Now that her days at Eastern Michigan University are behind her, EMU alumna Jessica Wilson is jetting off to Los Angeles to protect the data of a tech giant that has taken the industry by storm.
With roots in Willis, Michigan, Jessica never had much interest in going into a tech field. Upon starting college at Washtenaw Community College (WCC), Jessica took general education courses in hopes that she may discover her passion along the way. During her time at WCC, she bounced around between business, engineering, HR and even medicine, but nothing seemed to be a good fit. It wasn’t until an advisor pointed her in the direction of EMU in 2013 that she discovered her true passion- information assurance.
“I love the idea of security being a puzzle,” said Jessica. “It’s constantly changing and evolving, and I love the challenge of having to evolve and grow to keep up.”
Constantly challenging herself to grow is nothing new to Jessica. Upon transferring to EMU in the fall of 2014, she joined the Information Assurance student organization on campus where quickly rose through the ranks and became president of the club.
With the IA club, Jessica planned and organized YOLOcon, the Ypsilanti Online Learning Opportunity conference. First held in 2016, YOLOcon was attended by 65 people and featured 12 different talks with five sponsors. In 2017, the attendance rose to 77 people with 23 different talks and 11 sponsors.
While pursuing her major in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense with a minor in Computer Engineering Technology, Jessica further distinguished herself from her classmates by earning several awards and scholarships. As the recipient of the Women Studying Information Security scholarship, Jessica was awarded financial aid as well as opportunities to attend security conferences in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
Jessica’s passion for IA has also led her to become an advocate and a mentor for other women who are interested in pursuing a career in tech. She has been volunteering with Digital Diva’s since December 2015, which is an organization that connects middle and high school women with career opportunities in STEM fields. She also founded the Women in Information Assurance group in the winter of 2016 which is a support group for women in the IA field.
On her dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, Jessica noted that “Security is a puzzle that has to be solved and if you have a bunch of people who are like-minded they are going to try to solve the puzzle in a very similar way. If there’s diversity in the industry there’ll be many more perspectives to help solve that puzzle. If the attackers are thinking outside the box, we need to make sure that the defenders are doing that as well.”
To her success, Jessica said that “I just really pushed myself. I started in 2014, and I just never stopped. To women entering tech fields, speak up, and don’t be afraid.”
Her grit and determination has opened many career doors that otherwise would never have been unlocked. While enrolled at EMU, she spent time hacking medical equipment for Virta Labs, a startup in Ann Arbor that focuses on medical device security and identification. She also secured two internships with Snap Inc., where she worked as a security engineer on the corporate security team.
Jessica has accepted a full-time position with Snap Inc. in Venice, California upon graduating in December 2017. She is looking forward to working with Snap for the considerable future, but hopes to one day work for Google.
Jessica was an extraordinary member of the culture at EMU, and we couldn’t be more excited for her and her future. Great work, Jessica!
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