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Data Driven

By Ruth Keyso, Director of Alumni Relations & Giving

You could call Natasha Pabrai '10 a modern-day superhero. After all, she makes a living protecting online user-data from “evildoers.”

As engineering program manager at Google, Natasha works with system architects, lawyers, sales people, and software engineers to maintain a secure infrastructure for enterprises that use applications in Google’s G suite—Google mail, drive, calendar, etc.

“I make sure that the applications meet regulatory standards and that technical controls are in place to keep data secure,” she explains.

When considering careers, a job in cyber-security never entered Natasha’s mind. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to be a doctor. She majored in biology at Scripps College with the intention of enrolling in medical school. After shadowing a few doctors, she changed her mind.

“I kept hearing the word HIPAA,” she says, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Realizing what a huge role privacy and protection of data was playing in the medical world, Natasha switched gears and set out to learn as much as possible about HIPAA compliance and data security, eventually earning multiple certifications in the field.

After a series of jobs, from a tiny start-up to a corporate giant, where she implemented security programs and conducted security posture assessments, Natasha landed at Google in April 2016. She loves her work at this storied company, a workplace unlike any other she has encountered. “Google is in a league of its own,” she says. Beyond the free cafeteria fare, the custom-made lattes, the food trucks, and the flexible hours, Natasha appreciates the autonomy of the organization and the trust her superiors place in her to get the job done.

“They let your work speak for itself,” she explains.

A self-starter and an on-the-job learner who is constantly on the hunt for new skills and knowledge, Natasha admits to experiencing her share of setbacks along the way.

“I was not a 4.0 student; I did well, but I wasn’t at the top of my class,” she admits. But dogged persistence has served her well. When she failed a certification exam or got laid off from a job, she dusted herself off and tried again.

“Failure is part of the journey,” she says. “You can’t get stuck in the moment. When you fall, you get up. Those are the moments when you learn the most.”

Natasha’s future goals include continuing to grow her technical expertise. “Recently, my roles have been on the regulatory advisory side; I’d like to be more involved with the technical implementation of these security controls.” Working with sharp, tech-savvy individuals at Google is advancing her knowledge and helping her understand more about the back-end of the business: the how of data storage and application functionality, in addition to the why.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” says Natasha about the wide world of data. “Either you’re getting the data—like a hacker—or you’re protecting the data,” as she and her colleagues are doing, thwarting those evildoers one at a time.

Natasha Pabrai ’10 is a 2013 graduate of Scripps College with a degree in biology. She lives in San Francisco and works at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Posted by Ms. Grace Kim in Winter 2017 on Monday January 23, 2017
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At Home

By Ruth Keyso, Director of Alumni Relations & Giving

When you see Dean of Students Bobby Coburn ’09 in the halls of Carmen School on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side, it’s clear he’s in his element.

As he passes a bulletin board decorated with photos of seniors who have been accepted into college, he announces, like a proud parent, that they represent the first class of students to graduate from this urban charter school, which opened in 2013.

“I taught them as freshmen; they’re grown up, adults now.”

Bobby joined Carmen Schools of Science & Technology in 2013, fresh out of DePauw University and new to the Teach for America program. A classroom English teacher and football coach by day, he spent nights earning his teaching credentials and a master’s degree at Marquette University. Now in his fourth year at Carmen, he is part of the school’s leadership team, as one of two deans of students.

The new role has him reflecting on his own high school experience.

“I was head prefect at LFA and had a lot of contact with Mr. Tennyson [LFA's Dean of Students],” he says. Now that he’s a dean himself, Bobby has a newfound appreciation for the resilience and composure Tennyson demonstrated when dealing with student discipline issues. “It’s never as easy as it might seem,” says Bobby, about the position.

Bobby finds himself channeling Tennyson and others in the LFA community, including his basketball coach Matt Vaughn, when interacting with students. He remembers the patience and grace they extended to him as a teenager, “even when I didn’t deserve it,” he says.

Building strong relationships with students and creating a positive growth environment is central to Bobby’s style. He’s says it’s critical for him to find common ground with students. His young age—25—is an advantage in that he’s relatable. While he recognizes that his background and life experiences are different from the students he interacts with at this urban school, their values and goals are the same: success in college and beyond.

“We want to see them [excel] in college, in their careers, and in their community,” he says.

To this end, Bobby and his colleagues have tailored the model at Carmen to focus on merits rather than demerits. Structures are in place to assist students in the learning process: an extended school day, mandatory office hours, daily enrichment periods for math and reading. Incentives and positive reinforcements keep students inspired and motivated.

But, in the end, Bobby believes one of the most important things he and his colleagues can do is simply be there for students. Every morning he arrives at school early to greet students as they enter the building at 7:15 a.m. He talks sports and pop culture with them at lunch. He even accompanied a student on a college visit, driving him the two-hour distance on a Thursday afternoon. Seniors such as Uniqua Woodson say kids look up to “Mr. Coburn.”

“He’s so welcoming and always has the best intentions,” she says. “As a college football player and a coach, he can connect with students on different levels.”

Bobby says Carmen is more than just a job: His colleagues are some of his closest friends, and the relationships he has forged with students are some of his most meaningful. Though he’s unsure if education will remain his life’s career, for now it’s his full-time commitment and top priority.

“I think of what our team started here,” he says, reflecting on the past four years. “I believe in what we’re doing.”

Bobby Coburn is a 2009 graduate of LFA and a 2013 graduate of DePauw University, where he earned his degree in English Literature. He also holds a master’s degree in Educational Policy and Leadership from Marquette University. He lives in Milwaukee.

Posted by Ms. Grace Kim in Winter 2017 on Monday January 23, 2017
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