NAME: Gabrielle Hempel
NSIN AFFILIATION: NSIN Tech Squad Alum
AFFILIATION: RSA Security, System Engineer
Q: What inspired you to explore the national security community? Do you have a connection to the Military/Government Service?
I had an interest in cybersecurity, but I was especially interested in how it applies to our nation’s security and our relationships with other countries, since the political landscape seems to be driving so much of the information security conversation. I am not in the military or government service, but I do work with organizations like the Marine Corps Cyber Auxiliary and the NSIN!
Q: As a woman, how is the national security community different for you?
The national security community has historically been populated in majority by men, and in both the defense and technology sectors we see that is still the case. Being a woman in the industry has been equal parts discouraging and exciting. It can be discouraging to have your intellect dismissed or to feel you have to “prove your worth” more than male counterparts, but once you break those barriers and you can look back on your work proudly, it is so exciting.
Q: What legacy do you want to leave for the next generation of women professionals in the innovation ecosystem?
I want to clear a path for women who want to succeed in national security and technology! In growing my career, I had so many strong females in the defense and national security space that I absolutely admired and looked up to, and I want to pass that on and be that person for someone else.
Q: Do you remember a moment when you saw a difference for women in the professional world? What do you remember? How did it impact your work?
The first instance I remember was in college! I worked as a service advisor and auto mechanic while I was in undergrad, and I remember a customer blatantly telling my male counterpart that he didn’t want me doing the repairs on his vehicle because he didn’t trust a woman to do them correctly. I remember being speechless—it made no sense in my mind that my gender would have anything to do with the work I was doing in that space! It definitely affected me, though—after that, I was often hesitant to tell a customer I was working on their car or to be seen by them performing repairs because I didn’t want to be belittled for being a female mechanic again.
Q: What books, podcasts, or thought leaders do you recommend when it comes to Women’s History Month and understanding the issues facing women in the workplace?
I loved “My Own Words” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. I don’t listen to as many podcasts as I should, but I recommend Encyclopedia Womannica for a daily dose of inspiration! Whenever I am feeling discouraged or need a boost, I will watch or read “Hidden Figures” again—one of my favorites of all time.