Remarkable computer science grad student shares her powerful story

Lindsey Tulloch is currently pursuing her master's degree in computer science as part of the Cryptography, Security and Privacy (CrySP) Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

With a firm belief that access to the open internet—free from surveillance and censorship—is an important part of fulfilling the right to privacy, Lindsey's research focuses on censorship resistance tools to protect the privacy of journalists, activists, dissidents and marginalized individuals living under oppressive regimes.

Throughout her academic career and beyond, Lindsey has stepped up to support those with less experience or greater barriers to success. She has run events and workshops to help students learn important industry skills not typically taught in classes, she created and delivered training to support over 200 volunteer teachers tasked to improve education in rural areas of Nigeria, and she has led and participated in cycling tours in Canada, Cambodia and Japan to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, social justice and equity in development. In 2019, she won the Zonta International Women in Technology Scholarship.

"From a young age I've been interested in trying to find ways to make the world more equitable and just and I've always valued education and lifelong learning, and I think those two things together help to explain some of my path and the things that I've done in my life so far," Lindsey said.

In February, Lindsey was featured by Zonta International in a Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories event, a leadership series hosted by Lynne Foley OAM, chairman of the Zonta International Leadership Development Committee.

Here are some of the top takeaways from their conversation:

Gender equity, diversity and inclusion

"When I was working in the industry for a bit, there was one other woman in a senior position, but everyone else on my team was a man. There's just something that maybe come across and you think twice or you second guess yourself about whether or not you should take issue with it or if you shouldn't, and there's a lot of things that go on in your mind in that situation."

"When you're building something like AI (artificial intelligence) that's going to be used widely, it's important to have a lot of input and oversight from people from all different areas of the world and all different kinds of thinking—men and women, people in LGBTQ spaces and people that are culturally diverse. These things can affect people in different ways and if you only have a small minority of people that are building the systems and that are working on them, their bias comes into play … and there may not be any oversight or any thought to who is going to be most negatively impacted by these systems."

Advice for other working moms

"It's about being kind to yourself and trying to find joy in every day as much as you can. We started doing something called sleepover night once a week where we put everything aside and as a family find something fun to do together. It's not a sleepover with friends, not ideal, but we play games together, watch movies, or do something else and it creates some kind of routine and is something to look forward to to keep us mentally stable."

Women in Technology Scholarship

"I'd really like to thank Zonta for extending that scholarship to me. Of course, it helped with extra costs associated with having a family while doing graduate studies, and that has been a big help. Also knowing that I have the support of an organization like Zonta and that the goal is to support women and empower women and just knowing that I was selected to get the scholarship and the women of Zonta around the world are supporting my effort has really meant a lot in giving me strength to continue."

Being a good leader

"I like to lead as collectively as possible, so I want to try to find out where everybody's coming from and what everybody's goals are and try to find the common thread between all of our goals, and all of our motivations so that everybody feels like they're moving toward the same goal as much as possible."

"When you've brought in this consensus building, you have to have empathy toward everybody that's involved and toward everyone's situation and viewpoint, and so I think that maybe that's one of the things that is driving my leadership style."

Overcoming challenges

"When you can't get your mind in that place, you just have to do whatever you can to get through. So, a bike ride is a good alternative, going for a walk is a good alternative. But when I'm feeling more motivated, I try to change my thinking into, 'Ok, I can't do this, but what can I do? What can I change? What is possible to do?' And I just start chipping away at something else that is in my control."

Why privacy matters

"You don't just advertise your bank password, for example, written on your body or with a big sign walking around. We all have things to hide. We all have things that need to be private, for whatever reason. … You also don't want everyone to know all the things you think or hope. The idea of privacy is important for these reasons of having autonomy and having the ability to protect ourselves and to decide what we want to make public about ourselves and what we want to make private about ourselves."

What comes next

"At one point, we might want to go to Nigeria or be there for a longer period of time, so if there's work that I can do that can help move forward technology privacy, human rights in Nigeria or in the world in some other way, that would be great for me. But I haven't totally worked out how it's all going to come together."

To keep up with Lindsey, follow her on Twitter.

Watch Lindsey's Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories session:

24 FEBRUARY 2022