A Dialogue with Dinah Davis - Founder of Code Like a Girl

Dinah Davis’s teachers told her she was destined to become a math teacher because she was good with numbers – and a girl. The only problem she didn’t want to be a math teacher. Dinah knew she wanted to work in a technology field, and despite all the naysayers she encountered along the way in her later studies and the workplace, Davis has finally achieved personal and professional satisfaction in InfoSec.

Here’s her story.

ITSPMagazine: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Davis: I had an early love of math that grew into a mathematics degree, a master’s in cryptography, and a career in InfoSec as a technical leader. I helped keep customers’ data secure as a developer at Blackberry. I built SIEM technology at Trustwave, and  worked to transform the way the world learns at D2L Corp. Currently, I lead the R&D team at Arctic Wolf Networks, where we provide an affordable Security Operations Center (SOC) as a service for clients.

I am highly engaged in the software community both locally in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and worldwide, via social media. I love getting to know people from all over the world hearing what their experiences in technology are like. I am always looking for ways I can help improve the tech community and feel the best way to do this is through positive action. That is why I created “Code Like A Girl,” a publication that amplifies the voices of women in technology.

ITSPmagazine: What inspires you to do what you do?

Davis: My journey in tech has not been smooth. In high school, I was told to be a math teacher because that’s what girls who are good at math do. In university, my male professors questioned my ability to go to grad school even though I had a near perfect GPA. In my professional life, I have been bullied, passed over for promotion, told to “not worry my pretty little head about it,” and had peers describe me as “too assertive” in meetings all because I am a woman.

For many years I was afraid to speak up about these issues. I thought speaking up would negatively impact my career. However, after being bullied by a boss for almost a year, I realized I had to do something. If the company was not going to listen, I didn’t want to work there anymore. Furthermore, I didn’t want other women or my daughter to have to work in those environments either.

ITSPmagazine: Can you describe a recent personal accomplishment?

Davis: A few years ago, I started writing blog posts on Medium about my experiences in tech and the positive change I was trying to make for women. When I discovered there was no publication to help amplify my message, I decided to create one. That is how “Code Like a Girl” was born in January 2016.

The goals of Code Like A Girl are to amplify the voices of women and other underrepresented groups in technology, teach parents how to expose their children to STEM, and provide a place where young women can get excited about launching a tech career.

I have been blown away by the support and excitement that has built around this publication over the past year. We now have more than 16,000 followers and our readers have spent more than 400,000 minutes reading Code Like A Girl articles written by 200-plus contributors.

ITSPmagazine: What about a recent team accomplishment - anything you can share with us for this?

Davis: In early May 2016 we noticed a sharp rise in the occurrence of ransomware attacks on our clients. As a company, we felt that our clients needed to know about ransomware alerts as soon as possible.

In R&D, we decided to treat ransomware alerts as a special class. These alerts were not just critical, but were time sensitive. We updated our processing pipeline so that these special alerts move faster. We created this alert and made the appropriate changes to allow it to run through the system more quickly in a matter of days. The added benefit of this work was finding more ways to optimize our data pipeline and have increase its efficiency overall.

This new feature now helps stop and contain ransomware attacks for our customers. It is a great feeling to know that the work we are doing is having a direct impact in protecting our customers from malicious attacks.

ITSPmagazine: How would you describe your impact on society?

Davis: We offer a solution that lets many small and medium business owners sleep at night, knowing that their corporate data and systems are being monitored. Our clients know we will notify them as soon as an incident occurs and help them resolve it. If they don’t hear from us, there is nothing to worry about.

Our clients are small- to medium-sized business that often can’t afford to buy an expensive SIEM solution. They don’t have the budget or ability to hire a team to run the SIEM and the other security tools they would need to keep their corporate and customer data safe.

Not only does this help our customers be more secure, but it means we are also helping keep all their customers data secure as well, also giving their clients peace of mind.

About Dinah Davis

Dinah Davis is the Director of R&D at Arctic Wolf Networks and the founder of Code Like a Girl, a space that celebrates changing society's perceptions of how women are viewed in technology.

More about Dinah