Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Parisa Tabriz, Google's "security princess," talks about college

Parisa Tabriz, Google Chrome "Security Princess" climbs a rock face at Joshua Tree in California. © Parisa Tabriz used with permission 60second Recap®

As Google's "Princess of Security," Parisa Tabriz keeps the cybercrooks out of your life. Be glad she's on your side.

Parisa Tabriz is a hacker. She scales massifs of computer code, groping for cracks in the world's most complex software applications. She packs light: Sometimes, a laptop and a brilliant mind is enough to reduce the loftiest digital defense to rubble.

Be glad that Parisa Tabriz is one of the good guys.

Tabriz runs the security division for Google's Chrome web browser. Her mission: to make sure Chrome stays ahead of "black-hat" cybercriminals trying to hack it to steal passwords and other private data from an unsuspecting public.

In other words, Parisa's the girl standing between you and the bad guys. Lest you forget, here's her official title:

Parisa Tabriz, Google Security Princess.

The bad guys are the worse for it: A recent study by security firm Accuvant concluded that Chrome stopped cyberattacks more effectively than the three other mainstream internet browsers with which it competes--Microsoft's Explorer, Apple's Safari, or Mozilla's Firefox.

Did we mention that she got out of school just six years ago? Tabriz was chosen as one Forbes' "30 under 30" honorees in this year's "Technology" category. Something Forbes won't tell you, and we will: Parisa earned her bachelor's and masters degree, in 2006, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign(In fairness to the editors at Forbes, there’s no reason to think they’re purposefully ignoring Illinois: Forbes “30 over 30″ made no mention of Isaac Kinde’s connection with the UMBC, which you can read about here, or David Rusenko’s link with Penn State, which you can read about here, either.) She joined Google a few months after graduation and has worked to make the online world a safer place ever since.

60second Recap asked Parisa about her college experience, about its role in her burgeoning career, and her thoughts on what high school-aged teenagers and their parents might want to consider as they prepare for this year's annual college admissions rite.

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60sR: How did you decide where to go to college?

Parisa Tabriz: After deciding I wanted to pursue a degree in engineering, I researched college rankings and talked to my parents and friends. At the time, Illinois had a highly-ranked program, and the tuition was much more affordable than other universities because I qualified for in-state tuition. So for practical reasons, that was my first choice. I had one backup school, too, but when I got my UIUC acceptance, it was an easy decision.

Auditorium at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

60sR: If you could do it all over again, would you make the same choice?

Parisa Tabriz: Yep! University of Illinois has a world-class college of engineering. Studying in an environment that exposed and gave me access to incredible resources (people, research projects and labs, equipment) is a huge reason I had the opportunities I did. Plus, I graduated without any debt.

60sR: Did your college experience prepare you for your subsequent success?

Parisa Tabriz: I don’t remember a lot of specific material from the college courses I took, but I learned how to learn in college. I also obtained practical experience working with other people. This was challenging, and sometimes even painful, but it’s a necessary part of almost any job and most aspects of life. Lastly, I learned how to manage my time and finish something, whether it was meeting a project deadline or completing my actual degree. These are some of the most important skills that have helped me find success, and I credit my time in college with helping develop them. Although for me, college was the environment that helped cultivate my strengths and interests, I definitely think it’s possible to learn and develop these skills outside of a traditional college setting, too.

60sR: What would you say to a high school senior who’s about to send out 20 college applications?

Parisa Tabriz: Do you really need to send out 20 applications?! Every individual’s situation is different, but that seems like a lot of applications (and time, effort, and money) to me! I’d advise a high school senior to decide what he or she really wants from a college, do school research, and then just apply to a couple of top choices and a couple of backups in case the first picks don’t work out.

60sR: What would you say to a freshman who’s already begun to plan his or her high school “resume” for the college application process?

Parisa Tabriz, Google Chrome security manager

Do you really need to send out 20 college applications?

Parisa Tabriz: It’s important to have long-term goals, so thinking about college and admissions early is wise. That said, I think it’s so important for students to take advantage of the time and freedom they have in high school to explore a lot of different subjects and activities, and try to better understand their own personal interests, versus focusing exclusively on “resume” building.

From my experience, people will be most happy and successful when pursuing the things they’re interested in. No one can tell you what that’s going to be, so high school is a good time to start figuring it out. And it can mean taking some risks, whether that is enrolling in a non-traditional course or trying an activity outside of your comfort zone.

It can be so important and distinguishing to have some depth in a subject area or activity. I help with hiring at Google, and when I look at resumes, I’m much more interested in a candidate that has interesting experience in one area than someone who has done a little bit of everything. I imagine college admissions are similar, and you’re more likely to stand out if you’re very passionate or involved in a few areas versus being a member of two dozen clubs.

60sR: What would you say to their parents?

Parisa Tabriz: I’d say the same thing! Also, I think that success is relative. There is a big pressure on highly-motivated students to work toward what society defines as academic and professional success, but there really is no absolute end goal or path to get there; what works for other students, and even what worked for parents when they were students, may not be the right path for their kids. It’s important to be encouraging and open-minded.

I’d also tell parents that one of the best things they can provide, outside of their own perspective on school, is connections with other people willing to share their story. Throughout my life, I’ve learned so much from just talking to others about their experiences.

60sR: If someone asked you what the coolest thing was about your work, what would you say?


Parisa Tabriz: Browser patrol

Parisa Tabriz: Google has lots of fun perks for employees that you’ve probably heard of, but the coolest thing about my job, by far, is that I get to work with some of the most passionate and brilliant people in the world to make software that betters people’s lives.

I work on Google’s Chrome browser, so in my case, that means making people’s experience surfing the Internet safe. This is important to me and involves tackling a lot of hard problems. Getting to be among awesome people and spending time on interesting and motivating work doesn’t even feel like “work” most of the time. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be where I’m at, career-wise.

 Check it: Forbes "30 under 30": Colleges they won't talk about. 

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