Students Inspired by STEM Week Guest Speaker Cyber Security Expert Randi Kieffer
By Betsy A. ’21, CyberPatriot Club Head and STEM Concentration student
As a part of Foxcroft’s STEM Week, Randi Kieffer spoke with students via Zoom on February 17. Ms. Kieffer is the Managing Vice President of Cyber Operations and Intelligence for Capital One Financial Corporation. She brings a vast array of skills to the table that she uses to manage the 24x7 Cyber Security Operations Center at Capital One. A diverse skill set is something Ms. Kieffer highlighted in her talk. Despite what one might think, communication and soft skills are still vital in STEM fields, especially in order to work up the corporate ladder. Ms. Kieffer spoke about how her high school activities helped to give her a strong foundation in the importance of teamwork and communication.
As Foxcroft prepares us to go out into the world as the “fine women” that Miss Charlotte envisioned, we gain many of the skills Ms. Kieffer has found valuable. As a leader of Foxcroft’s CyberPatriot Team, I have learned these skills firsthand. Through the competitions, we work together to secure both Ubuntu and Windows systems along with completing computer networking quizzes and simulations. We solve tough questions that involve using the command line or digging for files. To earn points, we remove unauthorized users from the system, install firewalls, uninstall suspicious programs, and so much more. Everyone on the team learns about teamwork and communication, not to mention the increasingly valuable real-world applicable cybersecurity skills that girls gain by joining the team.
Ms. Kieffer also elaborated on the concept of the “leaky pipeline.” About 25% of STEM professionals today are women. Despite boys and girls having a fairly equal interest in STEM before middle school, after middle school about a quarter of girls lose interest. Additionally, only 17% of students who take the AP Computer Science exam identify as female. While Ms. Kieffer spoke about how few women there are in STEM, she did not say this to deter us. Even though she has found herself as the only woman in the room several times, Ms. Kieffer does not fear this. Instead, she encouraged us to always find a way to “make your voice heard.” Foxcroft girls have nothing to fear, especially because of all the opportunities we have to find our voice. From an award-winning computer science class to the Concentration program to countless leadership opportunities, any girl can develop a wide variety of skills at Foxcroft.
Hearing Ms. Kieffer speak was a delight and very inspiring to all. She instilled confidence in us that there are so many facets of STEM that anyone can find a place where they will enjoy the work they do. I think I speak for everyone in thanking her for coming to talk with students!
An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.