Leading at Roblox with Nicole Grinstead
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Leading at Roblox is a series that explores the career journeys of Roblox’s leaders and discusses their roles, philosophies, and management styles. In this profile, we get to know Nicole Grinstead, Director of Product and Application Security within our Infrastructure Team.
What do you do at Roblox?
I joined Roblox about a year ago to lead our Product and Application Security team within Information Security (InfoSec). That means I support anything from our Infrastructure Layer to our Application and ensure they’re sufficiently hardened. My group is responsible for proactive security as well as finding and remediating vulnerabilities and risks.
Describe your career journey. How did you land where you are today?
Even as a small child, I’d always loved computers and technology. I was drawn to computer classes and took my first programming course in high school. As soon as I started college, I set my major as Computer Science and ultimately graduated with that degree. After graduation, I started my career in full-stack software engineering focused on building products. I was working at a Silicon Valley tech company when they had a major data breach, and found myself fascinated by all the work that went into the incident response. That’s how I fell into the security space, and I’ve been here ever since! Protecting users and companies from malicious bad actors has become a true passion of mine.
My path to Roblox began with an informational conversation with Roblox’s VP of Security Engineering. He was sharing some of the challenges with scaling the team to meet Roblox’s rapidly growing platform and business, and some of the types of motivated threat actors and cyber attacks that are common in the industry. As soon as I got home, I started researching more about the company. The more I learned about the platform, vision, and leadership, the more I knew I wanted to be part of the team.
What motivates you?
I’m competitive – mostly with myself – and have always been very motivated to take on big challenges and learn new things. Once I’ve solved a problem, I am eager to move onto the next one and challenge myself in a new or different way. I’m not overly fixated on climbing ladders, but it’s important to me not to stagnate. This is one of the things I love about security. There are so many different subdomains, so I’ve been able to focus on different types of security problems and challenges through the years.
Nicole’s competitive spirit and love of big challenges comes to life both inside and outside of work
What are some leadership qualities that have worked for you?
I aim to lead the way I like to be led. I appreciate being empowered and given space to take on difficult challenges, and I’ve found that Roblox’s executive leadership team fosters this culture and supports me in emulating it for my own team. Trust is critical to execution and solving difficult problems, so I lead with trust and transparency to drive our team forward.
In my day-to-day work as a leader, I bring this to life through both big and small actions that empower my team and foster autonomy. Instead of giving my opinion or advice immediately, I like to ask questions that help prompt folks to reach a solution on their own. I’m always trying to make space for my team to feel like they can totally own their work.
How do you contribute to Roblox’s culture?
As a woman leader in tech, I’m passionate about exploring problems outside of my security purview. If I notice a system, cultural aspect, or accommodation that can improve the workplace for women and underrepresented groups within our organization or in the industry at large, I’m keen on championing it. Here at Roblox, we have a great community of women engineering leaders that meets monthly. I’m also involved with our Women@ Affinity Group. Over the last ten months since I started my role at Roblox, these communities have led me to build strong bonds with colleagues across the organization that I might not otherwise work with.
Nicole on Roblox’s campus in San Mateo, CA
What is something your team has accomplished that you’re proud of?
The InfoSec team is rapidly growing, and much of the team is new to Roblox. I’m so proud of the progress we’ve been able to make as a new team in a very short period of time. We’ve also built out our Application Security (AppSec) team, and that group has already made a ton of impact. In true Roblox fashion, the team started by building a strong system and process for how we engage cross-functionally to identify and resolve application level vulnerabilities and risks. We’re by no means finished with the journey, but the progress we’ve made so far really stands out to me.
As a leader of a new team, it’s important to me to not get in the way of the energy that new folks bring to the group. Embracing new ideas and concepts has helped our team succeed and allowed new team members to ramp up and contribute quickly.
If you had to choose a value that most resonates with you as a leader, which one would it be?
Roblox’s “Take the Long View” value is critical to us as a new team. Even though we have immediate needs to tackle, and we’re supportive of new folks jumping right in, we are always highly strategic about how we’re going to achieve our goals. When formulating plans and paths forward, we ask ourselves where we want to be in ten years, and work our way back from there instead of focusing on tactical “what’s next” approaches.
What’s something you like about the platform?
Roblox is special because it’s so open and varied – the types of experiences that you can have or build on Roblox are infinite, and there is something for everyone. Any creator can bring their imagination and ideas to life on the platform, and users of all walks of life can enjoy them. We are just scratching the surface of what’s truly possible. It’s an amazing time to work at the company, and I’ve been so inspired by what I’ve seen so far.
In closing, is there a piece of leadership advice you can share?
Ask for feedback, and be true to you! There’s no one style of leadership that works for everyone, so do what feels authentic, emulate the things you appreciate most from your leaders, and ask for feedback along the journey. One of the most effective ways I’ve found to ensure I’m hitting the mark is to simply ask – then to listen, learn, and evolve based on what I hear. Just like the Roblox platform, there is something unique for everyone in leadership. Authenticity and flexibility have been key for me.
Inspired by Nicole’s story? She and her team are hiring. Visit our careers site to explore open roles.
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