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Last week, I had a very informative chat with my friend, CISO and cybersecurity policy expert Magda Chelly. I learned a lot about the Chief Information Security Officer role from her.

This week, I spoke to Ashanti, who’s a security-minded Rust developer. She also enjoys making music, but she’s not the pop star who worked with Ja Rule. Her path in her computing career has been inspiring. Few black women are visible in computing. She also enlightened me on the difference between blockchain and holochain.

Kim Crawley: Please tell me a bit about yourself and what you do professionally.

Ashanti: I am an artist and Rust developer. I like to make music, but I also do enjoy developing software!

Professionally, I am working for holochain as a Rust developer. I essentially fight with the Rust compiler until it wins. Ha!

KC: Are there any security concerns with Rust that you have to be mindful of?

A: The good thing about working with Rust is that it is a safe language, so it minimizes the mistakes you can make. That is what I like about it. Unsafe pointers, problematic concurrency and safe memory sharing is embedded into the compiler checks, so it helps avoid potential pitfalls.

KC: Did your development work spark your interest in security?

A: Yes it did. I have always been paranoid about putting software out there. But my focus is putting out software the safe way. I think I owe it to people using software to at least make sure they are protected.

KC: Have you done a lot of security patching?

A: Not as much as I would like to, but it is always something I have been interested in.

KC: Do IT people have misconceptions about the nature of the work that you do?

A: I guess not really. At a high level, I think they kind of have an idea of what programming is about. I think in IT, when you tell someone you are a programmer, they kind of have a picture in mind because it is so common. I think misconceptions usually come ability-wise. I am usually underestimated.

KC: I am a white woman, and sometimes I dealt with sexism while pursuing computing professionally. I imagine women of color face even more bigotry. Is that true?

A: Oh yeah absolutely. Racism, transphobia, homophobia…it is bad all around. To be put it bluntly, tech is just not a good space for us seeing that it is so white male-dominated.

KC: Yes, transphobia. I have interviewed transgender people for this series before.

I have a theory that when people who don’t demographically fit the computer nerd stereotype make it in our field, those people are extra competent.

Because we have to be extra talented to be noticed and acknowledged. What do you think?

A: That is perfectly true. As a black person, I have gone through my life knowing that I have to be twice as good. It is exhausting. It takes a toll because you are paranoid that every mistake is crucial.

KC: Maybe if employers hired more minorities in computer technology roles, the side effect would be more competent and talented workers.

A: Here is to hoping so!

KC: Were you interested in computers when you were little?

A: I was very interested, I would use computers the whole day. I actually wanted to be an artist first, but that idea was killed by my parents, honestly. I thought the next thing was computers because I also enjoyed them.

KC: How did you go from a curiosity about computers to being a Rust developer?

A: I went to school for it because even though we talk about how we don’t need degrees for this, no one is looking at me twice without a degree. I did some development in languages like Java and C# over the next few years, but I wanted to improve and learn something different. I learned functional Javascript, and then I saw Rust on my timeline. Then I got mentored by Carol Nichols, who is incredible! I started doing it every day and managed to land a job in it.

KC: Is Carol Nichols a big influencer in the world of Rust?

A: Hmmm. That I am not sure. One could say yes because she runs a conference, Rustbeltrust. She also takes part in the writing of the Rust book. She is great in all honesty.

KC: Are you experienced in the secure application development lifecycle?

A: Not as much as I would love to, but I usually just piggyback off what I have learned to make sure I develop safe software. Ha.

KC: Would you like to specialize in security, or would you prefer to focus on development?

A: I do like the path that I am heading along with development, and I do like that. But I do not want to abandon security.

KC: So your role is security related, as well? What sort of development do you do?

A: My role is mostly dev-related. We essentially write this platform that allows for decentralized communication, but security still goes in there because we have to make sure the communication between all the nodes is secure.

KC: What sort of applications do you work on?

A: At the moment, just holochain! It is mostly what my eyes are on.

KC: Is that like blockchain? Pardon my ignorance.

A: Ha ha, no problem! It is in the same space but acts very differently to blockchain. It is also used for cryptocurrency.

KC: I know many cryptocurrencies use blockchains to maintain encrypted ledgers. What about holochain?

A: There is HoloFuel that operates on top of holochain, but not really sure about the specifics of how they interact sadly.

KC: It’s been great talking with you and I’ve learned a lot. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go?

A: Nothing at all! Thank you for talking to me!

 

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.