This past weekend, I was at the Women in Cybersecurity Summit in Dallas, TX, both recruiting for my company and copresenting a workshop on web application penetration testing. It was a real eye-opening event for me, mostly because it was the first security event I’ve attended where the bulk of the attendees were students or faculty. I had a great time and met a lot of interesting people, and it’s a very small event, which is something I’m not terribly used to, since I usually go to bigger events.

Talking with undergraduates was particularly inspiring – when I was an undergraduate, there weren’t programs at major universities focusing on information security like there are today. (Even if they insist on calling it “cybersecurity” for marketing reasons.) So many of the undergraduates (and graduates!) had a passion that you don’t see even in a lot of working progressionals, whose cynicism dominates their view of the industry. Also amazing is the level of research and innovation being done by undergraduates. I did some research as an undergraduate, and I know how exciting that can be, so I’m glad to hear of the undergraduates who are getting that opportunity. One student told me about her projects involving machine learning and insider threats, which just blew my mind. I was ecstatic to hear when other students mentioned doing research into censorship and mass surveillance – it’s critical that we get more people, especially upcoming professionals, thinking and working about these key issues.

I’m also hopeful to see more diversity in the security industry: diversity helps prevent group think, helps innovation, and ultimately brings more to the table. Though this conference was definitely light on the tech (compared to what I normally attend), I’m glad to see it succeeding and I hope to see the fruits of its labor next time I’m at another conference.