Allison Miller’s inspiration for kicking off a career in information security was rooted in curiosity. Certainly, at that time roughly 25 years ago, companies were using technology to advance their products; to advance their brands. But few understood how technology could impact business and financial markets. Few were considering how to protect this technology that clearly would change the world.
“I really fell in love with the internet. It's so rich, so much information. And it felt like not just a technology, but a space to explore,” said Miller, now chief information security officer and vice president of trust at Reddit. “I wanted to protect and defend that. You could tell that something was brewing just by how many companies were becoming more reliant on technology. It felt like you needed to have a contingency plan for when things might go wrong.”
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Miller figured she’d be a professional hacker or a cyber intelligence analyst for law enforcement. But when she’d ask for those opportunities, most companies said, “We don’t have that here,” or “we have that, but you need 10 years of experience.” She landed in a general IT business analyst role, with a lot of exposure to different kinds of technology. She asked a lot of question.
“That ended up leading straight to a cybersecurity opportunity because they said, ‘You seem to really be concerned about these issues. Why don't you help this executive start our cybersecurity department and program?’ So even though I got turned around, that ended up providing a nicely paved path right to where I wanted to be.”
That’s not to say she stayed put in what some would regard as typical cybersecurity roles. Miller transitioned to various adjacent markets — risk, financial services, fraud prevention. She worked as a product manager on different types of technology. She hopped between social media and fintech.
“All of those experiences — it almost didn't make sense at the time,” Miller said. “Most folks who were following my career in the early years just thought I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. Well, I did know what I wanted to do, but it didn't exist yet. I needed to cobble together the right experience. Now, when you look back at my resume, you see a picture has emerged.”
You might say the market did catch up to Miller in recognizing certain synergies. Digital fraud and security have seen a convergence even among huge retailers like Target and federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI. That convergence is reflected in Miller’s own title. And banks began to accommodate newfound demands for digital access among customers, which shifts the fraud prevention approach.
“What I think about from a fraud [perspective] is understanding data analytics and machine learning and big data and all of those things that are bread and butter for fraud analysts, but not necessarily directly developed by cybersecurity teams,” said Miller, who pointed to the inclusion of “trust” in her current title as very deliberate. “Oftentimes CISOs will describe themselves under a banner of risk, which I think is relevant for me as well. But I really wanted to reinforce what I was bringing to the table for Reddit, because Reddit's mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world. You can't do that if you can't build relationships, with some underlying trust in the platform behind the communities.”