What Defines a Machine Learning-Based Threat Intelligence Platform?

As technology continues to evolve, several trends are staying consistent. First, the volume of data is growing exponentially. Second, human analysts can’t hope to keep up—there just aren’t enough of them and they can’t work fast enough. Third, adversarial attacks that...

Global Privacy Concerns: The World’s Top Five Cities Using Invasive Technology

Cities are expanding their technological reach. Many of their efforts work to increase public protections, such as using GPS tracking to help first responders quickly locate the site of a car accident. But, in the rush for a more secure and technologically advanced...

A Chat with Kelvin Murray: Senior Threat Research Analyst

In a constantly evolving cyber landscape, it’s no simple task to keep up with every new threat that could potentially harm customers. Webroot Senior Threat Research Analyst Kelvin Murray highlighted the volume of threats he and his peers are faced with in our latest...

A Cybersecurity Guide for Digital Nomads

Technology has unlocked a new type of worker, unlike any we have seen before—the digital nomad. Digital nomads are people who use technologies like WiFi, smart devices, and cloud-based applications to work from wherever they please. For some digital nomads, this means...

Cloud Services in the Crosshairs of Cybercrime

It's a familiar story in tech: new technologies and shifting preferences raise new security challenges. One of the most pressing challenges today involves monitoring and securing all of the applications and data currently undergoing a mass migration to public and...

A Chat with Kelvin Murray: Senior Threat Research Analyst

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

In a constantly evolving cyber landscape, it’s no simple task to keep up with every new threat that could potentially harm customers. Webroot Senior Threat Research Analyst Kelvin Murray highlighted the volume of threats he and his peers are faced with in our latest conversation. From finding new threats to answering questions from the press, Kelvin has become a trusted voice in the cybersecurity industry.

What is your favorite part of working as a Senior Threat Research Analyst? 

My favorite part about being a threat researcher is both the thrill of learning about new threats and the satisfaction of knowing that our work directly protects our customers. 

What does a week as a Senior Threat Research Analyst look like? 

My week is all about looking at threat information. Combing through this information helps us find meaningful patterns to make informed analysis and predictions, and to initiate customer protections. It roughly breaks down into three categories. The first would be “top down” customer data like metadata. The data we glean from our customers is very important and a big part of what we do. The interlinking of all our data and the assistance of powerful machine learning is a great benefit to us.  

Next would be “whole file” information, or static file analysis and file testing. This is a slow process but there are times when the absolute certainty and granular detail that this kind of file analysis provides is essential. This isn’t usually part of my week, but I work with some great specialists in this regard.  

Last would be news and reports on the threat landscape in general. Risks anywhere are risks everywhere. Keeping up to date with the latest threats is a big part of what I do. I work with a variety of internal teams and try to advise stakeholders, and sometimes media, on current threats and how Webroot fits in. Twitter is a great tool for staying in the know, but without making a list to filter out the useful bits from the other stuff I follow, I wouldn’t get any work done! 

What skills have you built in this role? 

Customer support taught me a lot in terms of the client, company culture, and dealing with customer requests. By the time I was in business support I was learning the newer console system and more corporate terms. Training on the job was very useful for my move to threat, where I also picked up advanced malware removal (AMR), which is the most hands on you can get with malware and the pain it causes customers. All of that knowledge is now useful to me in my public facing role where I prepare webinars, presentations, interviews, blogs, and press answers about threats in general. 

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career at Webroot so far? 

Learning the no-hands trick on the scooter we have in the office. And of course my promotion to Senior Threat Research Analyst. I have had a lot of different roles in my time here, but I’m glad I went down the path I did in terms of employment. There’s never a dull moment when you are researching criminal news and trends, and surprises are always guaranteed. 

What brought you to Webroot? 

I like to say divine providence. But really I had been travelling around Asia for a few months prior to this job. When I got back home I was totally broke and needed a job. A headhunter called me up out of the blue, and the rest is history.   

Are you involved in anything at Webroot outside of your day to day work? 

Listening, singing and (badly) dancing to music. Dublin is a fantastic place for bands and artists to visit given its proximity to the UK and Europe and the general enthusiasm of concert goers. I do worry that a lot of venues, especially nightclubs, are getting shut down and turned into hotels though. I sing in a choir based out of Trinity College.  

Favorite memory on the job? 

Heading to (the now closed) Mabos social events with my team. The Mabos collective ran workshops and social and cultural events in a run-down warehouse that they lovingly (and voluntarily) converted down in Dublin’s docklands. Funnily enough, that building is now Airbnb’s European headquarters. 

What is your favorite thing about working at Webroot? 

The people that I get to work with. I have made many great friendships in the office and still see previous colleagues socially, even those from five or six years ago.  

What is the hardest thing about being a Senior Threat Research Analyst? 

Prioritizing my time. I can try my hand at a few different areas at work, but if I don’t focus enough on any one thing then nothing gets done. I find everything interesting and that curiosity can get in the way sometimes! 

What is your favorite thing to do in Dublin?  

Trying new restaurants and heading out to gigs. I’d be a millionaire if I didn’t eat out at lunchtime so much. Dublin is full of great places. I like all kinds of gigs from dance to soul to traditional. The Button Factory is one of the coolest venues we have. 

How did you get into the technology field? 

I first become interested in technology through messing with my aunt’s Mac back in the early 90s. There were a lot of cool games on her black and white laptop she brought home from a compucentre she worked in, but the one that sticks in my memory was Shufflepuck Café. My dad always had some crazy pre-Windows machines lying around. Things with cartridges or orange text screens running Norton commander. 

 To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/

Webroot Spotlight: Michael Balloni, Senior Manager of Software Development

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

From recruiting top talent to daily technical leadership, a day-in-the-life of a software engineering is never boring. After chatting with Webroot Senior Manager of Software Development, Michael Balloni, it became even more obvious.  

Michael is working hard to build a robust and efficient team, and is undeniably enthusiastic about every stage of the process. The conversation only got more interesting as we dug into his role and responsibilities. 

What is your favorite part of working as a Senior Manager of Software Development?  

Hiring is my favorite part. Whether we’re sourcing talent on paper, on the phone, or in-person, it’s always fun to see how things evolve, right up to the offer and the day-one lunch. We use an agency called Accolo, and their excellent recruiter, Adam Robles. They have effective screener questions and a scoring system that helps us zero in on good candidates. Given that score and a reasonable resume, we set up a phone call to discuss their claimed skillset. If that goes well, we bring them onsite and treat them like human beings. Finally, we put them to work on the whiteboard with problem solving. 

What does a week as a Senior Manager of Software Development look like? 

I interface with other teams to get big things up and running, like the collaborative Mac DNS Protection project. We marched through our code base to identify which modules would give us the most trouble and to put the porting process through its paces. We picked a module to port and worked through the process of creating the shared codebase and the mechanics thereof. Also, I promote technical leadership through mentoring and setting direction. 

So, what does promoting technical leadership look like? Do you have any criteria for promoting technical leadership? 

Technical leadership involves staying up-to-date on our industry and the technical craft, and sharing that information with the broader team. It also involves staying up-to-date on the development of the products at hand and steering that direction as needed. Most of the time there is no need to change direction, but sometimes there is, and it’s tough to identify. I’ve learned that getting clarification and input should happen before prescribing a fix to what may not be a problem at all. 

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career at Webroot so far? 

Promoting my colleague, Bindu Pillai, to software development manager. She’s my partner in crime, and has been indispensable with the latest round of, you guessed it, hiring! Promoting Bindu to a leadership position gave her delivery teams a capable leader. Bindu was what’s called a Product Owner, the technical and managerial lead of the delivery team. When her teams’ Agile Team Coordinator (who manages the digital resources like bug tracking and documentation, and make sure that developers have the tools they need and nothing blocking them) quit, Bindu took over the responsibility of the ATC. She did so without complaint or friction to the point where she took the loss of an ATC in stride. She delivers product on schedule, and keeps her direct reports productive and well-fed. 

What brought you to Webroot after your last job? 

I had fun working with Webroot’s CTO Hal Lonas in the 2000s at a previous company, so coming to work with him again was a no-brainer. 

How did you get into the technology field? 

I did hard math and physics in high school, which got me into Harvey Mudd College. That’s where I met my wife, and (only) did well at software development.  So here we are. 

What is your favorite thing about working at Webroot? 

Everybody says it, but it’s the people.  All sharp and hardworking and friendly.  We’ve got a good thing here. 

Check out career opportunities at Webroot here: www.webroot.com/careers 

Webroot Culture: Serena Peruzzi Shares Her Side

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Today we chat with Web Analyst Manager Serena Peruzzi. Serena constantly filters through the web to analyze content. Sometimes her position requires looking through difficult material, but other times you can find her traveling, organizing company events, and even gardening!  

See how Serena helps build Webroot’s company culture in this Employee Spotlight.

How did you get into the technology field? 

During my undergrad in Translation and Interpreting 10 years ago, I came to realize how big a role automation and machine translation were going to play in my field. Thus, I decided to beat the trend to the punch and focus my research on Google Translate for my thesis; further on, I completed a master’s degree in Translation Technology, which mixed together traditional translation with state-of-the art localization technologies, and included leveraging on Machine Learning and language pattern recognitions to build automated translation engines. Google Translate pretty much rules the multilingual content scene for the general public, making content in more than 100 languages immediately accessible to the global audience with just one click. Also, a lot of crowdsourced content, for example travel or business reviews on the web, is also localized using machine translation technologies to maximize international reach. Additionally, many large corporations already leverage on customized enterprise machine translation engines to translate manuals and other documentation. There are already technologies allowing to converse in multiple languages in real-time, so there’s virtually no language barriers than cannot be overcome anymore; of course, provided you have an internet connection 

What does a week as a Web Analyst Manager look like? 

I typically have a few one-on-one calls with all remote Web Analysts on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and two team meetings per week, one with the US and one with Sydney. We discuss top issues, upcoming tool updates and feature releases, and use the wisdom of the crowd to find a solution to difficult cases. We use a collaborative Kanban board to track the topics we discuss, so that we can always go back to them or track progress on resolutions. Finally, I work on a number of projects related to training, quality assessments, classification approvals, new implementations, case escalations from the team, and documentation. I also have a few gardening tasks to take care of, keeping the Webroot Threat plants alive is quite an arduous task!  

What have you learned / what skills have you built in this role? 

Customer care, URL threat analysis, and all aspects of people management are among the key skills I learned in the role. It also helped me keep up my passion for foreign languages, especially Spanish and Japanese, since I need to analyze web content from all over the world. 

What is the hardest thing about being a Web Analyst Manager? 

Explaining what a Web Analyst does is quite an arduous task, partially because it is a very complex and multi-faceted role involving analyzing large amounts of online content, but also because it involves, to some extent, evaluating content that may be disturbing or violent in nature, and it can be a difficult sell at times. 

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career at Webroot so far? 

Having helped build a global team of brilliant and enthusiastic minds is perhaps what makes me most proud of being a part of Webroot. The Web Analysts are first and foremost masters of languages and cultures; collectively we speak 12 different languages. The more languages you know, the more confidence you have in analyzing online content from all over the world, bringing different perspectives to the mix. Also, we have another element in common: we all want to make the internet a little safer for our user base. Because of that, building the team has always been an incredibly fun experience. It allows candidates to bring up their unique backgrounds and passions for different cultures and the IT security world in their interviews. 

Does your work allow you to travel a lot? Where are some of the coolest places you have travelled?  

I’ve travelled to San Diego, Colorado and Sydney with Webroot. While I enjoyed all my trips, I do have a weak spot for Australia. I am a big fan of water sports, and Australia offers the best sceneries for surfing and diving. It also hosts some of the most amazing animals I’ve ever seen. I’ll admit that my encounter with a group of Huntsmen in Sydney, despite being harmless spiders, had me run away fast. But when I first met Quokkas (smiling furry animals), they literally melted my heart 

Best career advice you’ve received? 

There’s a saying in Ireland which can be used as an antidote when things don’t go your way, “What’s for you won’t pass you.” I felt particularly close to it when I couldn’t attain a role in the past, as it ultimately led me to a different, extremely satisfactory role surrounded by amazing people. 

Are you involved in anything at Webroot outside of your day to day work? 

Aside from gardening, I’ve given a hand with organizing team-building and social events for Dublin in the past, including Christmas parties, Health Day, mini-golf and bubble football tournaments, and escape room challenges. Since the team is spread across three offices, team events vary based on group size and local amenities. In Ireland, we typically go out for a nice meal once a month, and order in food for celebrations; additionally, there are regular pub sessions with other Webroot teams. We also have office-wide team building activities on a quarterly basis, and/or when we have visitors on-site.  

Favorite memory on the job? 

St Patrick’s Day in the office, when I was in Support, was also a truly fun day. On our lunch break we went to Temple Bar, the very core of St Patrick’s celebrations, hid amongst the mayhem of thousands of party-goers celebrating, and then pinged the US team to spot us on the live street camera, just like in a game of “Where’s Waldo.” 

To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/

A Chat with Kiran Kumar: Webroot Product Director

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

The process of bringing a cybersecurity product to market can be long and tedious, but Kiran Kumar, Product Director at Webroot, loves to oversee all the moving parts. It keeps him on his toes and immersed in the ever-changing world of security technology.

We sat down to chat with Kumar about his #LifeAtWebroot, heard how he got to where he is today, and why he’s loved every minute of his journey.

Tell us about your role as a Product Director.

I’m the product director for our network portfolio of products. This includes Webroot DNS Protection, FlowScape, and our next-gen security solution. I’m also responsible for the overall solutions platform, the next-gen solution we are working on.

What does a typical week look like for you? 

My typical week ranges from working with customers on concept validation or case studies, to presenting at events. I’ll help customers with damage control, provide assurance of the product, or pitch Webroot solutions. I would say that at least 40-50% of my job is working with the engineering team on the next product release. The key is to stay on top of everything and keep my eyes and ears open because it’s the product director’s responsibility to make things happen. You must be able to collect information from different stakeholders, bring it all together, and prioritize. Sometimes no one reports to you, but you still have to bridge the gaps and constantly negotiate, make decisive trade-off decisions, get buy-ins, etc. That’s the key to being a strong product director. I spend time with a lot of people both inside and outside: marketing, sales, sales engineering, customer success, public relations, analyst relations, you name it. It’s a matter of constantly juggling and prioritizing.

What is your favorite part of working as a Product Director?

I enjoy being able to make a difference. Also, the satisfaction of building relationships with all these different groups of people and rallying them to achieve a common goal is really satisfying. You have to take everyone else’s opinion, along with your own, and figure out the best the direction to move in. All of that starts with the product. It’s a key part of every organization. I love seeing all the work that goes into bringing a product to market. The ability to make an impact and visibility into projects is tremendous.

What have you learned in this role? 

I think one of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give, and that I’m continuing to work on myself, is that building relationships is absolutely critical to success. You have to use negotiation skills, persuasion tactics, and figure out how to rally the whole troop. I’d say that’s critical in many areas of business. Also, you need to constantly have a sense of curiosity and willingness to challenge yourself. Good enough is not good enough. Ask questions and take ownership of things. One great thing about Webroot is that everyone is open to questions and collaborating to find answers.

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Director?

The most challenging thing about the job is staying levelheaded. Every day you need to be flexible and willing to adapt because a hundred different things will be thrown your way and you need to be prepared to handle it. You can’t be flustered. Another challenge is figuring out how to work quickly. One of the hardest things is working through problems and getting them solved in the time that I want — quickly.

Is this what you expected to be doing in your career?

After graduating from college, I never expected that I would be a product director, but I was at the right place at the right time. I started at a technology consulting company and was placed at a security company. I started doing business analysis, and that’s still a part of my job, but product management is more inclusive of business analysis, product management, market research – everything this position entails. I didn’t like programming as much. I couldn’t sit behind a computer all day – that’s just not my personality. Now I’ve been in the industry about 16 years, and I have to say I have had the best time working at Webroot.

What makes working at Webroot so amazing? 

One benefit to being located in our smaller San Diego office, besides the weather, beach, and beer, is I’ve been able to see it grow. We have about 90 people in this office and I know everyone. The people at Webroot are really friendly and helpful, so it’s easy to feel welcomed. The Webroot culture is very open and not hierarchical. Since I’ve been here I’ve been able to talk to anyone, including any executive. I am super passionate about the products I support and the audiences we help – SMB/MSP.

Best career advice you’ve received? How have you seen that advice playing out in your own career? 

For someone who’s starting fresh and getting into product management, I would say to be open, be flexible, and constantly seek to challenge yourself. Soak in as much as you can. For people more senior, I would say to continue with relationship building and be mindful of how you can make the biggest impact. This position isn’t about having an MBA and writing up numbers. It is very technology focused and it’s all about being able to adapt and able to provide solutions, not just numbers.

What’s your favorite patio? (Place to go when it’s nice outside, place to get a drink.)

There’s a really nice brewery close to the office called Ballast Point. The team goes there a lot. But my favorite food is Mexican and I love hole-in-the-wall places. There’s one restaurant in the Torrey Pines area called Berto’s that’s awesome. It’s not fancy, but their veggie burrito keeps me coming back.

To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/.

Building a Cybersecurity Talent Pipeline One Coding Challenge at a Time

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Like many technology companies, Webroot is constantly on the hunt for a diverse pool of engineering and technical cybersecurity talent. According to Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst with Enterprise Security Group, a cybersecurity skills deficit holds the top position for problematic skills in ESG’s annual survey of IT professionals. In fact, the percentage of organizations reporting this problem has jumped more than 10 percent in just three years.

Here are the results from the last 4 years’ surveys:

  • 2018-2019: 53% of organizations report a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills
  • 2017-2018: 51% of organizations report a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills
  • 2016-2017: 45% of organizations report a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills
  • 2015-2016: 42% of organizations report a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills

The time has come for the private sector to take action to help develop the talent pipeline.

Start with real-world simulations

At Webroot, this need for more cybersecurity talent sprouted a partnership with the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, which has culminated in an annual Coding Challenge. 

The Challenge—presented in the form of a game—is a way for Webroot to impart real-world skills like problem solving, coding, and creative technical thinking onto the students. 

The goal of the game is to be the best in the room. For the competitive students, that translated to beating everyone above them on the leaderboard. To do so, the students had to write code to control three characters to capture ghosts:

  • A hunter, who worked to reduce ghost stamina,
  • A ghost catcher, who trapped and released ghosts,
  • A support character who focused on stunning the competition and observing the playing field as a whole.

But, as Daniel Kusper, senior QA engineer at Webroot points out, “it also provides an amazing opportunity for students to ask [industry experts] any and all questions they may have about cybersecurity and software engineering.”

In addition to honing skills like creative thinking and problem solving, students get a glimpse of real-world life for engineers and developers.

Xingyao Wu, a computer science student, said that this type of problem doesn’t have a single, specific right answer. You need creativity to come up with a solution.

“I learned how to solve this problem by thinking outside the box to create new rules or algorithms instead of just following the normal ideas.” 

The advantage of real-world practice was not lost on Chris Mayton, another computer science major, either. Chris shared,“In my opinion, what you learn in class is more isolated from the real world; the data is clean and the environment is ready for you to start coding. With hackathons or coding challenges, you have to apply the concepts learned in class—which are big-picture—to real-world situations.” 

Ryan Willett, a current Webroot engineering intern, may have put it best. “You need room for personal growth in the computer science field. Few classes give you the liberty to try to fail boundlessly. And there is a lot to be learned in failing. Events like the Coding Challenge help students realize that, sometimes, you’ll start down a route on a project that is very bad. You may have to throw away all your code and start again. Sometimes that’s just what you have to do to get to a workable solution.”

Given the large range and variety of technical employees that volunteered their time, the students got a diverse overview of a day-in-the-life of an engineer. Some students already had a good idea of why they’re interested in the field. Computer science and mathematics double major Guanxin Li said she“joined computer science because [she] felt like it’s really cool to build something with a couple lines of code. That’s so powerful.” 

All levels of experience are encouraged to apply and students ranged from college freshmen to second-year masters students.

Value in internships

The winners of the event are invited to apply for internship positions at Webroot’s San Diego office. Some of the rock star students from past events have even become full-time employees. These internships provide valuable experience for those who are still figuring out where they want to focus, or what industries to explore further.

Fred Yip, manager of software development and intern manager at Webroot, challenges his interns “to solve real-world problems, and to join the team by participating in the scrum and developer sprints just like full-time employees.”

Will one Coding Challenge solve the industry’s skills shortage? No. But it is a start. And I see many other cybersecurity and tech companies taking small steps that will have an impact on our future workforce. Webroot is also seeking more partnership opportunities with other universities to host learning events, and is even looking to extend its internship program globally.

We should all be excited about the next generation of talent and what they will bring to the industry. Who knows; one of the Coding Challenge participants might someday solve a present-day cybersecurity conundrum. 

Advice to students from students

“I learned you really have to focus on small ideas first before implementing something more advanced. When we started, we tried to think about implementing everything at once. But then, where do we start? Think about it as a layer by layer at a time. Build it up.” – Leo Sack, computer science major

“Design what you want to implement before you start implementing. Thinking through the strategies of what each of your ghostbusters should do. Work through each problem step by step. And be patient, definitely be patient.” – Edward Chen, computer science major

Get to know Cathy Ondrak, Product Owner

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.While one-click shopping on Amazon (or Webroot.com, for that matter) seems super easy when you’re the consumer, there are a lot of complex strategies and processes going on behind the scenes.

We chat with Cathy Ondrak, product owner for Webroot.com, to get a glimpse behind the curtain. In her role, Cathy works with developers, business analysts, and other stakeholders on a daily basis to ensure Webroot customers’ needs are being met online.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I have three amazing kids—ages 9, 11, 13. We’re just getting to the teen years, which scares me to death. When I’m not working, I’m probably ushering my kids to one of their various activities. My life revolves around them; from baseball, softball, and soccer to basketball, parkour, or art activities, they stay busy and keep me on my toes. I also lead my nine-year-old’s Girl Scout troop and participate in my kids’ school accountability committee (SAC) meetings.

I was born in North Carolina (go Duke!) My parents moved us to Aurora, Colorado when I was a year and a half old. They still live in my childhood home. My sister and her family live about 2 miles from me, so you can regularly find my family attending one of the grandkids’ activities. (We travel in a large pack, and our kiddos always have a cheering section.)

How did you get into tech?

I began my career in public relations, moved to marketing, then product management. I worked on bringing US WEST Wireless to market a long time ago, which was my entry into tech. While at US WEST, I managed their website and eventually moved into a product manager position for their first wireless internet solution, BrowseNow. It was a very exciting time, but nothing like things are now. Everything was text-based, black and white, and not even a little pretty.

What does a day in your life at Webroot look like for you?

As the product owner for Webroot.com, I’m constantly checking emails, attending meetings, and collaborating with various internal teams. Beyond that, I oversee the web developers’ work and stay in constant communication with them. I work with developers, business analysts, and stakeholders daily to ensure deadlines are met and projects are completed as quickly as possible. We work in an agile environment, so we try to deliver solutions quickly and enhance as we need to.  It’s pretty exciting to see the changes over the years when you have time to look back.

Why do you like working at Webroot?

The thing I like best about Webroot is the people. Working with driven and intelligent people make what we do great and make me value the relationships I’ve formed. The other thing would be watching the continued success of the teams as we grow. The amount of work that flows through our team each day is amazing. The most rewarding thing is seeing how far we’ve come since we started! It’s inspiring to witness whole organization working together to bring new products to market.

Do you interface with external customers?

My day-to-day is filled with internal customers and teams at Webroot—mostly marketing teams who work with us to enhance the website and online user experience, and also provide more flexibility to sell our products.

Any advice for other women in tech?

The only advice I have applies to everyone, regardless of field or gender: do what you love, value the people, and success will come naturally. We all have control of our own outcomes, so be open, honest, and flexible. And for other Webrooters reading this, attend the Women of Webroot meetings, get to know your fellow colleagues, and enjoy every minute of it!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from working in the field?

My biggest lesson from the field was something someone told me years ago for when you’re trying to solve problems or work with developers. Ask yourself, “What are 3 possible solutions to anything you are doing?” Having options ready helps you think things through, so you can evaluate multiple possible solutions to determine which one is the most viable for your situation and resources. Options are key.

If you’re interested in a job at Webroot, check out our careers page, www.webroot.com/careers.

The STEM Pipeline: What Can You Do?

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day is today, and while your initial reaction may be to make a note to call in sick that day (heck, that was my gut instinct), resist the urge.

It’s one day that is a great reminder for the entire year. We all need to do more to fill the pipeline for STEM careers. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

You may be asking, what do you mean by “do more”? You may not work in tech yourself or perhaps your kids aren’t interested in science, or maybe you don’t even have kids.

That’s no excuse.

According to the Pew Research Center, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79 percent since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. And companies are feeling the pinch. ESG Research conducted a study that found 51 percent of respondents were dealing with a skills shortage. They simply can’t find the talent to fill the roles.

That’s where it gets concerning for everyone, whether they are a parent, a business owner, or a techie. We need bodies to fill the technical roles of today, let alone the future.

Now that I have your attention, here is some advice for what you can do to help create the STEM leaders of tomorrow.

  1. Realize not everyone is going to want to be an engineer. And that’s okay. You need marketing people, communicators, project managers that like working in the field and can bridge the gap with their soft skills between the true data heads and the rest of the world.
  2. I’m not pushing for a PhD. There are many paths to a technical career that don’t start with a four-year college degree. But they all do start with curiosity. I know many cybersecurity professionals who came to the field with a networking certification or other technical program background and even more that were self-taught. They watched a lot of YouTube videos, read a lot of blogs, and took apart their computers. There also is a lot of opportunity for those in the military who were trained to handle various programming tasks. Encourage people from all walks of life and backgrounds to tap into STEM fields.
  3. Take your kids (or the neighbor’s kids) to work with you. Really. Even if you don’t work in tech, try to show the kids what you do every day, then ask if someone in your IT department can chat with them too.
  4. You didn’t think I’d get through this without mentioning LEGOS, did you? LEGOS are the ultimate toy for sparking interest in STEM fields. Once kids graduate from basic blocks, there are many options like the BOOST line. They have a robot you can build and control via a mobile app. Enough said.
  5. Snap Circuits. Another awesome toy that makes building electronics fun.
  6. Programming can be for all ages. Prime younger kids to program with fun tools, like Scratch, Blockly, and Alice. You might even learn something!

This is a small list of ideas. I know there are many more out there. But I challenge everyone to think about what they can do to help create the next generation of STEM professionals. I know Webroot is participating in Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day this year and I look forward to chatting with the participants about what I do each day to make the internet a little bit safer.

Webroot Culture: Q&A with Systems Administrator Ann Roberts

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.Before chatting with Ann Roberts, systems administrator at Webroot, I had a pretty narrow view of what her role in the IT department required on a day-to-day basis. As it turns out, a systems administrator must wear many hats and support multiple areas of the business. Read on to learn more about this tech career path.

Webroot: Ann, tell me a bit about yourself.

Ann Roberts: I grew up in Boulder, went to the University of Colorado at Denver, and graduated with a degree in music business. I moved to New York and ended up working in the IT department at Carnegie Hall. I missed Colorado, so I moved back to Boulder after having my first child. I freelanced for a while, worked at a now defunct startup for a while, and then began my role at Webroot. I currently live in Lafayette, Colorado, with my husband, our two kids, and our dog, Max.

Carnegie Hall, that sounds amazing. Was this your entry into tech?

Yes, but by accident! I started as the assistant in the IT department at Carnegie, but there was only one technician, and I enjoyed filling in the gaps when he wasn’t around. We were a two-person team, which meant that I ended up learning a lot more than I expected, and discovered that I had an aptitude for understanding tech and systems. The rest is history!

What do you do at Webroot?

I am a systems administrator. I am responsible for the care and feeding of the systems that make up Webroot’s corporate infrastructure.

Take us through a ‘day in the life’ of a systems administrator.

It is different from day to day, but it all starts with a big cup of coffee. First thing in the morning, I check email to see if anything has gone haywire overnight. Next, I take care of any urgent requests that need attention. After that, I work on projects as time allows. One project I’ve done quite a bit of work with is with our vRealize Automation environment (Partly Cloudy, as we call it). This system allows people to create their own virtual machines on demand. It has proven especially useful for the quality assurance engineers, because it gives them a disposable platform on which to do their product testing. It has also been interesting to have a window into their role in the company.

Have you seen anything surprising or an unexpected in your field?

My previous company was the sort of environment where every time there was a technical problem, everyone flew into a grouchy panic. After the problem was resolved, inevitably there would be a rush to place blame on someone or something. The result was an environment that made you afraid of messing up. It was a great surprise after starting work at Webroot to find that when problems happen, as they do everywhere, everyone takes it in stride and works together to find solutions.

What has been your biggest challenge working in tech?

Because I found my profession by accident, I have not done any “formal” training. For much of my career, I’ve relied on what I’ve gleaned from coworkers, Google, and trial and error.

What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from working in the field?

Don’t panic! Keep a level head and you’ll figure it out.

Love that advice. What about students in your field, any guidance to share?

Get as much real-life experience as you can. There is only so much that can be learned by reading about a subject. The whole point of this job is to expect the unexpected, and the unexpected is what you encounter on the job.

What about professionals looking to get into tech?

If you find a subject you’re interested in, then just find a way to be around it. Take a class on it, do research on it, or set up the environment and play around with it.

What’s it like to work for Webroot?

Webroot is a fun company to work for. There is a strong emphasis on work/life balance, which is important to me.

Thanks, Ann. I think your great attitude on tackling challenges must be a great asset in your line of work.

If you’re interested in a career like Ann’s, check out our careers page at www.webroot.com/careers. You may be particularly interested in our openings for a QA Engineer.

Q&A with QA Engineer Sopall Ngim

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.When I started prepping for this interview, I wasn’t entirely sure what a quality assurance (QA) engineer did on a day-to-day basis. However, in a world where STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) has become the buzzword du jour, I knew this important technical role was something more and more companies will need in the future. To get more insight, I sat down with Webroot QA Engineer Sopall Ngim to talk about the importance of a quality assurance engineer in a cybersecurity organization.

Webroot: Hi, Sopall. Let’s start by talking a bit about yourself and your role at Webroot.

Sopall Ngim: I started my career in medical device research and development, and then a former co-worker convinced me to change careers and become a QA engineer. I have been working in the software testing field ever since. What I like about testing is that it gives me the opportunity to work with the whole product/system (end-to-end) instead of specific components within the system. That is, figuring out whether or not it will work in a customers’ environment. Because most of the time, we don’t have all the customers’ specific conditions and environments, test engineers need to take a thinking-outside-the-box approach to figure out what needs to be tested and how. Also, because testing the system in every customer’s environment and condition is not realistic, I like the challenge of designing tests that require the least amount of effects, but get the most test coverage.

Sounds like you are a bit of a puzzle solver at work. Going back further, how did you get interested in tech in the first place?

My interest in science and technology came about when I visited the Boeing 747 assembly plant in Everett Washington at 19, seeing machines move different sections of the airplane together into precise locations so that they could be joined got me curious about how the system was controlled, and how it worked.

I must admit, Sopall, I’m not sure what you do! What is QA?

The Software Quality Assurance/Testing role works as part of the product delivery team to ensure the release software meets end users’ expectations. We ensure that the software will work in the customers’ environments and help them with their daily tasks. As part of the product delivery team, a test engineer is responsible for designing tests that will fully validate the functionalities of the software being tested, then running those tests.

Take us through a day in the life.

As part of a product delivery, QA Engineers work with their internal team members to:

  • Review user stories and requirements to ensure they are well understood by everyone on the team
  • Attend design discussion and review
  • Design and develop tests to verify the functions and features included in the release
  • Perform tests and develop automation test scripts
  • Communicate any defects found during testing to the team, and see that they get resolved in a timely manner
  • Communicate test statuses to the team
Have you ever found any surprising— or unexpected but awesome—outcomes while testing?

No one specific situation that sticks out, but one thing I learned throughout my career is that software should be developed to solve customers’ problems or to help them become more efficient in their daily tasks. End users won’t buy software just because it uses new technology or has a flashy Graphical User Interface (GUI).

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from working in the field?

Merely gaining a solid understanding of the technologies used to develop a product is not enough to become a good test engineer. To become a good software test engineer, one needs to have solid domain expertise in the business of software development, and a solid understanding of how customers will use the software or service.

Any advice to students in your field?

To become an effective test engineer in a client-server application system, you need to have a solid understanding of network communication across the internet, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the relational database. Also, with today’s competitive market, a fast go-to-market timeline is very important. Companies want to release products frequently, which means test automation becomes increasingly important. Instead of trying to learn every existing programming language, pick one and become an expert in it.

Great advice. Seems we all need to be an expert in some aspect of our field these days. Switching gears, tell us about working for Webroot?

Prior to joining Webroot, I worked for several other companies ranging from a startup to a well-established company. When searching for new job opportunity, I always try to look for a company that:

  • Develops products or services that help make people’s daily lives better
  • Values everyone’s input and contribution
  • Provides everyone with opportunities to learn new skill sets
  • Encourages employees to balance their work and life

Webroot has all of the above. Testing is not an afterthought like in most companies. Test engineers are part of the process from start to completion. We’re involved with designing and releasing decisions. Every team contributes to the approach and has a say in how to implement the feature being worked on.

Wonderful advice for anyone looking for a career, not just a job. Thanks, Sopall!

Are you interested in a career like Sopall’s? Check out our careers page at www.webroot.com/careers. You may be particularly interested in our openings for DevOps, Quality Engineer or Sr. Software Engineer, Windows in San Diego, or our open DevOps, Quality Engineer position in Broomfield, CO.

Q&A with Reverse Malware Engineer Eric Klonowski

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.These days, it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or open a news site without reading some terrifying headline related to cybersecurity. And the numbers keep escalating. Yahoo’s breaches impacted 1 billion user accounts. Chipotle’s security incident affected more than 2,500 stores in 48 states. We know what cybercriminals are doing; they’re stealing credentials and laughing all the way to the bitcoin bank. So what are we, the good guys, doing to get ahead of criminals?

That’s where today’s interviewee, Eric Klonowski, comes into play. Eric is a senior advanced threat research analyst, meaning he reverse-engineers malware, at Webroot. He has to think like a hacker to figure out how the bad guys manipulate benign software by literally taking apart, or “unpacking” malware.

Webroot: Let’s start with the basics, Eric. Tell me a bit about yourself?

Eric Klonowski: Growing up, I was a nerd. I liked to take things apart and figure out how they work. At six or seven, I would take apart landline phones just to see what was inside.

This was my start as a reverse engineer. Even now, I like to disassemble random software to see what makes it tick.

On any given day, 90 percent of what I think about is related to security, malware, computer science, and engineering. It’s my passion. Perhaps I need to get outside more, but generally, security is what I think about.

I’m not surprised by your “focus” on the industry. I think your field requires that level of passion and commitment. Besides, nerds are cool nowadays, thanks to the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. How did you make the leap from deconstructing phones to reverse engineering?

Probably not a shocker to anyone who has read this far, but I was a mischievous child. I remember going on a family trip when as a kid, and I spent the entire time on my laptop following Russian tutorials on how to crack software. I loved that complex software protections could be reduced to a simple byte.

I kept teaching myself from there, and that naturally evolved to looking at more in-depth, sophisticated software. Malware is particularly interesting to me because it is level 10 difficult as far as puzzles go. A malware author’s entire goal is to fool reverse engineers like me.

The problems I face are not traditional computer science problems that are covered in textbooks. They tend to be non-traditional, and without getting too far into the weeds, they are unique problems you won’t find at other organizations.

So how did you hear about Webroot?

I was perusing an online job search site and got an ad. Being a malware-oriented techie, I was aware of Webroot.

At the time, I was working as a government contractor, and I was interested in getting into the commercial world—something that doesn’t require clearance.

I don’t know, that sounds pretty cool!

It was an awesome opportunity. I started as an intern, which is key for getting your foot in the door anywhere, and it soon turned into a full-time job. But I wanted to be able to discuss my work and be more involved in the threat community.

That makes sense. What does a day in the life look like for you?

The majority of the time, I’m really excited to come into work. I know there are interesting problems waiting for me to dissect. The problems I face are not traditional computer science problems that are covered in textbooks. They tend to be non-traditional, and without getting too far into the weeds, they are unique problems you won’t find at other organizations. They aren’t algorithm or mathematically driven, but related to questions like, “how can I manipulate the nature of the software already running on the system?”

I also interface with almost every engineering team and multiple departments. It gets me out of my shell.

What lessons have you learned from working for a few years?

Absolutely everyone has something to offer. In school, we tend to segregate into specific engineering groups and form bias. Even working with people like you (public relations career shout out!), there tends to be a distancing at first because you don’t understand each other’s roles.

But we all have something to offer, and we are all good at what we do. I have something to learn from everyone at this organization.

That’s a great life lesson, Eric. Switching the focus to students, any advice for hopefuls in your field?

This is the kind of job where you need to be passionate about figuring out how things work. You may want to do something good for the world, and this is one way to do that. But if you’re the kind of person who walks by the puzzle store at the mall and thinks, “those look cool, I wonder how they work,” this is the kind of job you would find interesting.

Full disclosure: this is not just a 9-to-5 job. I find myself thinking about these problems all the time.

What about professionals looking to get into reverse engineering? There have been a lot of conversations around re-training traditional IT staff to fill the many cyber roles available.

I think people who have a solid network or security background could make the transition, if they are passionate enough about the field to teach themselves. This isn’t something you will pick up by shadowing a co-worker for a few days or reading a single book. You need to roll up your sleeves and dig into online forums, webinars, courses, and you need the drive to keep learning.

That’s the truth! It reminds me of my favorite quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Thanks for taking the time to chat, Eric.

If you’re interested in a job at Webroot, check out our careers page, www.webroot.com/careers.

Intern Q&A with Software Engineer Clarence Tan

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.A computer is only as good as the information that feeds it. This belief nourishes the computer programming and engineering field, encouraging scores of youth to dive into the relatively nascent field–software programming and engineering have only been a widespread occupation since the 1980s.  It’s no wonder there is an explosion of jobs in the field as new technology such as cloud, Big Data, and mobile are embraced. According to SC Magazine, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in February 2017 there was a net increase of 13,000 information technology jobs.

So what is the next generation doing to prepare for this exciting field? They’re seeking out internships.

This semester, Webroot was lucky enough to have 8 interns. I sat down with Clarence Tan, a senior at the University of California, San Diego studying computer science, to get a snapshot into the mind of the next generation of computer greats.

Webroot: Tell me a bit about yourself?

Clarence Tan: I’m a 4th year studying Computer Science at UCSD. For me, I really enjoy software development, because I appreciate problem-solving and building things in general. Outside of coding, some of my interests include watching sports, playing board/video games, and traveling.

Those hobbies sound like a checklist for a lot of the technical folks around here! Besides the obvious overlap of interests, how did you learn about the Webroot internship?

I learned about the Webroot internship through UCSD’s job page (PortTriton). My university has great connections with area businesses like Webroot.

What was enticing about an internship at Webroot?

For me, I wanted to gain more industry experience and further my knowledge in software development to become a better engineer. While I do learn a lot of interesting things at school, I feel I have grown the most through my experiences as an intern.

Wise words, Clarence. There is nothing like “real-world” experience. Take us through a day in the life for you in our San Diego office?

As a software intern, the majority of my time is spent coding, doing research, and having technical discussions regarding the features I am working on. Outside of that, I have scrum meetings every other day, bi-weekly engineering meetings, and one-on-one meetings with Tom Caldwell, my manager. Otherwise, I have a few larger group meetings addressing more general Webroot or office business.

It sounds like you get to be in the weeds on projects. Knowing what you do now, what is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from this semester?

I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is time management. Since I am still in college, I have to balance my coursework with my internship and other school activities. It was definitely a challenge for me initially, but I feel I’ve learned a lot through this experience and worked through how to balance it all.

While I do learn a lot of interesting things at school, I feel I have grown the most through my experiences as an intern.

If it’s any consolation, I also struggle with time management and balance. There is always one more thing to do! What advice can you share with students in your field?

I’d recommend doing side projects or pursuing an internship. As I mentioned earlier, I feel I’ve grown the most as a developer by applying the knowledge and theory I learned in school to real-world situations. It has allowed me to understand technology better through the application of it. Also, I’d recommend students pursue a part of software development that interests them in particular, which can range from full-stack to DevOps to mobile. These are all very different, but equally important, aspects of development and I believe it is important to do what you enjoy.

Solid advice, Clarence! Now on the flipside, any advice for Webroot?

Continue to rock on with those great snacks.

Thanks, Clarence. I appreciate you taking the time to chat.

If you’re interested in an internship at Webroot, check out our careers page, www.webroot.com/careers.

A glimpse into Webroot’s International Women’s Day

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.In honor of International Women’s Day, we hosted our quarterly Women of Webroot meeting this afternoon at our World Headquarters in Broomfield. Women of Webroot brings together women from all parts of our business to celebrate wins and provide support for issues women in tech may face.

Although there are more women in technology-related positions now than in previous years, the tech industry is still largely male dominated. This divide underscores the importance of a sense of workplace community and support, as well as a place where your voice will always be heard.

Empowering others to speak up.

Attendees shared different stories of inappropriate or uncomfortable situations they’ve faced in the workplace and their strategies for addressing them. The truth is that speaking up about inappropriate comments or behavior can be just as uncomfortable as experiencing them in the first place.

Here are some of the approaches we heard today.

  • The straightforward approach: “It’s not okay for you to speak to me that way.”
  • Taking a moment to step away from the situation before responding
  • Scheduling time with someone individually to address the comment
  • Giving someone perspective on what they’ve said by saying it back to them
  • Focusing on the facts
  • Encouraging and empowering others to speak up as well
  • Asking direct questions to get to the heart of the matter, and give yourself time to collect your thoughts
Own your voice.

All in all, some great suggestions came out of our time together. Hearing how my teammates have been successful in addressing challenging situations was inspiring. The important thing is to find your voice and find the approach that is most comfortable for you. Although these can be awkward conversations to have, it is only by raising our voices, drawing attention, and being heard that we can build awareness within our teams, our networks, and ourselves. To achieve and maintain an open culture, we each have to take an active role. We are fortunate to have such a strong internal network that we can turn to for strength, and look forward to its continued growth.