Conversations with Cyber Security Professionals
eLearnSecurity recently sat down with Chloé Messdaghi, discussing her journey from business consultant to cyber security professional.
Chloe is the VP of strategy at Point Three Security. She is a security research advocate who strongly believes that information security is a humanitarian issue. Besides her passion to keep people safe and empowered both on and offline, she is driven to fight for hacker rights. She’s the founder of WomenHackerz and the president and cofounder of Women of Security and heads the San Francisco Bay area chapter.
Like so many others who are interested in a career in cyber security, Chloé showed an interest in technology at an early age then was curious about how cyber crime fit into her university studies on terrorism.
Unfortunately, like many women, Chloé was initially ignored. “I think the first time I realized that I want to be in the (hacker) community was probably when I was in the sixth grade,” she said. “I was in a computer class and I remember going up to my instructor saying, I want to learn what hackers do. Can you show me? And he’s like, Oh, that’s so cute, but that’s for boys.”
Fighting Discrimination in the InfoSec Community
After Chloé joined her first cyber security firm, she quickly used her research background to immerse herself in the security world. Yet she still faced discrimination that would attempt to define her career:
“When I first started, I just didn’t know that I was dealing with discrimination here and there. So, if I would go to a meeting, I would be treated differently. If I was in a boardroom, I’d be treated differently. For example, if you’re in a room and you bring up a thought or an idea, everyone ignores it until the male says the exact same line and they applaud it.”
Navigating Discrimination and Abuse
Chloé hears weekly from women in cyber security who have been discriminated against or sexually assaulted by their superiors. They are confused about how to navigate chain of command and human resources after such experiences.
People who are sexually assaulted “go to HR on their own to tell someone and within a couple of weeks they are let go from their job. And what happens is they go through their Slack, they go through their emails, they try to prove that that person wasn’t capable of doing their job. And so, then what happens is that when you’re getting fired, people sign that NDA.”
Facing Discrimination Together
While women face discrimination in male-dominated industries like cyber security every day, Chloé wants everyone to know they have support, and there are groups who are willing to help. That’s one reason she started WomenHackerz and Women of Security have chapters around the world and offer spaces where women can share their stories and learn from the experiences of others.