Leah Figueroa: Wednesday’s Woman in Infosec

Written by - December 20, 2017
leah figueroa

Leah Figueroa is a 14 year veteran of the data analytics field and works at Gravwell as Lead Data Engineer. She holds a Master’s in Education, almost completed a Ph.D. in research psychology, and has taught kindergarten. A data aficionado, Leah enjoys working in various areas of data, while still remaining passionate about her crusade to improve student data security.  Leah also enjoys being a fiber artist (knitter) and loves cats, InfoSec, picking locks, cooking, and reading.

If you had to choose one event that led you to work in information security, what would it be and why?

Leah Figueroa: I’ve always been interested in the intersection of information security and data analytics. The one thing is when I was working in San Antonio in geriatric research trials. I had gone through all this HIPAA training to make sure data was secure, but I realized people were throwing out so much data or providing access to it without even seeming to care. I knew I had to do something.

Why do you like working in the information security environment?

Leah Figueroa: I love learning, however cliche that might sound, and working in an environment such as this keeps me on my toes. I’m always learning from someone. Infosec is a never-ending set of challenges, which is exciting for me.

If a n00b to the infosec world asked you for a piece of advice, what would it be?

Leah Figueroa: Keep asking questions. Sometimes, I know those questions feel stupid or silly, but in all reality, asking is how we learn. In infosec, the day you stop asking questions is the day you stop learning and that spell disaster.

What is the most important issue facing professionals in the information security landscape today? Why?

Leah Figueroa: Coming to term with biases. There is a distinct lack of color and gender diversity in infosec.  Times are changing, but it is still slow and it negatively impacts anyone who isn’t the standard infosec person. Infosec is young and is still growing. We need to change the landscape now, not in the future, and we need to do so proactively. Bringing in diversity provides creativity and differing points of views and helps foster an environment that supports continuous learning.  Diversity in an ever-evolving landscape ensures you’re ready for the next threat.

What is the most important issue facing consumers in the information security landscape today? Why?

Leah Figueroa: Complacency. So many breaches happen far beyond the control of the customer and many people feel like there is nothing they can do. It seems easier to just throw one’s hands up and just accept what is happening.  But there are so many things individual consumers can do to protect themselves: password managers, following best practices, like immediately changing passwords on consumer grade IoT devices, etc.

What are your three “guilty pleasures” that have nothing to do with information security?

Leah Figueroa: First, it would have to be bad movies. I enjoy thoroughly awful movies (and great ones, too).  Pauline Kale once said “Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.” I find that to be true.

Second guilty pleasure would be science fiction – I LOVE science fiction. I’ve been spending time in the worlds built by Nnedi Okorafor lately.

Third, riding would have to be a guilty pleasure. I have an M endorsement and ride as often as I can.  The world on two wheels is a magical place.

What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation and why?

Leah Figueroa: Like Water For Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate).  It’s an adaption of the novel of the same name by Laura Esquivel. The movie manages to capture much of the magical realism that makes the novel so satisfying and wonderful.  I’ve read the book and seen the movie many times and it’s always a great indulgence for me. In many Latin cultures, food is a very important part of life (daily life and special events). Growing up as a Cuban American kid in a predominately Mexican American area, this film always reminds me of home and how food culture shapes us.

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