Meet Tia Strombeck, a brown belt in kung fu and a green belt in cybersecurity

By: Eric Wilkens
Tia Strombeck

An arm cut quickly through the air and made a whooshing sound.

Tianne “Tia” Strombeck stood as still as a rock in this new position as she waited for a new command from her martial arts grand master. Tia stared forward emotionless.

The grand master shouted a new instruction and Strombeck used the same arm to deliver a punch forward.

A brown belt in kung fu, Strombeck is adept at using her skills for physical self-defense. Yet it’s Strombeck’s digital green belt skills that she uses as a cybersecurity professional. 

Career beginnings

You can say that Tia Strombeck, a principal member of the technical staff in network security, started earning her stripes during her early years working in Boston for MCI, the long-distance carrier acquired by Verizon in 2006. It was there where Strombeck worked in operations as a switch and maintenance technician while also installing customer premises equipment (CPE).

She was initially the only female technician on site.  Through the years, Strombeck has taken advantage of the numerous training courses available through her workplace to increase her knowledge and skills and ultimately advance her career.

Today, Strombeck embraces a whole new set of challenges in cybersecurity, none of which have to do with her gender.

At Verizon, Strombeck is tasked with project managing network security for the Network Operations and Engineering team, focusing primarily on privacy and regulatory compliance, penetration testing and assessments. Her new role takes patience and accountability, something she picked up during her time at MCI.

It’s also one that demands extreme technical competency, a specific skill set and knowledge she has earned in part thanks to Verizon’s training and development program—one that has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to advancing its employees’ careers.

Six Sigma green belt

“Last year I got my VLSS (Verizon Lean Six Sigma) green belt, and initiated a project to help the network operation teams remediate security vulnerabilities in the equipment that they support. Someone on my VLSS team made the comment, ‘We’re technical, but we’re not security technical,’” said Strombeck. “That was really an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me, so I’ve been leveraging my security, audit, and operations experience to bridge the communication between the groups.”

The VLSS certification has always intrigued Strombeck, so becoming certified was crucial. It has afforded her opportunities to work independently while once again leveraging her security and operations experience to her advantage. What’s more, Strombeck says being a woman has actually helped her in the cybersecurity field.

“I’ve helped the operations teams understand what they need to do to protect their systems, and I’ve worked with our security tools folks to make changes in our systems to make them more operations friendly,” she said. “This can be a very intimidating field, but I’ve coached women to get through the intimidation of technical issues.”

Benefits that support lifelong learning

Verizon has always taken a bold stake in developing employees’ careers, and Strombeck’s is no different. The company paid for Strombeck’s MBA through Northeastern University as part of its tuition reimbursement program, which provided more than $94 million in tuition assistance to its employees in 2015 alone. Already a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), she earned her VLSS green belt certification through Verizon, and will become black belt certified in the fall.

“I’ve always been interested in process and VLSS type improvements, so getting my VLSS green belt was an obvious move. One of the projects I did was a great use of the VLSS process, and saw a cultural shift in how security interacted with operations. So my interests and background really lined up on that specific project.”

Tia photographing wolves

Tia Strombeck is also an accomplished nature and wildlife photographer in many well-known magazines.

Last fall, Verizon sponsored Strombeck to attend the Executive Women’s Forum in Arizona, where she engaged with other women leaders in information security, IT risk management and privacy. She also volunteered her time at elementary schools teaching young kids about cybersecurity as part of the EWF conference.  

Verizon’s vast, mature and constantly evolving security program is a great place for young women to launch a career in cybersecurity. Its internships, co-ops, entry-level opportunities for college graduates, and strong leadership development program, put employees on a career fast track with a boundless opportunity for growth.

According to Strombeck, since technologies and securities are continuously evolving, becoming more mobile, global, and increasingly immediate, cybersecurity comes into play at each point of connectivity, and that translates into jobs at Verizon—not just in America, but around the world.

Verizon offers a wide range of cybersecurity positions

“Verizon’s wide range of cybersecurity positions have made it is possible to focus in on specialties, develop skills in specific areas, and then transfer those skills across other technologies or environments within the company,” said Strombeck. “Since Verizon is a large, multinational content company my job continues to change and evolve. I work in an incredibly supportive team environment with a lot of autonomy to identify and address issues. There are all kinds of security related jobs here, the possibilities are endless.”

Strombeck’s career has finally come full circle. In addition to earning another stripe with her VLSS black belt certification, she hopes to attain her hard-earned and long-awaited black belt in kung fu soon. She is also a published nature and wildlife photographer in many well-known magazines like National Geographic, National Wildlife, and “Soul of the Octopus,” a New York Times bestseller that was a finalist for the National Book Award.

For college graduates considering a rewarding career in cybersecurity, or professionals looking to make a mid-career move, all you have to do is take one look at Tia Strombeck’s own career for inspiration. Verizon wants her story to inspire you and it wants to empower a new generation of cybersecurity careers booming at Verizon.

Learn more about cybersecurity careers 

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com


About the author(s): 

Eric Wilkens is on the external communications team at Verizon. He is focused on next-generation public relations, brand storytelling, and digital campaigns. His background includes technology, broadcast, and higher education