Duvelza Saenz is a one-woman powerhouse. As a data analytics and capabilities lead, she guides teams of data scientists, DevOps engineers, and cyber threat hunters as they create, integrate, and deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for real-world cyber operations. Outside of work, Duvelza is dedicated to empowering women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She’s the founder and CEO of Girl Refugees in Tech Training (GRIT), a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusion, independence, and strong communities by providing women with certification training in STEM fields. She is also a leading member of the San Antonio-based meetup group for Women in Cybersecurity and Technology.
We spoke to Duvelza about her love of puzzles, Booz Allen culture, and how to thrive as a woman in STEM.
How did you get into the cyber field?
As a kid, I was always interested in different types of puzzles, especially mechanical and cryptic. I found the logic and reasoning processes to be calming, and time would fly by when I worked on them. I knew I wanted to join the Navy, and I served for nearly 10 years. There, I had the chance to learn about revolutionary technologies, which I absolutely loved. It never felt like work to me. I devoted myself to understanding the landscape and providing real-world and real-time solutions.
What’s the best part about your job?
Booz Allen’s collaborative culture gives me the chance to work closely with other passionate people with diverse backgrounds. We challenge each other to innovate and create world-class capabilities for the U.S. cyber warfighter. I like feeling that I have the freedom to change the world here.
What advice do you have for other women in this field?
Empower one another, especially in STEM disciplines. Think of emotional intelligence—such as the ability to empathize—as a competitive advantage. Trust your intuition and point out risks others may not see. When you notice that a system seems flustered—whether that system is an Agile scrum team in a sprint, a database teetering on a denial-of-service outage, or a compromised collection system—speak up and be persistent. Remember that you're in that room and at that table for a reason.