43. Kat Fitzgerald (she/her) – Senior Security Engineer II aka: Evil Kat at UberATG

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“The best advice I would give – stand up for yourself. Find your voice and make it heard. And one important tip – don’t let people interrupt you when you are making a point.”

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

I don’t sleep much. Up at 4am every day (bed by midnight). The morning is about getting in some walking/running, but still getting to work between 6-7am. Work before everyone else gets in is the best thing, you get so much done. I’ve only been in my current position for just about 6 mos now, so between figuring out the environment, launching new security projects, continuing to learn my awesome team, learning new security tools/concepts and generally trying to stay at the top of my game in the ever-changing world of InfoSec (and yes, I hate the term CyberSecurity). Perhaps that is why I love what I do, since it is never the same day twice.

I work with just about every team, from networking, infrastructure, cloud and just about everything else. I am also leading BSidesChicago for the 3rd year and that is coming up Nov 9th. Yes, running it remotely, one last time.

I guess, when it comes right down to it, I have no idea what each and every day is going to be like, other than the fact that it sure as hell is never “typical”, and that I promise myself when I wake up that I will learn something new that day.

How do you stay passionate in your career?

This is actually an easy question, I refuse to let myself get burned out. It’s that simple. For example, last week I was in SF for work, but over that weekend I photographed the Human Rights Campaign SF Gala, and then Monday and Tuesday was back in GCP security workshops. So yes, I am a freelance photographer on the side, but also a jazz drummer. My love of the arts and music let me focus on InfoSec when I want to (and sometimes have to), but I can also switch-off as I did a previous Saturday when I sat down at my drum set and played for over 2 hrs! Life is about living, and InfoSec is a fabulous puzzle-solving challenge for me, but music and photography are my escape.

Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?

Not at all. I was a music major. I will say, during my time in college, MIDI was just coming out, and so I was introduced to tech. I was fascinated by it and although I did not change my major I took every elective course in computers that I could. I love that there are so many other musicians/artists in tech as well. During my days at Apple I was in a jazz band with 3 of my coworkers.

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

This is tough – they change so often. Not to mention that I was “red” but now mostly “blue”. In the blue side of things, I love Wazuh – a fork off the still popular Ossec tool. I use Wazuh agents and the manager with a lot of my honeypots. Oh yeah, I guess I can’t live without honeypots. I love them.

It’s common knowledge that women and femmes often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?

Day after day I am asked, “Do you work in fashion?” Or the classic, waiting for a talk at BlackHat one year a gentleman said, “So, are you in marketing for one of the vendors?” I replied, “Why do you say that?” “I saw your nails and just assumed,” was his moronic reply. I looked at him and said, “You’re a f%&king idiot!” and walked away. I’ve been told by some when teaching classes on security, “well, we had to listen for a while to see if you really knew what you were talking about.” Seriously?

I will say, the past few years, I have been very lucky, first at Apple, then Zebra and now UberATG. My gender and awesome fashion taste have not held me back, and men and women alike respect me based on my talent and skillset. The biggest problems tend to come from the conferences, which is perhaps one of the reasons I took on BSidesChicago. I was also the COO for The Diana Initiative in 2019 where I was amazed at the diversity and inclusiveness of this great conference. (And very recently I was asked to join the team for BSidesPGH and am really excited to join this fabulous team!)

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the #womenintech community?

Sharing and helping others and each and every day learning from more amazing people! The community is beyond anything I ever knew existed. When women support each other, we are such a power to be reckoned with!!

If applicable, how have you given back to the WIT community?

I guess this is best answered by my willingness to mentor, but also help run diverse security conferences. I just want to make a difference in this world in a positive way.

What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?

I have always been a strong, (PITA?) rebel in my life. I stand up for things I believe in. Oh sure, I wish I had not called a President of a company I worked for in only my 3rd week that he was an “idiot” in front of several VPs. But it was justified, he was about to blow $2M on a project that would not work. But honestly, the best advice I would give – stand up for yourself. Find your voice and make it heard. And one important tip – don’t let people interrupt you when you are making a point. Ask politely, “May I finish my point/sentence and then you can respond?” This has helped me so many times.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year.

Well, I journal every day, and this was written in bold writing with lots of exclamation points. After about 3 weeks my boss said to me, “I wish I had 2 of you!” Yep, not only was that in my journal, but I headed to a fabulous tequila bar here in Pittsburgh, made some new friends and had some amazing tequila! (I love really really good tequilas!)

How can readers can support you:

This is an answer I tell my tarot clients, I know, another crazy sideline of mine, but honestly, it is so simple. I never asked to be paid for my readings, but instead make a donation to a local animal shelter. So, if I can help you in some way, or offer helpful advice or provide mentoring, maybe you could help save an animal or two?

Favorite quote if you have one?

You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future!



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