Gabriella Neris, president of the University of Florida (UF) Student Infosec Team (UFSIT), and upcoming UF graduate in Spring 2023, has accepted a position as a Security Engineer with the software company Hashicorp.
From the young age of 9, Gabriella showed an interest in technology, computers, and STEM in general. Surrounding herself with computers led to her joining the robotics club in elementary school, eventually competing state-wide and eventually across all of Georgia. While looking at colleges, she realized she wanted to attend one that had both a a vast computer science curriculum and a cybersecurity program, leading her to apply to UF.
In her freshman year and especially after COVID-19, Gabriella wanted to play a more active role on campus. Responding to a single email led her on a productive and fulfilling path with UFSIT, from being a regular member to being elected to the secretary officer position, and eventually achieving the role of club president. In the course of her time at UF, she also worked with FICS Research under FICS Director Dr. Kevin Butler. This time was crucial for her professional growth. “FICS has done a great job of creating a program that allows people to grow at any pace and level, said Gabriella
. “Working around people with very diverse levels of research, publication and education transformed my view of coding. My time working with FICS as an undergraduate research assistant taught me to overcome the imposter syndrome and work past it even if I felt intimidated.” Gabriella was very excited to work with FICS Research as it was her first experience in a technical and academic job. She gained experience contributing impactful code and working with colleagues, including faculty, master’s and PhD students across multiple universities, towards a common goal. In this working environment, she was able to contribute her solutions while learning how a collaborative work environment function efficiently. This experience working in cybersecurity led to a summer internship with Hashicorp and eventually a full-time offer as one of the company’s first full-time security engineers.
Coming from a family of engineers motivated Gabriella to carve out her own place and be the first female engineer in the family. Being a Hispanic woman involved in the STEM field unfortunately included many experiences of dismissal of her abilities and her place within the curriculum and programming as a whole. However, these past experiences only motivated her to prove anyone that may have doubted her in the past wrong.
When asked what advice she could pass along to female students considering a role in information security and research, she emphasized the importance of mentorship, and getting out of your comfort zone. “If you have the passion, do it even if it makes you nervous. Even if you may be one of the few women in the group, overcoming that fear of imposter syndrome is important, and that comes with practice.”
When asked how she feels about being a part of Women’s History Month and creating a positive space within a male-dominated field, Gabriella was really excited about what she was able to achieve and eagerly anticipates her new position at a company that respects, admires, and appreciates women in the computer science field. Being given this opportunity and appreciation is motivating her continued goal of achieving more within her field. That includes continuing to collaborate with other women in STEM, and to continue to advance within this new position. “Gabriella has been a wonderful student to have as part of our research group,” said Dr. Butler. “Her contributions to network design and measurement of cellular infrastructure continue to be used by numerous students for ongoing research, and she became a trusted member of the team who provided technical expertise to others. I am delighted to see Gabriella’s success and I know she will have an excellent career ahead of her.”
Everyone at FICS is very excited about what is next for Gabriella, and wish her the very best.