From Baseball to Security
Lindsey is an experienced Senior Quality Assurance Specialist at Imprivata with an interesting path to security. She channeled her passion for sports into the classroom and then the business world to ensure the software that her company builds is reliable and secure.
Q: The technology field wasn’t on your radar early on, was it?
Lindsey: No. For the first 14 years of my existence, honestly, I’d dreamed of playing professional baseball. Not only was I among the top pitchers in the league at the time, but I became the first female to hit an out-of-the-park home run (in the history of that field anyway.) But when in high school, coaches told me I’d have to start playing JV softball – as the catcher – I took my squelched spirit and started focusing my efforts inside the classroom.
Q: How did you get into technology and security?
Lindsey: My mom had been teaching high school math for decades and had recently taken on teaching a few programming classes. At first, I saw this as an opportunity to visit the computer lab for laid back study periods, but it quickly turned into piqued interest as I started to comprehend what the students were doing. One of them was even designing his own character sprites for an adventure game he’d been working on. I instantly knew that I had to learn more. In addition to signing up for the course on the spot, I spent more time with those classmates outside of school in an attempt to absorb all that I could – including how their scripts were being used in the wild… and by “the wild” I mean the machines on display in the local department stores’ computer sections. This was about when I first noticed that security was clearly necessary as well as severely overlooked.
So I took that intrigue, ran with it, and ended up studying Computer Science at WPI. Out of everything that I’d been taught, my main takeaway was that I didn’t want to be a developer. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant I would end up doing, but for the time being, I started out in technical support for a functional testing and load testing tool suite. Soon after, the mountain of student loan debt made its way to me, which just resulted in taking on additional jobs – a few night shifts at a nearby Starbucks, along with weekends at a local gas station. I spent nearly every free moment I had working, and the rare waking moments that remained were spent playing World of Warcraft. I was living the dream, right?
The daily grind was unending and the toll it was taking on me was unsustainable, to the point where my real-life friends even took notice. That’s when we started talking about a trip to NYC for a hacker convention. The 5th HOPE took place in July of 2004, and while it was the first convention I’d ever attended, I knew the moment I arrived that it wouldn’t be the last. I came away from the long weekend feeling excited, but also a bit uneasy. I had just dived headfirst into this whole other world of information and danger that extended far beyond some school-aged kids running scripts on department store display PCs. When the opportunity arose to go back for The Last HOPE in 2008, I jumped on it, and came away feeling even more curious than before! The hackers I heard speak seemed to have such extensive collections of tools and skills in their various (and sometimes nefarious) tool belts, but I still had no idea where I came in or where I should start.
By then though, I’d made some professional headway as a manual quality engineer and was starting to become more family-focused in the off-hours. Between 2010 and 2016 I got married and had kids. This resulted in very little spare time (and very little energy) left to delve into personal interests, let alone professional development. It wasn’t until about a year ago that the stars aligned, and things started to change a bit.
Q: What got you interested in hands-on hacking? Were you intimidated?
Lindsey: I’d been working for Imprivata for a little over a year when a small group of us were invited to attend one of Security Innovation’s CMD+CTRL events downtown. I immediately volunteered as I presumed it would be a fun time, as well as a good learning experience. I performed adequately at best, but a tiny spark fired off in me anyway. Shortly after the event, I received an email stating that only 11% of the security workforce are women. My brain transported me back to high school baseball try-outs – I was already feeling inspired to pursue security, but for the sake of every girl who was told that the minor leagues were their ceiling, I felt it was my duty to bump this sad sorry percentage up some.
I made it my mission to attend more events like this. With Security Innovation’s and Imprivata’s powers combined, I got approval to attend Def Con 27 along with 14 other women. For 6 days in August, I immersed myself in as much security culture and healthcare-related content as was humanly possible. While hospitals and their data are often targets of attacks, I was pleased to learn that there’s a sort of “do no harm” code of conduct that most/some hackers adhere to. I came away from this convention with a renewed sense of purpose, along with a laundry list of terms to read up on and tools to learn. Since the convention, we’ve started taking proactive measures by assembling a security-focused team, which I’ve become a part of. Security Innovation opened its coursework to us to help in this endeavor, which has been incredibly helpful. Add to that, our QA group is partaking in a 10-week Python workshop, which I am sure will help me to absorb even more down the line.
Q: What is next for you in the security space?
Lindsey: While these seem like great places to start, my biggest struggle is with how incredibly vast the world of security is. Even if I were to complete all the coursework and master Python, I worry that it won’t be clear “what’s next” or what to do with what I’ve learned so far. I am confident though, that as I continue to learn, my professional curiosity and personal ambitions to break barriers will answer that question. With my enthusiasm for security always increasing, and with Imprivata’s continued support, I’m sure the answer will lead me to future conventions where I can learn about new technologies, along with their vulnerabilities, in order to fuel my growing interests and learn how best to apply them.