In our interview with Amber Schroader, CEO of Paraben, she talks about women in forensics, Paraben booths at forensic exhibitions and her books on forensics.
Throughout the past two decades Ms. Schroader has been a driving force for innovation in digital forensics. As CEO of Paraben Corporation, Ms. Schroader has developed over two-dozen software programs designed for the purposes of recovering digital data from hand-held devices such as cellular phones and PDAs, computer hard drives, and large-scale computer networks capable of storing data from several thousand computers.
Amber has written and taught numerous classes for this specialized field. She continues support through book contributions and other industry speaking engagements.
It is easy to distinguish a Paraben’s booth on a computer forensics exhibition. Just find the most unusual one!
Yuri: Amber, please briefly describe your current occupation.
Amber: I am currently the CEO and chief architect at Paraben Corporation. We provide digital forensic technologies for everything from mobile device to networks.
I have been involved in forensics since I was 14. Forensics was a natural fit for me as I am dyslexic
Yuri: How did you become involved in computer forensic field?
Amber: I have been involved in the field since I was 14 years old.
Yuri: Oh, really?!
Amber: I started working production in another forensic software company and worked my way up through the organization until I was VP of Sales. Forensics was a natural fit for me as I am dyslexic and my tendency to do things backwards has helped me in taking a forensic perspective to problems as a lot of times it is seeing a problem and going through it backwards to figure out how it happened.
Yuri: Please describe your working day. When you get to, what do you do first? What do you do most of the time? Are there days when you work 14 hours or longer? If so, why?
Amber: I have a pretty long working day as being CEO you wear a lot of hats in the company. I take a very active role in the company as I think that makes for a better team. I have never asked anyone on my team to do something that I am not willing to do. I spend a lot of my time answering emails I get about 1000 emails per day that I have to go through and answer about 2/3rd of them. I work for 10-12 hours everyday and longer if we have a larger scale release or project happening. There is always something new happening and it takes me working hard to complete tasks and work with my teams throughout the day.
Yuri: 1000 emails – that’s impressive number! What do you like about your job most?
Amber: I like that I make stuff happen. Whether it is simple things like internal policies or solve the larger problems of my customers. Actually creating solutions is the favorite part of my job.
I think a geek woman can be anything she wants
Yuri: You are a female doing a business in the domain which is often considered to be male-only business. The computer crime and especially development of tools for fighting against it is something men are more often at, needless to say about being a CEO for a computer forensics company. Is it difficult for you? Does it, vice versa, thrill you? Or maybe you even have an advantage of being a girl? (smiling)
Amber: When I first started in this field there were very few women and me being shy it was harder to get in there and mix it up. However, I found that in the end the challenge has forced me to go out of my comfort zone and work harder. It has been hard being in a primarily male field as I end up with different problems in the “rumor mills” than a man does. I have kept my integrity and have always approached my job and customers honestly so I am proud of where I have made it. I think a geek woman can be anything she wants and I am happy to show others that they can go for it if they want it.
Yuri: Your booths on various forensic events are definitely striking one’s eyes. Who invents ideas for them? Do you spend much times for that? One may think that having somewhat non-serious booth may harm because the customers are brutal persons doing hard job and they may misunderstand the idea, so the question, does it give you better results than a regular dull booth? Do you measure a success of conference participation with this or that booth decoration?
Amber: Our booth designs match who we are as a company, we are proud to approach both forensic problems and even our marketing with our own flare. I come up with our booth designs personally and I think taking a lighter approach to the booth gives our customers to remember a sense of humor can make a hard job like investigating computer crime a little easier. I have never faulted anyone for having a good sense of humor, I do active investigations in the company and it is nice to have a break to know I can still smile. Our success at a trade show is determined based on how well we addressed the needs of the customers at the events and who we inspired to approach their investigation with a new method.
Yuri: How did you start your company?
Amber: Paraben was originally a shareware company and in 2001 we made a tool for PDA forensics. I transitioned from my current employment at the time and moved Paraben into the forensic space. Digital forensics is my first love and software my second.
Yuri: What is special about your company/services?
Amber: Paraben thinks out of the box, we offer very affordable solutions that simply solve the problems. I think a company that remembers our customers and really tries to do what they need is special.
A customer said that Paraben reminded them of Google
Yuri: What is the most unusual thing a customer has ever said about your company or your solutions?
Amber: I had a customer who said that Paraben reminded them of Google. It was a great compliment as they liked that we kept our individualism and really approached the problems with innovation. It was a very happy moment for me and I remember it in the long hours of running a company.
Yuri: In your opinion, what is the current state of computer forensic science in USA?
Amber: I think that computer forensics is definitely on the rise as far as the overall growth of the industry. I think the biggest problem is that it is still hard with budgets to be able to afford to hire the people a lot of agencies need so investigators are very overworked. I think technology helps a lot in making processes faster, but in the end more people are needed by most agencies.
Yuri: Cloud computing is becoming very popular now. Do you feel that forensic market for companies, like yours, is decreasing due to that?
Amber: I don’t see Cloud Computing as a risk so much as a new opportunity. We have adjusted our methodology and thinking to be able to account for this new frontier. I don’t think that we can approach this new frontier with the same methodology, but I do think we can still approach it.
Yuri: What do you like most about computer forensics?
Amber: The reason I have kept with computer forensics and the true love of the field is because it is about truth in data, it is either black or white when it comes to digital evidence and it is the only evidence that is that exact.
Yuri: You are a contributing author of several forensic books and courses. Do you work on any new ones? What drives you when you decide to write a book?
Amber: Yes, I have a trilogy that I have been working on. The first book is for mobile forensics, and it will be followed by one for hard drive forensics, and then enterprise forensics. I thought the idea of doing a set was a lot of fun and have worked in a case plot to make all the technical information in the books flow through the process. They should be out in 2012. I look at writing books as a way to give back, I put out mini books every year as give always in our booth every year. Education is important and I am always learning so it is important to share that knowledge.
Yuri: How do you spend your free time?
Amber: I spend my time cooking and doing BBQ. I love to make new wonderful things with food and love baking as well. One day I hope to have a cookbook that I can publish as well.
Yuri: How many hours of sleep do you usually have?
I want to help others to fultull their dreams
Yuri: Do you have a dream?
Amber: Yes, I want to be able to do charity work full time one day. Helping others be able to fulfill their dreams. My grandfather was an immigrant to the U.S. and he came here without speaking the language and ended up owning his own business. When I was little I spent the time in his business and I learned a lot about hard work from him. I want to help others that have dreams like his in any way I can.
Yuri: Thank you for your interview, Amber. Pretty interesting to hear woman’s opinion on computer forensics!