Talking with Winnona DeSombre – Cybersecurity at Google

We’re lucky to have Winnona DeSombre as a Jumbo out in the world.  She has shared her time with students and has been quick to help out the Computer Science Department when needed. What follows here are Winnona’s answers to some career questions.  She has been very successful in the cybersecurity space, and it is clear she worked hard to get there.

Winnona DeSombre
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and International Relations
Class Year: 2018 (School of Arts and Sciences)

1.Please share the title of your role and what do you do specifically?
I am a Security Engineer on Google’s Threat Analysis Group. I track nation state cyber threat actors that target Google users and reverse engineer malware.

2.Describe any specific projects that you have worked on as well as any professional experiences you might have taken part in.
Since graduating from Tufts, I have spoken on cybersecurity topics at multiple conferences, including the Forbes 30 under 30 conference, BSides Las Vegas, and DEFCON. My research has been featured in publications including Foreign Policy, Motherboard, and CyberScoop, and I have collaborated with individuals in cyber policy through the Atlantic Council and the Harvard Belfer Center Cyber Power Project.

3.What are the highlights of this experience for you?
I have been able to meet, work with, and learn from many cybersecurity professionals that I deeply admire and work on some really impactful projects. However, the most rewarding parts of my professional career are actually the tasks that I do every day: by monitoring threats in real-time, I can protect users that may become targets of internet abuse or cyber espionage. I wake up every day excited to go to work!

4. How did your experience at Tufts prepare you for this role and what academic experience or internships set you up for success?
While I graduated from Tufts as a Computer Science and International Relations double major, I did not know how to code prior to the University’s Introduction to Computer Science class (COMP11). Tufts University’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning allowed me to pursue classes in a field I did not know and combine my new interest with my understanding of international politics to pursue a career in cybersecurity. I attribute a large portion of my college and early career success to the Tufts Computer Science department. For one, its cybersecurity electives were integral for developing my technical skills in the field. I used the COMP116 independent project to explore threat intelligence (the field that I now work in), and subsequently took every other cybersecurity elective the department offered. As for job prospects, the Computer Science clubs were incredibly helpful. Being a project manager at JumboCode and organizing the Women in Technology conference allowed me to interact with companies and organizations that were interested in hiring talent. Additionally, by cultivating a collaborative environment among both students and teachers, Tufts has given me a network of individuals I can collaborate with or ask for advice that will last well into my career (and I encourage any current Tufts students interested in pursuing cybersecurity as a career to reach out!)

By Robin Kahan
Robin Kahan Associate Director, Engineering Career Services Robin Kahan