Meet Your InfoSec Team: Shane Powell, Information Security Architect

Shane Powell, Information Security Architect, is one of the newest members of the InfoSec team here at WashU. Originally, Shane is from Texas, but after many years of visiting St. Louis with his wife, they decided to move here in 2016. In his day-to-day work here, Shane “communicates with various groups throughout the university and guides them on how to design, build, and maintain secure systems in the WashU environment.” Not only is Shane passionate about helping people through security, but he also feels fortunate to work with his “brilliant team members.” He is inspired by his coworkers and their “level of expertise and wisdom.” Shane has found that this field appeals to his natural interests while also being emotionally satisfying.

His work in technology began with navigating different computer platforms like the Atari 400 and 800, Apple II, the original IBM computers, and Commodore 64s before discovering how appealing it was to combine these skills with computer networking and interacting with people. Before public internet and broadband services were widely available, Shane would communicate with people using bulletin board systems (BBS). Through navigating these resources, he uncovered how they could be broken into, and thus, he found himself dabbling in the mechanics of security. Shane has naturally had a lot of experience in computing and security, but he initially started in an accounting position. While they seem like two different fields, Shane notes that there are a lot of overlapping areas, like “solving mysteries.” The mysteries and questions Shane encountered in accounting were, “What happened to make these numbers not add up?” while in security, Shane is asked, “How did this unauthorized person gain access to this system?” These problem-solving opportunities are very gratifying for Shane.

One thing that Shane thinks others might not understand about infosec is that it doesn’t exist simply to make their “jobs or lives difficult.” He is here to tell those people that “we all have the same mission and are working towards the same high-level goals.” This shared mission is top of mind for Shane as he deploys security measures, aiming for them to be “frictionless whenever possible.” He also wants people to know that infosec professionals are not spying on you and that we’re “here to stop bad people from spying on you and tricking you into doing bad things.” One way to help people understand is through education. Shane recommends the book A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense: The Computer Security Defense You Should Be Using by Roger Grimes. You can read this LinkedIn post Shane made about the book. If you don’t like reading, Shane also recommends the Security Now podcast, a favorite of his that he has been listening to for 15 years.

In his daily life, Shane aims to keep it “relatively free of complications.” He aims to be prepared for the expected and the unexpected, like creating an “itinerary for a family vacation that includes some backup options in case we aren’t able to do some of the things we planned.” These measures keep Shane ready for anything. He enjoys spending “as much time as possible with his wife,” who is also his best friend. He even enjoys doing the most mundane tasks with her, like grocery shopping. In his own free time, he likes to “read non-fiction books, walk his dogs, ride his bike, and play video games.” Shane also enjoys working on other interesting hobbies like “playing guitar, origami, and Japanese woodblock printing,” but he admits he isn’t as great at any of those. A fun fact about Shane is his love for history and trivia, even memorizing “two boxes of Trivial Pursuit cards in high school” as he prepared for a state trivia tournament. When he finds an opportunity to catch his kids when they aren’t too busy, Shane enjoys spending time with them, having fun, and playing Jackbox party games.