software, uh, whether you're developing something that might be a, um, a video telco type of software, each of those could be a part of a supply chain. You could actually protect people better as just an absent team member, uh, helping protecting people's data then sometimes, um, uh, a policymaker might be able to do in a government role.

Jennifer Reed: I do feel, um, good about the things I've overcome, but I also don't want it to be so hard for the next person, if that makes sense. I don't want them to have to have those same struggles to kind of overcome any perceptions that someone might have due to their their gender or their background. You know, what we can do to really help people uh, not face those kind of, uh, barriers I think is incumbent upon us all.