For the latest edition of Life @ Netskope, we sat down to chat with Ally Frame, a senior analyst for the Netskope security operations center (SOC) in St. Louis, who has been with Netskope since September 2021. We talked with Ally about how she best describes working in the Netskope SOC, the most exciting aspects about her future with Netskope, and the importance of building community to empower other women in cybersecurity. Here’s our conversation:
Can you tell me how you generally describe what you do in your role to friends and family?
I usually tell them that I’m part of a security operations center, but a lot of them are still confused. “So, you’re good at computers, and you like protect them?” And yes, I do, but it’s more than just that. It’s really looking out for the company and trying to look at all the nooks and crannies to figure out if there’s something weird going on. Is this system acting weird today, or is that completely normal activity? It’s a bit like playing iSpy but you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Often you only have a really vague idea. We have our SIEM (security identity and event management) that we use, and have all our logs being ingested there. But we don’t use all of these systems day-to-day, we don’t always know what the logs mean. So, how do we know what they mean and in what context? Because one log can be good one way, but if it happens a different way, like if you add just an extra dash, that could really mess up and really cause issues. Learning these little differences takes a good amount of research too. It’s all about taking in all of this context and synthesizing what is actually the problem here, if there is a problem.
What’s something that excites you about your future career within that Netskope?
Oh, just, where it can go. Everything is so open. I still have no idea where I want to go, whether it be the management route, digging deeper into the technical routes. With my manager, I’ve been pretty open ever since my interview, saying, “Hey, I’m pretty ambitious. I like to get my hands dirty. Please keep me in my lane where I need to be. I don’t want to make you mad or do something outside of my scope.” He recently took a vacation and he was like, “OK, reach out to me for all our issues, but essentially I want you to be the interim manager,” which was great. I’ve also had opportunities to present up to my management team on our team meetings within the first few months, and that relationship goes all the way up to Damian and Lamont. I think I’m pretty young for where I’m at. So there’s an acceptance of young people doing great things at Netskope not being looked down upon. Having all of those opportunities and being supported in them is what really excites me.
Why is building community such an important part of empowering other women in tech, and more specifically in cybersecurity?
In college I was used to being really the only woman in the room. If I was lucky and there may be one other woman in the class of 30. And just seeing that, I was like, “OK, that’s not really fun. There’s not a lot of other women, so what can I do to kind of get women in there?” And one of the reasons I am into tech is because of summer camps that really kind of slingshotted my interest in IT and then security. So I’ve always felt that need to kind of give back. Building a community shows others, “Hey, there is someone like me doing security. It’s not all these nerdy guys with black hoodies that don’t talk to people.” You can go out, speak in front of crowds if that’s really what you want to. You can go to different conferences and speak about your cybersecurity topics. You can write articles, and do things where you’re not sitting behind a screen all the time. Yes, I am technical, but I can do other things. It’s not just the stereotypical hacker type.
What are some ways you’ve helped build this community and spaces to empower other young women in cybersecurity?
One of the ways I was able to give back was to help the Girl Scouts, as they recently came out with a cybersecurity badge. One of the local companies teamed up with my university, and my university asked me since I was captain of the security team to teach my intro to security for some first to fifth graders. I did that for a few years throughout college. Then, after graduating, it kind of became, “OK, like, what do I do now?” I feel like I really lulled my first year of college because I was looking for a mentor and trying to figure out how I can be impactful. Eventually my mentor got me involved with what they call “Cyber Patriots.” One of the local high schools out in Jennings, Missouri had a team which happened to be all high school girls. So they asked me to be part of that to help kind of teach them and help them with their competition, where we could, which was such an amazing experience. Being able to go to different security conferences, I’ve talked with a few other women who are currently in college and they’ve reached out with questions, asking “How can I navigate this world?” My advice is, it’s scary and everyone seems to know the answers, but no one really does. It’s hard not to be afraid of asking that question that might be simple, but you’ve got to start somewhere. No one’s really going to judge you, especially if you’re just coming out of college and it’s your first full time job.