Google's badass "Security Princess" profiled

Parisa Tabriz 's title at Google is "Security Princess" -- meaning that she runs the adversarial internal team tasked with continuously testing and probing Google's security to find flaws before the enemy does.

A long and fascinating profile in Elle paints a picture of Tabriz as a thoughtful, forceful, technically brilliant geek and leader. The article does a good job of explaining the technical nature of Tabriz's work for a lay audience, and puts its emphasis on the challenging intersection of geek culture, security culture, and Google's atmosphere, with the question of gender at the center of it all.

Google has faced its own set of problems when it comes to the advancement of women. In its engineering divisions, employees must nominate themselves for promotion rather than counting on managers to do it—a system that practically seems designed to be discriminatory; as Sheryl Sandberg, former Google vice president of global online sales and operations, has noted, women tend to be “more reluctant to apply for promotions even when deserved, often believing that good job performance will naturally lead to rewards.” That said, when Google alerted its workforce to an internal study concluding that, indeed, female employees were 20 percent less likely than male to put themselves forward, women’s “self-nomination rates rose significantly,” according to Sandberg. (Google declined to make its current leaders available for an interview about its gender climate, though Nancy Lee, director of People Operations—think HR—e-mailed: “One of the most 
important things we can do is to celebrate the contributions of women in technology.”)

Tabriz doesn’t perceive gender as a negative for her, though she thinks she “may be a little more pushy than the [female] stereotype.” Among the young women she mentors, some continue to struggle to navigate Google’s at times Darwinian environment, she says, where “you kind of have to demonstrate 
authority without explicitly having it.”

Heidi Shin, a former Google employee who worked closely with engineers, is more blunt. “You talk to male engineers, they’re really focused on the product idea, and they explain it in a way where they were the runners, and they were the leaders, even though the project could have been collaborative.” And what do women say? “ ‘This was a group project, and I did this together with the other engineers, and a lot of other people were involved.’ ”

Meet Google's Security Princess [Clare Malone/Elle]

(via O'Reilly Radar)

(Image: ganked from @laparisa)