Anthea Gonzalez is from Round Rock, Texas, a place that she, her younger sister, and two parents call home along with her dog, Mr. Roach, and her cat, Loosy. Motivated to study outside of Texas, she was enticed by the city of Chicago. Anthea loves computers, joyfully exclaiming, “I really like the way cyber forensics and security make me think. I just see it as solving a bunch of problems...I love how you can do so much from sitting down at a desktop”. She will be graduating in the next academic year with a B.S. in Information Technology and Management and a M.A.S. in Cyber Forensics and Security. Anthea enjoys watching anime such as Black Clover and Attack on Titan and reading manga such as Tokyo Ghoul. Some other hobbies she has include drawing, working on coloring books, and surveying different makeup products. On campus, she is part of many organizations, taking leadership roles like President of Kappa Phi Delta, President of Greek Council, and Chapter Founder and current Vice President of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys). Forming part of the M.A. and Lila Self Leadership since her Freshman year, Anthea reflects on how her experiences have shaped her leadership style.
Q: What do you think makes you, specifically, a good leader and what makes you, you?
A: I think what makes me a good leader is that I know that I am not the perfect leader. I understand there are things I do really well when it comes to leading a group, but I also understand that there are things that I don’t do super well and someone else could do better than me. It’s my ability to be self-aware and aware of the strengths of others [that makes me a good leader]. Nobody likes to be told they are not good at something, and learning how to effectively communicate and confront others whether it is something little like, “you messed up this thing,” or, ” I don’t like how you treated me in this instance,” is a skill that I have worked to develop and will continue to work on for as long as I live.
Q: What do you think is vital for anyone to be a good leader?
A: I used to be very task-oriented. Like, oh, these are the lists we have to get done. Throughout the Academy training and my time here at IIT, I have learned that it is just as important to be an emotional leader. You don’t know everything that is going on in someone’s life; maybe there is a reason why they are not completing their task to the best of their ability. It is something that I definitely do now that I didn’t really do before I got here. [I believe] it is being able to remember that we are all human and, as much as I would like to think we are, we are all not perfect. Serving on my sorority exec-board was a unique experience. They are all my sisters and I love them to pieces, but there are times when we had to make tough decisions. Believe it or not, there wasn’t anything on what to do if there is a pandemic, so that was really hard to try to figure out; as in, how do we maintain a good balance and still try to do our sorority events, but still understand that this could be a really hard time for some people for a number of reasons? I wanted to make sure that the sorority is a good experience for everyone. So I think the hardest part once we switched over to online was the fact we still held meetings. I did not want it to feel like it was yet another thing they had to do on top of everything else that was currently happening. I think finding a good balance between being a good sorority President and a good Sister when it came to commitments is what helped me become an emotional leader.
Q. How have you changed since joining the Academy?
A: I came here, like, very excited to be like, oh my god, I’m going to a leader. Then, coming in as a freshman, it was very intimidating but also really cool. I guess what blew my mind was the upperclassmen. I remember coming in the first day and somebody was like, “Yup, I work at NASA,” and I was like, what the hell? Like, I just got here. How could I ever compare to all these things that people were doing? I think it definitely humbled me, my first two years. I learned that it's okay to not always be the best. If we were all the best, then nothing would really change. There is no point in sitting down and comparing myself to people who are doing completely different things. I am going to be amazing in my own way. A lot of the training that I received from the Academy that I wouldn’t have received elsewhere [included] being able to plan the Chicago Undergraduate Leadership Conference (CULC), working with a good group taught me how to be a good team player, and [learning] that you don’t have to be in charge all the time; you have to trust others. I think that what opened my eyes the most is the Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC) competition. I learned a lot about my own leadership style. I learned to find my strengths and weaknesses and delegate roles; for example, I may not be good at this [task], but [someone else] is. I learned a lot about where I see myself on a team. Recently, I have been trying to praise people more often. I like when I receive praise, so I am trying to do the same for others. It makes people feel good. I like to be reassured that what I am doing is what is expected of me.
Q. What career objectives do you have once you graduate from Illinois Tech?
A: For immediate plans, I will be returning to Cisco for the third time this summer to intern. I'll be on the same team I was on before except I switched from software engineering to what I want to do, security engineering. I am so in love with this industry and everything that it has to offer to me. I am never going to stop learning. Thank goodness for 17-year old Anthea for saying, “I like computers”. I picked something that makes me genuinely excited to go to class and to read the textbooks. I hope that, after this summer, I can return to Cisco full-time doing security engineering. When I heard about that type of work my freshman year, I told myself, “I am going to do that. I want to solve puzzles forever”. I am so excited about the career I hope to have. Hopefully, they will have room for another engineer on the team that I am on so that I get to start as one of the top leaders when it comes to security within certain products. I hope that I can start, build, and end my career at a company like Cisco.
Part of me also wants--and it breaks my heart and I don’t know if I have the stamina or mental capacity--to get into stopping things like human trafficking. It’s a big problem. One day I would [also] like to help write better legislation for cyber laws so criminals are actually caught and serve the time that they need for a computer crime. When people think of computer crimes, they don’t think it is the same as, say, killing someone; but, different types of computer crimes lead to different types of consequences. People get away with all types of things. A lot of the appropriate cyber laws are just not being put into place. There is not a lot state by state when it comes to things like revenge porn. It shouldn’t be like that. There should be a clear distinction between right or wrong. I would also like to work with digital evidence and be able to work on a case, go to court, and show what I found as an expert in the field. I believe that I need to build a career first to become a credible source. I am excited to be part of this change and make the internet a safer place.
Q. What advice do you wish someone else had given you when you went through a hard time?
A: Have you ever seen those videos where it starts in a city and then it blows out, and then it goes to [a view of] the state, then the country, then the planet? I did not think about this until somebody told me, but if you ever feel [stressed], think about it.; you’re so small in a big universe. It may seem important now, but are you going to remember this particular instance like tomorrow--a week, or five years from now? When it comes to something a little bit more impactful, a little bit more than a bad assignment or a bad grade, you have more friends than you think. When people go through hard times, there are people who think others do not care to reach out or help, but that is not necessarily true. I have become very close to people in this sorority and the Academy who I never thought in a million years would say hello to me in the hallway. It blows my mind, to know that I have more friends than I thought I did. It also took me a long time to accept that I had anxiety. It is okay to know that you will change throughout your time and college.