Portrait de Sofía Celi, Ingénieure en cryptographie chez CloudFare

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Sofía Celi

Pour le meetup du mois de mars de Women Who Go Paris, nous avons invité Sofia Celi, Ingénieure en Cryptographie. Alors que Sofía a un parcours particulier avec un background en philosophie et literature, elle est aussi passionnée par l’informatique. Elle mène l’écriture de la 4eme version du protocole de messages « Off-the-Record ». Elle a accepté de répondre à nos questions (en Anglais)

What do you do in your job?

In my daily job, I implement cryptographic algorithms and protocols. I currently lead the design of the 4th version of the Off-the-Record messaging protocol. This means that I write code (usually with a low-level language), but I also write technical documents and papers. Sometimes, I also have to deal with maths. 🙂 I love this job because it allows me time to read, write, learn and at the same time to write code and investigate applications. I always try to focus on helping people through cryptography, specially, people from the Global South.

What is your background?

Since very little, as one does, I studied classical music, and I focused on classical guitar and post-modern composition. I also studied literature and focused on post-modern literature theory and on philosophy. I love writing and reading (specially LatinAmerican Literature). As you can imagine, I adore philosophical debates.

How did you arrived to computer science?

On the last year of my university, I got crazy for philosophy of Mathematics (I also got crazy for other kinds of philosophy, but that is another story). In my university, you can audit university courses from other faculties/universities, so I started doing so, with some Mathematics courses. I started thinking on a way that Maths could be applied to the real world. So, I rediscovered programming (as I learned to program on high school) and cryptography.

I was putted on charge of the University’s online newspaper as a webmaster and I started programming. Eventually, I won a scholarship from a program called « Rails Girls Summer of Code ». This scholarship allowed me to learn how to program in Ruby. Coincidentally, the first project I was assigned to work for, was a security project.

After this super nice experience, I applied for an amazing company called ThoughtWorks. They helped me so much as a junior developer. Now, I’m joining Cloudflare, which is also an amazing opportunity!

The challenges in your profession?

It is difficult to be a Latin-American working in cryptography as there is little representation from us out there. On every conference I go, I find some Latin Americans. We talk around how the problems that cryptography tries to solve now a days, are almost only focused on the Global North. We talk about how different the scenarios are on the Global South and how issues can be much intense , etc.

And as a Latin-American woman.

What I feel most of the time, is that there are ideas and ways for including white women into this profession. Those ideas have little regards of the challenges that non-white women face. It is difficult to speak as a Latin-American woman about this because sensibilities are sometimes high. I see that it is something that still needs to be pushed into the agenda. That people from the Global South need representation, specially, women. 

A typical day?

On a typical day, I start working as I immediately wake up, as I really love my job. I take some hours to read, and then I jump into coding or writing something, or meetings. I also take lots of online course (around like everything: from the philosophy of Nietzsche to game development). I’m also currently enrolled on my first Computer Science degree. During the day, I like to talk with my loved ones and probably, play some indie video games at the end of the day. I love always having the balance to have people I love near me. And prior to sleep, I read a nice book (currently reading The Silent Cry by Ōe). I sleep pretty late and I hardly go outside ;). I love staying inside with my loved ones: cooking or doing something.

What are your professional aspirations?

I hope I can grow more into doing cryptography and on learning mathematics. I aspire to keep growing in the company I’m currently in, but also, on growing contacts and making a nice community. Web design is something that I love andI hope I can learn more around. And I would like to learn about how to efficiently lead teams. 

Some advice to other women starting their careers?

I will say that they should always think on not giving up. And that they should also challenge the preconceptions that we are « mandated » as women: that women should be the emotional support of teams, that women should accept and be the ones creating team bonding, that women should be judged by a higher moral compass than others.

In general, we all should remember to always fight for our rights: equal pay between everyone on a team, equal working hours for everyone on a team, equal work support for everyone on a team. But that we should also note our privileges. I’m a Latin-American woman from the middle class. This means that in my country, I have more privileges than indigenous women. I should always remember that I should give them a voice. We should not expect them to be judged by a higher moral compass or be the ones policing situations. It is unfair for an underrepresented group, to be faced with the discrimination of every day life and also to be expected to act on a higher ground on every aspect of their life. 

Keep working and keep rocking.

We are and should be always treated with the same respect and recognition. Do not think on what they will say: fight for your rights and do it in a direct way, so everyone can see. It is easy in the early stages of your career for people to be pushing you around. It happened a lot to me: people expected me to police the behavior of teams, to act perfectly, to lead them on their professional life and also on their emotional one, while earning less (and by far less) than everyone else. If you are doing all of that, ask for a raise, and learn that you don’t have to fulfill everyone’s expectations.

You will fail and no one has the right to judge you because of that. When you fail, stand up again and keep going. Find a good coach that will listen and help you, but, most importantly, find one that will notice your flaws and help you outgrew them. The only way to keep growing is by having someone telling you what you can change and what is the path for this change.

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My professional interest focus on the domain of software development and architecture using known good practices. I am passionate about software development and craftsmanship. I regularly attend meetups on several topics including software craftsmanship, docker, functional programming and others. I coordinate WomenWhoGo Meetup in Paris.

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