Submitted by T-Mobile
Terri Oscar is an Army veteran, a military spouse and a mother. Her resume includes being stationed at the Pentagon as part of a cybersecurity incident response team. These experiences have shaped who she is today. But Terri will tell you that what has also been critically influential in her life is the fact that she is often “the only one in the room.”
“What I mean by that is that I’m accustomed to being the only one in the room who looks like me,” she explains. “As a Black woman in cybersecurity, I have often been the only one with curly, course hair and melanin skin. I feel I’ve had to prove myself over and over and, honestly, it’s not only in the workforce, but also in professional events I’ve attended and while I was in graduate school. There are so many occasions where it becomes a little intense knowing you’re always that small percentage number. I want to change the narrative, the outlook, and create a sense of belonging.”
Research shows that only three percent of all tech roles are held by Black women today. Terri transitioned to civilian life almost two years ago and joined T-Mobile’s Cybersecurity Incident Response Team (CIRT) as a senior engineer. She has brought both her technical expertise and an important perspective on what it means to be the only one like her in many instances, as well as how to clear the path for others to follow.
We asked Terri to share her personal and professional journey to success, how she’s balancing her new civilian life and the way she is showing up to be a mentor and the identifiable face of support for young minority women in tech at T-Mobile and beyond.
Terri, can you give us a little background into how you became interested in cybersecurity and what you do now in the field at T-Mobile?
The area in which I specifically work is incident response. We are on the front line of accelerating the company’s cybersecurity capabilities and identifying and preventing cyber attacks. I didn’t have a straight and narrow path into cybersecurity. Initially, the goal was to become a medical examiner, but I found it was not a fit for me early on in the process. I had experience being in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in high school, so I had a lot of veterans and service members in my community, and I went into one of the recruiting offices and I said, “What opportunities do you have for me?” Once I scored high on my Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), the two options that were presented were cyber intelligence or information technology. So, I literally missed my undergrad graduation ceremony and went straight into basic training. Honestly, that was the best decision I could have made. I think the turning point in my career was being stationed at the Pentagon. That is when I was involved in more integration with civilians and larger organizations with bigger missions. I was given the opportunity to join the incident response team at the Pentagon. That started my almost decade-worth of experience in cybersecurity and what has ultimately prepared me to be in the position that I am here today at T-Mobile.
When I first arrived at the Pentagon, it was a challenge to be the only Black female in the room. I want to be a model to my two daughters and show them you can do exactly what mommy did. We can do hard things.
TERRI OSCAR, T-MOBILE SENIOR CYBERSECURITY ENGINEER
You mentioned that when you came to work in the tech field, you didn’t have any mentors who looked like you. How has that affected you during your professional journey, and how you view your role in cybersecurity today?
To be quite honest, I knew that I was always destined for greatness. I’ve always been self-driven. When I first arrived at the Pentagon, it was kind of a challenge to be the only Black female in the room. I had to prove myself by showing that I can get these certifications and work harder to show that I am worthy of the position that was given to me. I don’t know if that was just the pressures that we feel in all aspects of our lives as minority women in professional settings, but I’ve been running a race with myself pretty much all of my professional career.
I do think it’s important to live out loud and put yourself in that position so others can have a role model or someone to look up to. A lot of my qualities of being a hard worker, being self-motivated and confident, I attribute to my mother. But it would have also been great to have a Black woman like me, who has hair like me and skin like me, in places that I was seeking to go.
My journey to where I am today does not come without strife. I know that there are a lot of young women who are in underprivileged communities or households. My message to them is: You may not see a way out or end goal in sight right now, and it is okay if you do not know exactly what you want to do, but just know that you are capable. You are able to do anything that you want to do. Just know that there are women out here, like myself, who are openly willing to be a mentor and are championing you to be your greatest self.
I do think it’s important to live out loud and put yourself in that position so others can have a role model. It would have been great to have a Black woman like me, who has hair like me and skin like me, in places that I was seeking to go.
TERRI OSCAR, T-MOBILE SENIOR CYBERSECURITY ENGINEER
T-Mobile has invested in new programs focused on expanding opportunities to underserved communities — including funding over $2.5 million in scholarships for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.* You have personally become involved in events meant to introduce technology opportunities to minority youth. Can you tell us more about what that means to you?
In the fall of 2022, I was asked if I would speak as a panelist at T-Mobile’s Cybersecurity and Tech Career Fest, and that was an amazing event in which we brought young girls from multiple high schools around the Seattle region to T-Mobile’s headquarters, and we introduced them to the endless amount of opportunities within cybersecurity. I was able to essentially let them know that they too have an option to seek out careers in technology. There’s a lot of great work being done. T-Mobile does a great job getting out in front of our communities and showing that there are opportunities and resources. But I do believe that there’s a lot more that needs to be done. There are a lot of factors that play into these disparities and inequities within gender equality and job opportunities. We have to get down to the fundamentals of these gaps and barriers first before we can truly see change.
I’m still at this point in my career where I don’t have all the answers, but I know that as long as I’m continuously elevating, that is what makes me feel content. I don’t think there will ever be a full sense of calm in the profession that I have, but it is that thrill that I get from this field of cyber that keeps me going. There’s a need to constantly feed yourself with knowledge and train and acquire more technical certifications and higher learning. I want to be a model to my two daughters and show them you can do exactly what mommy did. We can do hard things. I haven’t figured it all out, but I’m sure we’ll get there.
Can you share how you celebrate Black History Month?
In my opinion, Black History Month is about staying connected to your community, doing outreach like mentoring and being a face of support to others who look like me. It’s about celebrating those who have paved the way for us to be right where we are today, and those who continue to make strides to advance us as a Black culture. I think it’s very important to reach back. A lot of times, individuals make it to that sweet spot, but we have to go back and not forget where we came from. We need to go back into those communities and show that you can be this, you can do this. It’s not just a month of celebrating, it’s actually about doing the work that it takes to keep advancing the Black community.
During Black History Month and beyond, T-Mobile is honoring and celebrating the contributions of Black communities and leaders across the industry. This February, the company is donating $200K to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund as part of its Magenta Scholars program through a click-to-donate campaign on T-Mobile Tuesdays.
*T-Mobile is unlocking greater access to STEM opportunities preparing Black leaders for roles driving innovation and the future of tech and has invested over $2.5 million in scholarships for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities through Magenta Scholars since 2021. Through Project 10Million, and other education initiatives, T-Mobile has brought reliable connectivity and access to 6 million students across the United States and provided $6.4 billion in services. Learn more about T-Mobile’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts — from hiring and development to helping close the digital divide:
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