Employee Spotlight: Ashleigh Sellier
How would you describe your role at RII?
I am a computer network operations (CNO) software developer working on a team that has been tasked with delivering tools to fulfill a very unique set of requirements.
Can you tell us about your career journey? How did you become a security researcher?
I graduated from UF (Go Gators!) with a BA in anthropology, intending to go back to school for a master’s degree in public health. During my senior year, I interned at a non-profit, assisting with a fetal and infant mortality study. It was interesting work, but I came away from that experience feeling less sure about whether it was a good fit for me. So, I became a research analyst for a boutique market research firm, working as a private sector anthropologist tracking data about consumers.
The firm I worked for had their own software development team that built most of their technical products in-house (e.g., online- and telephone-based surveys, web-based portals for viewing study results). While working for them, I made the transition from project management into their technical services side of the business; first as a business analyst and later as a software tester. Before this transition, I had picked up the basics of HTML, CSS, and SQL. Initially it was out of pure interest to try something different, but sometimes it was to assist the technical team with light scripting and testing tasks.
Later, I moved to the Melbourne, FL area with my husband who was pursuing a role as a vulnerability researcher. I stayed with my firm as a telecommuter at first, but I was dissatisfied working remotely as video conferencing was not commonplace back then and I missed being with my teammates. An opportunity to work as a CNO software tester became available at Raytheon, and I applied. Even with limited software engineering skills, I was hired due to my prior knowledge of software testing practices, basic test automation, and program management. I learned a TON during my time there; my scripting abilities expanded, I became familiar with the CNO mission space, and I found a career path that aligned with my interests. When I made the move to RII, I was still working primarily as a CNO software tester but ready for a new challenge. About a year ago, I transitioned into CNO tool development. I still have a lot to learn, but I have extremely supportive and talented colleagues as mentors.
What is something you or your team accomplished at RII that made you proud?
During the COVID lockdown, my team continued to support our customer’s missions with little break in productivity, but with new safety protocols in place. Unfortunately, this meant that customer-facing demonstrations of our features and witnessed formal tests of our deliverables couldn’t be done in-person. Typically those types of events, especially witnessed formal tests, involve an intense week of Q&A, training, and sometimes minor re-work and re-testing. It is all to ensure the delivery is exactly what the mission calls for. We drive, they watch.
Despite distances, we were able to ship everything—deliverables, test environments, procedures, user documentation— and it was all ready to go for witnessed tests. . .that we wouldn’t be present for (kind of scary). But each delivery that our program shipped during the lockdown passed all tests and were accepted with no changes requested, nor any minor issues logged—a success! This was a difficult time for everyone, but I was so proud of our team for continuing to do RIIdiculously Awesome work for our customers.
What's your favorite thing about RII's Melbourne office?