Throwback Thursday is a look back at some of the great minds in the history of computer science that have inspired Little Web Giants. This week’s story on Parisa Tabriz was put together by Lana.
Parisa Tabriz was born in 1983 and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Her Polish-American mother was a nurse and her father a doctor, who came from Iran. Neither of them was computer literate. She’s the older sister of two brothers, and she believes that her bullying them was one of the contributors to her making it in the male dominated tech world.
Education and Work
In 2001 she began to study engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was there that she was introduced to the world of computing and changed her direction. As her own website was being hacked, she gained interest in Internet security and cyber attacks. In 2006 she received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Computer Science from the university with Nikita Borisov as her advisor.
During her studies, she was a cybersecurity intern at Sandia National Laboratories, and a security intern at Google. Afterwards she worked as a security engineer at Google for almost five years. She got promoted to Information Security Engineering Manager in 2011.
In 2012, Forbes magazine named Tabriz one of the 30 Under 30, a list of 30 people doing great things under 30.
In 2014 she consulted to the White House and helped improve their security, by advising the Executive Office of the President on best practices to improve software and network security.
The Security Princess of Google
She now manages a team of 30 hackers, to make the web more secure to browse, and Internet traffic safer. They do so by improving Google’s product security.
“This team of ‘hired hackers’ conducts security design and code reviews, builds and enhances Google technology to make secure development possible and easy, conducts security engineering training, and does vulnerability response.” – Google
By breaking into Google’s software, the “hired hackers” attempt to find and remove vulnerabilities in Google’s products, in order to reduce the risk of cyber attacks. In a sense they compete with black hat hackers, who may attempt to illegally take advantage of Google’s products and harm users.
In 2014 she appointed herself a new title, as she thought her original one was boring. She now walks Google’s headquarters as the “Security Princess”, and the Guardian refers to her as “Google’s top secret weapon”. As of 2016 she and her team are responsible for the security of Google Chrome. On LinkedIn she more comically describes her role referencing Game of Thrones: “House of Chrome, Princess of Security, Guardian of Stability, Director of Engineering”.
Tabriz also aims to reduce gender inequality in Silicon Valley, where only 11% of executives, and 23% of tech staff were female in 2015. She believes that women in tech drop out because they underestimate their abilities. Therefore, she is actively trying to encourage girls and women to stay confident and stick with it!
Tabriz also wants to spread the message that people who didn’t grow up learning how to code can still master programming later on. (She herself didn’t learn computer programming until her first year of college.) Every year she mentors teens at a computer science conference in Las Vegas. Her strategy to coping with the male dominated industry has been to never be intimidated.
“I’ve been… trying to improve diversity in the tech industry because it leads to more innovation and better results.” – Paris Tabriz
Tabriz may be a geek during workdays, but she’s an adventurer on her time off. She has travelled a lot and is a skilled rock climber. She even did a Masters in Gelato Curriculum at the Gelato University in Italy in 2010.
“I <3 tech, but pass time away from computers as an aspiring amateur photographer, climber, gelato maestro, gingerbread architect, pixel illustrator, glass burner, rice krispie treat sculptor, and jac(queline) of all trades.” – Parisa Tabriz
Thanks go to:
- Parisa Tabriz for keeping us up to date on her website and LinkedIn, and helpfully sending me pictures I could use;
- the Telegraph for their piece, ”Google’s top secret weapon – a hacker they call their Security Princess”;
- Wikipedia and all its fantastically selfless contributors for their post on Parisa Tabriz;
- Google’s Research at Google description of Parisa Tabriz; and
- CBS This Morning, for their informative recorded interview with Parisa Tabriz.
Next week, Throwback Thursday will take a look at another visionary from a bygone era: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.