Jessica Xie is a Baskin Engineering TIM alumna. She currently works as a cyber strategy & business information security officer for Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), where she helps lead the business’s global cyber strategy and increase the security of their individual cyber programs. When she isn't working, she spends her time giving back to her community by serving as chair of Pasadena's Human Services Commission and as a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit organization Friends Outside of LA.
What piqued your interest to get a Technology and Information Management (TIM) degree from UCSC’s Jack Baskin School of Engineering?
The degree program encompassed everything that I was interested in because you get to learn about computer engineering, computer science, and business and information systems. I started a graphic and web design business at age 10, so I taught myself how to code. I was looking for ways to increase my knowledge and learn new skills in these technical industries.
Tell me about your undergraduate experience at Baskin Engineering and how it prepared you for your future.
I’m really thankful for Professor Subhas Desa. He taught me how to stay organized, prepared, and taught me how to reverse engineer anything I wanted to create, which really changed the way I viewed products of innovation. Another positive contributor I’d like to add to my undergraduate experience was my supervisor at the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering (CBSE) Branwyn Wagman. She’s such a bright light. She really taught me how to think outside of myself and created a safe space for people to draw power through vulnerability.
What factors led you to get into the cybersecurity industry?
During my time at UC Santa Cruz, I was very inspired by cryptography, which was probably due to mathematician John Nash who made a lot of positive contributions to game theory. I spoke to numerous professors about my interest in cryptography and they encouraged me to look into courses to see if it would be a good fit. Upon exploring opportunities in the field, I stumbled upon the cybersecurity industry and was really fascinated by white hats/ethical hackers. I started learning ways hackers con people to getting your private information and it piqued my interest in wanting to find ways to stay secure online.
Tell me about your current role as Cyber Strategy & Business Information Security Officer at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and one current project you’re working on now.
You might know MUFG more commonly as Union Bank. We own Union Bank and have headquarters in Tokyo and Los Angeles. We have offices in over 50 countries. In my role, I help shape the global cyberstrategy and integrate it back into the business, and I do my best to identify gaps in programs to help elevate each program’s security posture. A current project I’m working on is putting together the annual Cyber Expo. The expo happens every October during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s similar to a tradeshow where prospective and existing vendor partners showcase their products and services to the MUFG audience. I took over the expo planning and implementation three years ago and have been able to nearly triple attendees, expand its vendor opportunities, and make it available to our global audience.
What advice would you give Baskin Engineering undergrads who are nearing graduation?
Take advantage of UCSC’s Career Advice Network to connect with alumni in fields you’re interested in. I reached out to so many alumni during my time at UCSC. It’s a way to get a sneak peak into an industry you’re interested in, so I encourage everyone to take advantage of these resources that are right in front of them.
What's it like being a part of the Human Services Commission for Pasadena?
I started in the role in 2019. When I moved back to the states after living abroad for a while, I wanted to find ways to help my community. Everywhere I traveled, I did volunteer work. During my time in Ireland, I was involved with the organization Engineers Without Borders, where I led a team there to create a food dehydration system to combat food insecurity in Nepal. When I returned to the States, I reached out to my City Council members to see how I can be more engaged with my community and was presented with an opportunity to serve on the Human Services Commission. With anything, I do my best to lead so within a year, I was named Chair. It’s very fulfilling to work with so many changemakers who are working so tirelessly to support the city and the commission.
What are a few issues your role seeks to address?
We have so many different initiatives this year. One includes writing a resolution for the city to declare October as LGBTQ+ History Month. We want to find a way to celebrate our pioneers in the community and the work they’ve done to gain equal rights. We also want to create mentorship opportunities for women of color. We’re collaborating with a few academic organizations such as Black sororities and other folks in the community to be mentors to help women of color navigate academic and professional life. Another initiative is to develop innovative solutions to address homelessness. With COVID-19, so many of our unhoused neighbors have been displaced due to CDC and Health Department Guidelines. We are hoping to create a space where our neighbors can find immediate shelter and be placed on a path towards permanent housing.
What’s something you like to do in your free time?
I serve on the Board of Directors for Friends Outside of LA, which is a nonprofit dedicated to providing services to families impacted by incarceration. Mass incarceration is an insidious system that impacts so many families and people don’t really think about the repercussions of being incarcerated. I believe it comes down to a public health issue. I actually did my master’s dissertation on the evolution of our criminal justice system where I highlighted the complexity and interconnected systems that create the cycle of incarceration. It’s very fulfilling to be able to bring my expertise to this organization to help create a better future for families impacted by incarceration.