There’s a photo of Jing de Jong-Chen and the rest of the Microsoft Windows 95 launch team that once prompted her daughter to marvel at her mom’s prominent placement front and center.
While de Jong-Chen proudly touts her role in bringing to market Microsoft’s seminal operating system that married MS-DOS and Windows, she points out that save for the front two rows and a couple of sparse spots on the side, the photo mostly features men.
Being surrounded by men, sometimes the only woman in the picture or the room, wasn’t unusual more than two decades ago when de Jong-Chen led the team responsible for launching Microsoft’s seminal OS.
Still, she has been able to distinguish herself among the ranks at not only Microsoft but in the cybersecurity industry as an expert in cybersecurity policy focusing on U.S.-China relations.
Like many security pros, de Jong-Chen feels like she was “in the right place at the right time” and she found her career migrating from IT to cybersecurity over time. “My career can be put in two buckets – product development and then dedicated to cybersecurity,” she says. With a degree in computer science and an MBA, de Jong-Chen joined the ranks of Microsoft when it was a relatively young company with only 6,000 employees.
It was there that she saw computing go from desktop standalone to something more interconnected. And, it is where she learned, particularly in the lead-up to the Windows 95 launch and subsequent frequent upgrades, how to get things done quickly and efficiently. She learned how to collaborate, persuade and bring disparate groups together – all skills that would provide the underpinnings of a gradual move to cybersecurity.
The impetus to switch her focus to security came in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks and a wave of high-profile malicious viruses that disrupted the internet and served, she says, as a wake-up call to countries around the globe that they needed to protect what was increasingly becoming a “highly connected IT infrastructure.”
The next year she joined the company’s Trustworthy Computing group in the advanced strategy and policy division and begin to develop her expertise and influence. As vice president of the nonprofit Trusted Computing Group (TCG) her work on global standards would eventually become well-known.
She’s found tremendous support within Microsoft, where she has been respected and promoted for her expertise. “I came out of Windows and Java and people had a certain regard for that,” says de Jong-Chen, noting she did “hard project work early on.”
“You have to have people who advocate and empower you,” she says. “In the culture at Microsoft at the time, people could get into what they wanted.”
She witnessed a shift at the company as security went from an afterthought to “a mandatory requirement for Microsoft to ship product with security,” she says. “The entirety of Microsoft started looking at security as a requirement.”
These days as de Jong-Chen mulls the future directions of cybersecurity, she also pitches in to advocate for women. She leads Microsoft’s Women in Security group, which was created to promote the professional development of women employees. And she does work with, speaking publicly, at the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF). In 2014, she received the EWF Women of Influence Award.
De Jong-Chen sees a lot of opportunity for women in cybersecurity and notes that women may be “drawn to work associated with major causes.”
“When I got involved, I believed that cybersecurity is a cause we have to protect,” she says., “Women need a certain sense of why are we doing this. It’s not just salary but it’s important that women can and should consider what helps motivate them.”
It is as important, she says, “as a human being to have meaning in life.”