Dream job, dream life: Carrie Gates
Sometimes the best plan is being willing to risk changing your plan.
“I have fallen into the right things at the right time,” concedes Carrie Gates (BSc (CS)’93, MSc (CS)’95, PhD (CS)’06).
Gates began at Dalhousie University in 1989 as a biology major with a plan to pursue medical research. Never one to allow a good plan to get in the way of a great opportunity, she is now a Distinguished Engineer working at CA Labs identifying research relationships, focusing on enterprise-level security.
“Finding computer science was complete luck,” she says, over the phone.
Getting hooked on computer science
Gates lived at home during her first year of university. Subject to her parent’s travel schedule, she found her cozy daytime home in the Math/Stats/Computing Science lounge in the Chase Building at Dal, making friends with students within computing science. These students, she recalls, spoke enthusiastically about their programme and actually made money while attending school via co-op placements. She heard of the discoveries they were making and the networking they were doing through computers. For Gates, it was a hook.
She sought guidance on how she, too, could explore these possibilities. Following a first-year computing science elective, Gates knew she’d found a better fit.
All the way to a PhD
It was Dr. Carolyn Watters who encouraged Gates to pursue graduate work in computing science. In 1995, she completed a Masters of Science in Computer Science with her thesis on “The Application of Neural Networks to the Prediction of the Conductivity of Water.”
This lead her on an interesting career, which included a stint as Summer Scholar at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh and Manager (Technical Services) at Alliance For Marine Remote Sensing, and Software Engineer at Chebucto Community Net. In 1997, Gates returned to Dalhousie as a Systems Manager with the Faculty of Computer Science. Motivated by colleagues, Carrie decided to start her PhD.
She connected with Mark Kellner from Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Emergency Response Team in 2003 and began six months of thesis work on the Detection of Coordinated Port Scans. These six months turned into three years of full-time work. Gates returned to Dalhousie in 2006 to complete the final pieces of her thesis, “Coordinated Port Scans: A Model, A Detector and An Evaluation Methodology.”
“A great honour”
Upon graduation, Gates began as Vice President & Research Staff Member at CA Technologies, one of the largest independent software corporations in the world. In April 2011, she was promoted to Senior Vice President and Distinguished Engineer – something she calls “a great honour.”
From Kenya to Estonia, Australia to India, this unplanned career path has led Gates to work and travel to 26 different countries. Representing CA, Gates is invited to talks, conferences and committees within the academic community. Her company is one of the few in the industry that liaises with universities (and graduate students) on research projects – an opportunity from which she, herself, has clearly benefited. Gates’ research projects have resulted in 23 publications, 19 invited talks, eight panel participations, four patent applications and over $800,000 in external funding awards.
Hard work, dedication and positive support
Gates laughs as she looks back at her life since that very first day at Dalhousie.
“I always heard people make reference to the glass ceiling for women in technology fields, but I never actually encountered it. Faculty, staff and students have always been incredibly supportive of me being a female in computer science,” she says.
Her support network along the way as really led to some unique opportunities that have enabled her to create this successful career path for herself.
There is a lot more to Gates’ story than just luck and timing. Presented opportunities put Gates on a path she hadn’t even know existed, but her many years of hard work, dedication and positive support got her to where she is now: working in her dream job and living her dream life.
To look into one of Gates’ research projects, look up “Insider Threat Detection from CA Labs” on YouTube.