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Shannon Beck: A Life experience Loving Computer Sciences

Celebrating The International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th[1], Shannon Beck shared her experience about how important Science has been for her life and, most importantly, for her work helping people get in contact with different branches of Computer Sciences. Her life example showed magnificent proof of women's relevance in Science today and offers a lead to follow for future generations of women and girls who want to pursue her steps.

The following is a transcript of an interview done by Mireidis Marcano, CENADEDH's President, on February 2nd, 2021, where Shannon explained what it means for her to be a science woman. Thank you, Shannon, for sharing, and let's enjoy this wonderful Life experience.

The following questions will help to understand in a better way what it means to be a woman in Science and what the challenges are still in place to overcome as a woman.

Given that you are a woman of Science, we thought it essential to know your feelings, experience, and opinions about being a woman in the world of Science and how you can encourage other women and children to pursue their dreams in this field.

1. Can you please introduce yourself and explain what has been your professional experience?

My name is Shannon Beck and I am a Research and Curriculum Lead for DARK Enterprises, Inc., where I develop, support, and steward cybersecurity education initiatives. Over a decade of computer science experience working at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), I have supported the Joint Genome Institute and the Department of Defense, among others. In 2014, I enlisted on the "front lines" in the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT). After shifting to cybersecurity research, I co-developed PcapDB, a network packet capture database technology accepted into the DHS Transition to Practice program and presented at the Black Hat security conference.

For a time, I developed content for the Department of Energy's Cyber Fire cybersecurity education program and Cyber Toaster summer school. In 2018, I moved to the National Science Foundation, serving as Program Coordinator for the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program. While at the NSF, my work to create an inclusive, ethics-centric high school cybersecurity curriculum started with two Virginia cybersecurity high school educators. We named this effort Cyber Virginia (CyberVA). CyberVA served as the basis of a 2020 summer course for secondary educators at New Mexico Tech and led to my current role with DARK Enterprises and Teach Cyber.

2. Based on your experience as a professional woman. Why do you think scientific knowledge has been essential for you?

Scientific knowledge is essential to being able to do your job in the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) fields. As a computer scientist, you must understand the systems that you are working on and be able to work in teams.

3. As a scientific woman, especially in computer science, have you ever felt treated differentially for the fact of being a woman?

Often I have found myself as one of or the only woman in a room full of men. It is in these situations that I evaluate and work on balancing my communication styles. A group of all one gender communicates differently than a meeting composed of roughly equal men and women, and differently still if it is a majority of all one gender with just a few of the opposite gender. In some situations, I have found that men might soften their language when I am present. I have also been placed in the role of mediator. I am not clear if that is due to my gender or my personality.

4. While you were studying, did you find yourself reflected in professional women that came before you? For example, did you ever have female references as a great example to follow up to like women authors or recognized professionals in your study field?

I was so very blessed to have two strong women who were my computer science professors when I was an undergraduate student. Drs. Oberta Slotterbeck and Ellen Walker were the two full-time professors in a small academic department. They are my role models, back when I was 19 and to this day.

5. Why do you think it is important that women and girls access to scientific education?

Scientific education is a gift that keeps on giving. It teaches critical thinking skills, organization, and research knowledge that can lead to rational reasoning and making connections between ideas and facts. Instead of taking a statement at face value, someone trained in scientific thinking will question and seek additional information to either accept, modify, or reject that initial statement in question.

6. And is there something you will recommend for the advancement of women and girls in Science?

Keep at it! Don't let others, including friends and family, discourage you. I remember in 8th grade, two boys making fun of me in science class for being so excited to answer the teacher's questions. They teased and mocked, saying "Girls aren't good at science!" Well I can tell you firsthand, working at NASA, Los Alamos National Research Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, and in my current role working with other women who have higher degrees (Masters and Ph.D.'s), women know Science. I have worked with women with STEM degrees who work as an interstellar geologist specializing in Mars, a weather expert/climatologist, biofuel biologist, and medical doctor, among many others. Believe in yourself and then go out and do whatever you set your mind to, including Science!

Thank you much Shannon, your life already inspired me, and I am sure it will do the same for other women and girls in America and Worldwide.

Thank you so much!!!!

[1] United Nations resolution A/RES/70/212 declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

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