“Ask an Alum” – Physics Student to Identity Security Professional

Sarah Squire is a double alum of University of Washington-Seattle who is currently a Senior Technical Architect for Ping Identity in Seattle. Sarah received her Bachelor of Science in Physics and after six years she returned for a Master of Science in Information Management. She was named one of the top 100 influencers in identity and has spoken on information security at the RSA Conference, Identiverse, and InfoSec World. She has been quoted as an industry expert in The LA Times, Forbes, and Wired. Sarah has also been published in Dark Reading. You can connect with Sarah via LinkedIn by clicking here.

We asked Sarah some questions about her career journey, and what advice she would give to help launch her fellow huskies to success! Here is what Sarah had to say:

Why did you choose to pursue a career in your field?

“Identity and access management is a niche field of information security that is fascinating and constantly changing – how do we know that people are who they say they are online? How do we get them to prove their identity without annoying them? What do we do when we find an attacker – shut out their access, or give them a sandbox to play in where we can observe their behavior without letting them into critical systems? There are lots of new possibilities in identity and access management that involve machine learning and artificial intelligence as well. We’re just starting to scratch the surface of the potential those technologies have to solve many problems in our field. This is the best time to have a career in this industry.”

How is your current career the same or different than what you thought it would be when you began college?

“I had planned to be an aero/astro engineer because the physics of rockets and planes is super fascinating, but my side hobby of coding turned out to be much more in-demand in the workplace. I was a software engineer for many years before I got recruited onto the identity and access management team at UW-IT. I absolutely loved the field of identity and access management. I learned everything about it, and I’ve never looked back.”

What is something you wish you knew about finding a career while you were an undergrad?

“Job duties are not set in stone. In many cases, I ended up helping the organizations that hired me with much more complex tasks than I was hired to do. After I had proven my worth, I asked for a raise and a title change. There’s no shame in taking entry-level positions – they will get your foot in the door.”

What advice do you have for current students looking at stepping into your career path?

“Do it! Information security is an incredibly rewarding field. If you’re the sort of person who likes to solve puzzles and constantly learn new things, you should absolutely check out information security. We can’t find enough people to fill the positions open in this field.”

What are top skills your industry is looking for in new hires?

“Being able to learn is critical in my field. The security concerns that were a top priority five years ago have all been solved. We need people who can keep up with a very quickly changing field. We also need people who think in unusual ways – finding security vulnerabilities requires new and different ways of attacking that no one has thought of before.”

What aspects of the culture at your company or place of work do you appreciate?

“I split my time about 50/50 working from home and traveling. I get quiet time by myself to do research and analysis, read, write, think, and code. And then I get to travel all over the world and give talks, attend seminars, whiteboard with customers, volunteer in industry organizations, help with setting industry standards, and meet with my peers. This year I’ve been all over the US and Canada as well as the UK, Australia, and Indonesia.”

 

By Izzy Wroblewski
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