Career Notes 3.14.21
Ep 40 | 3.14.21

Dinah Davis: Building your network. [R&D]


Dinah Davis: My name is Dinah Davis and I am the VP of R&D at Arctic Wolf Networks.

Dinah Davis: I really, in high school, I just really liked math a lot. I really enjoyed it. I took all the advanced level courses and I didn't really know what to do with that. So I went to the career counselor at my school and I said, you know, I'm I'm really good at math. I really like it. I don't know what to do. And and he said, well, you should be a math teacher. And 17 year old self was pretty naive and thought, OK, I guess that's what I should do. So I went off to university to become a math teacher.

Dinah Davis: And at that point I was like, well, now I really don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just getting a math degree here. But as it happened in my third year of university, I took my first computing course and within two or three classes of that first class, I was like, oh, this is amazing. I'm like I love this. And so I ended up working for the Canadian government and that was my introduction to cryptography. And as it happens, the job was to implement the Bluetooth protocol in C++ for the research team so they could evaluate it as part of AES to see if it was secure or not. So for me, I just found that security and cryptography specifically was this perfect mix of real world problem solving and mathematics and computer science all combined into one ball of happiness. And so that really kicked off my trajectory into more security focused career.

Dinah Davis: I went back to university to finish my last year, and so I did my master's in cryptography, but then I was, you know, looking for a job in 2001 or 2002. It wasn't a good time to look for a job in tech was right after the bubble had burst. And I was having such a hard time finding finding a job. But I had gone to a little security conference in the summertime and I had met some people from BlackBerry. And that was exciting because BlackBerry was, you know, not even quite a big thing yet in at that time. So for the next eight years, I worked on the bleeding edge of mobile security at BlackBerry, on the security team, and it was amazing. It was an amazing ride. I am so glad I got to do that.

Dinah Davis: I had gone to a it's called Think About Math, and it's this program that the University of Waterloo runs for girls in grade nine and they bring them in and they and they have them meet all these women who have graduated with math degrees. And when we talk to them about, you know, what we actually do as a job to to show them what kind of careers they could have. And while I was there, I met a lady named Kim Trombley and her title was VP of R&D. And right before the event kind of started, I ran up to her and I said, "Kim, I want to talk to you after this. Don't leave, OK? Because I want to do what you do someday. So I would really like to talk to you about how you got there." And as it turned out, like maybe two or three weeks later, we we had a lunch and she convinced me to come work for her, where I then got to run the whole R&D team for her. And I am now the VP of R&D at Arctic Wolf. So it was amazing, right? Had I not had that meeting, you know, who knows where I would be? Probably still doing something interesting, but it's all about getting out there in and not being shy to talk to people. Right? And building your network. It's also why I do everything I can to connect people as much as I can, because I know how valuable it was for me in my career that I just, you know, giving people the intro. You don't have to do a lot for them. You just have to give them the intro to the next spot. And then they can they can do what they can do. Right?

Dinah Davis: You don't need to know how to code to get into security. Sure, it'll help you. It's going to give you, again, like you're saying, a different perspective as you come in. But there's so many things and so many easy starts to go into it. Right. So oftentimes you can get like a library card and then get LinkedIn Learning and you can start taking courses from LinkedIn that way. There's so many courses online. My favorite thing to tell people is to just start listening to the podcasts because it's the easiest thing to do and it starts to immerse yourself in that world and you'll start to see which stories that come out on these podcasts you get more most interested in. Right. Which might point you to the direction of of where in cybersecurity you want to go. So I think there's a lot of entry level positions that people can can come in to. And we have such a deficit in, you know, having enough talent to fill all these roles. I think it's an amazing opportunity. Imposter syndrome is just that a syndrome. And, you know, I would often feel like I wasn't quite good enough because I had two math degrees and not a computer science degree. Right? That I didn't know computer science as well as everyone else that I was working with. But I just brought that different perspective. I knew how to code, but I also had all this great rich experience in cybersecurity that many of my coworkers didn't have at the time. So I think it's really just believing in yourself and and going going for it. Right. Go for what you believe in.