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Q&A: Bobbie Stempfley

Roberta (Bobbie) G. Stempfley boasts a truly impressive security background, having served in the Department of Homeland Security and at the Department of Defense. The recipient of many awards, Bobbie has been recognized by CyberScoop as among the Top Women in Cybersecurity, by Federal Computer Week in the Fed 100 and by Information Week as one of the Top 50 Government CIOs. She received her bachelor’s degree in engineering mathematics from the University of Arizona and her master’s degree in computer science from James Madison University

What was your route into the information security industry?
My path was not very linear. I’ve been in information security jobs, and in jobs where we apply technology to change the world. They are actually largely the same. People want to understand and exploit the latest technologies to make their work more effective, more efficient and easier to leverage. That involves a lot of security thinking and doing. I’ve had systems engineering roles, software engineering roles, computer science roles and risk management roles in addition to cybersecurity roles. All of these tech roles rest on a foundation of cybersecurity. What keeps me in the security industry is how important it is to the world that’s now fueled by software and data.

What’s your proudest achievement? 
With their father, raising my three kids. Professionally, I’m hoping it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been really proud of something at every job I’ve had, from helping to buy anti-virus software for the entire U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in a single purchase to cover both work and personal devices, to building network defense architectures that are the core of what is in use today throughout the DoD and the federal government, to building out programs to support critical infrastructure cybersecurity needs. Then there’s working with the world class researchers and engineers at CMU. The best is yet to come.

What’s the worst thing about your job? 
The worst thing about my job is also the best thing: it’s different every day, so you come to work without knowing what to expect. That’s sometimes uncomfortable, but a lot of the time it’s exciting!

Who do you most admire in the industry? 
My grandmother – as a U.S. Navy WAVE, a member of the women’s reserve, she was a cryptoanalyst during World War II. She worked with amazing women in what is now the DHS Headquarters building. It used to be the Naval Communications Annex, and before that, a private school for girls. Working with pencils and paper, these women helped the U.S. Navy break codes to help win the war. The Bombe machine, an early type of cryptographic computer, was in the back of the room, and the women learned to operate it. These women are hardly known, but they were an impactful part of the U.S. efforts in fighting World War II.

Quick-fire Q&A 

What’s your favorite book?
Pride and Prejudice

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Collecting fabric – too much fabric – to supply my sewing, both apparel and quilting.

What’s your biggest regret?
I took too long to find my voice; I let the world convince me that I needed to fit in to contribute.

BIO @BobbieStempfley

Bobbie Stempfley joined the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute as director of the SEI’s CERT Division in June 2017. She previously served as director of cyber strategy implementation at MITRE Corp. and as acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary, Office of Cyber Security and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security.

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