By Julie Wurth
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
Forget all your stereotypes about computer engineers.
First, Parisa Tabriz is a woman. She doesn’t make a big deal about it, but she’s still a rarity in the upper echelons of the computer hacking world (the legal version).
Tabriz, 31, is head of computer security for Google Chrome, leading a team of about 25 hired hackers who find vulnerabilities in the browser to keep other hackers (the illegal kind) from messing with users’ data.
But the University of Illinois alum, who is being honored today by the Department of Computer Science, is about as far from the stereotypicaltechno-geek as you can get.
She likes rock climbing. She played soccer and tennis in high school. She swims with stingrays. She makes gingerbread houses every year with her grandma. Her family didn’t even get a computer until her senior year of high school.
And then there’s her title: Google’s Security Princess.
Officially, on her resume, she is Chrome Security Engineering Manager. But for Tabriz, that’s a bit … well, stuffy.
A few years back, she was headed to a security conference in Japan, where exchanging business cards is a big deal. At the time, she was an information security engineer, but “Security Princess” sounded more fun. Plus there was a bit of irony.
“I’m not very girly at all,” she said.
“I wasn’t trying to make a strong statement. To me, it was more whimsical and less boring.”
Her manager didn’t care, either. Google is a meritocracy, she said, where influence and authority come from your accomplishments, not your title.
“I don’t think people know what I do, but that’s fine. I’m not really a big proponent of titles and lots of executive-sounding things.”
The road to the UI
In fact, lots of people have noticed what she does. Besides profiles in Elle, Nature.com and WIRED, in 2012 she was named to Fortune’s “30 Under 30” list of tech pioneers. And a 2011 study from the information security firm Accuvant concluded that Chrome stopped cyberattacks more effectively than the three other mainstream browsers.