Brittany: I.T. Auditor and former cheerleader

Brittany Dallas Desperados Science Cheerleader 2

Brittany holds a degree in Management Information Systems and she also cheered for most of her life.

Why MIS, Brittany?
When I was in high school, I had a teacher that encouraged me to pursue a computer science degree and suggested Management Information Systems (MIS). I was in her computer information systems class my junior year of high school and I excelled in the course and enjoyed it as well. She recognized that and helped to fuel my desire to pursue a career in the field.

I received my Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management Information Systems (MIS) from the University of Oklahoma. I also have my Certified Information Systems Auditor certification.

Favorite and/or most challenging courses you took to prepare for your degree?
One of the most challenging courses I took in pursuing my career was C programming. It was similar to learning a new language and I only had one semester to master it. The other challenging course was my capstone course for MIS. I was in a team and we were paired up with the FAA to develop an international customer database from scratch for them. We were responsible for everything from planning, project management and development of the database to roll out and training. Not only was it time consuming but it demanded us to use everything we had learned throughout school to be successful while juggling a full course load.

You’re working on the security side of information technology (IT). What got you interested in that?
My first job out of college was working in the IT department performing Quality Assurance on mainframes for a utility company. Because of my background, I got recruited into more of a consultative role and that eventually evolved into security work. I enjoy the security side because I get to help companies tighten their security posture and thus lessen the chance of experiencing a breach.

What’s the biggest issue you have to deal with in IT security?
The biggest issue I face is helping my clients understand they are at risk and that security should be a top priority. It costs money to have a secure IT environment both in terms of personnel and infrastructure and tools, so conveying the benefits versus the costs can be challenging.

Brittany Dallas Desperados Science Cheerleader at WorkBest part of your day job?
Never sitting still! I get to work with people in many different departments and at several different clients throughout any given day. Not only that but I get to share my knowledge through presentations and lecturing at top universities. I’m constantly on the go and that suits my personality.

You’ve done a lot of cheerleading! You cheered in high school both through school and all-star squads, college at the University of Oklahoma, and professionally with the Dallas Desperados Dancers (DDD), an affiliate of the Cowboys. You also made training camp for the Dallas Mavericks and finals for the Dallas Cowboys. What made you decide to become a cheerleader?
I cheered all throughout high school at Plano Senior High and while in high school I also cheered for Cheer Athletics and Pro Spirit for a stint. I cheered in college for two years and with the Dallas Desperados for one year. I took gymnastics and dance when I was younger and then made the natural shift to cheerleading when I was in middle school. I loved the mix of the two disciplines and I also loved the performance aspect. It was a perfect fit for my peppy, high energy personality!

Which came first, your interest in engineering or cheerleading?
Cheerleading!! When I was younger I wanted to be an attorney or a marine biologist but I was always interested in science and technology so the decision to enter a technical field was in line with my interests.

What’s your day job like?
As an IT auditor, I spend time with my clients to identify any gaps in their IT and security environment. I do this by discussing how their network is configured, reviewing what IT policies and procedures they have in place, and looking at documentation that shows what settings are actually configured. Once I obtain a thorough understanding of what the IT environment looks like, I will identify any issues and make recommendations on how the company can improve and fix those issues. I spend most of my time reviewing the work my team has performed and interacting with my clients. The typical process for any given project is to plan, perform, review and report on the IT work. Projects can range from and IT Audit to External Penetration Tests and everything in between; if it’s security or IT related, my team can do it. I use any variety of tools to get the work done, mainly Microsoft Office as well as vulnerability scanning tools. I spend most of my days at my client’s location; I am rarely at my own office as is typical for any consultant. The overall goal of my work, besides making my clients happy, is to identify any major gaps in my client’s IT architecture that would prevent them from properly securing their resources (applications and other systems).

What does it mean for you to be an IT advisor?
To be in the technology field in IT Advisory within my firm means that I have a professional duty to help my clients by providing valuable insight based on my experience and to help them fight the war against those wishing to do them harm. My work encourages me to spread the wealth both professionally and personally. I do this by volunteering and encouraging others to work hard and go after what they want, such as my little sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It means much more than the work and showing up every day to get a paycheck. It means reaching out to the community and paying it forward be it through volunteering with a professional organization providing learning opportunities for those in the profession or at universities through lectures and educating others about opportunities in the technology field. I also understand that because I have been blessed with a career in a field that has helped me succeed in many ways, I more than willingly owe it to others to help them find their strength to succeed; as the scripture in Luke says ‘to whom much is given, much will be required’.

How do the qualities that made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering career?
I am constantly interacting with clients and so having an outgoing and positive attitude greatly enhance my working relationships both with my coworkers and clients. The discipline it takes to be a cheerleader also carries over into the workplace – time management, always being busy and juggling multiple priorities are applicable in both.

How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or engineers]?
I have definitely experienced negative stereotypes being a cheerleader . For some reason, very pervasive thinking exists, and is accepted, that attractive, outgoing, peppy, and/or well-spoken women can’t also be intelligent, driven and successful. I think just simply by being myself I can change the minds of those I interact with. Being a smart and successful cheerleader is not an oxymoron. I am more than willing to accept the challenge to prove the naysayers or skeptics wrong. More often than not, I get complete shock that I’m an ‘IT dork’ and why did someone like me choose to go into such a field (which never ceases to surprise me). My response back is always ‘Why not?’.

What do you think the greatest challenge in your field is?
The greatest challenge in my field is that technology is constantly changing and advancing. Because of that, so are the tactics the ‘bad guys’ use to compromise a client’s system. It’s a never-ending learning field which always keeps me on my toes.

What’s the best advice someone gave you in your career?
Learn to say no. It’s important to have work-life balance and if you don’t prioritize you will lose yourself in work and burn out.

Best cheerleading experience?
One of my favorite moments was cheering for a national championship football team in front of 70,000 fans at OU.

Best engineering-related experience?
I’ve had many actually! I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively and also to meet some very intelligent and interesting individuals throughout my career. If I had to choose one experience that stands out though, it would have to be the opportunity to appear on Fox Good Day this summer as a security expert. It was a very unique opportunity that came out of the blue and also pretty cool to boot!

If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
I have always been interested in science and so if I knew then what I know now I would have gone to medical school. I’m extremely satisfied with my career choice though and have no regrets.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Study hard – there’s always time to socialize but you get very few chances to do well on a test or excel at a subject.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I speak another language. I minored in Spanish and studied abroad in Spain when I was in college.

Apart from work and cheering, what are some of your favorite activities?
Traveling is one of my favorite things in the whole world! I love meeting new people, trying new food, and learning about the different parts of the world we live in both domestically and abroad. I also enjoy reading books of all varieties, playing tennis, dancing and spending time with friends and family.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan on obtaining an advanced degree within the next 5 years, continuing my education in technology and management and advancing to the next level within my firm.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Being a Science Cheerleader combines two of my favorite things; performing/presenting and getting people excited about something I’m passionate about but most importantly emphasizing the importance of education and learning. The STEM discipline is one that I’m passionate about getting students excited about because it’s crucial not only to our success as a country and leader in the world but it’s a very rewarding field as well. Furthermore, I think it’s important to get more females interested in the STEM arena. Young people of all ages and genders need to understand the importance of education and in particular the opportunity of STEM in the workplace.