Hopkins Engineer Claudia Moncaliano says her coding class led her to cybersecurity

February 23, 2021

Coding came easy to alum Claudia Moncaliano, ‘20 (BS), ‘20 (MSSI), who first learned that she had a knack for it in high school when she enrolled in a Python course at a local college to explore her curiosity in technology. “This was my first coding class. I wanted to prove to myself that I could learn how to code and I was surprised at how quickly I picked it up and enjoyed it,” said Moncaliano.

The coding class ultimately led her to a career path in cybersecurity. Her research interests include building solutions for the security and privacy of IoT components in smart home devices. Soon the recent graduate will head to San Diego, CA, to work as a software engineer in security assurance for Qualcomm. For now, the South Floridian is working remotely due to the pandemic.

To learn more about Moncaliano and her next steps, check out this brief Q&A.

When did you first discover the STEM field?

It was the Python course in high school that further piqued my interest in the STEM field. Initially, I was intimidated as the youngest and only female student among undergraduates, unsure of whether or not I belonged. But, it was the turning point for my future because mastering the subject matter at such a young age proved my capability and intelligence level. I excelled and wanted to learn more about pursuing a career in computer science. My father was always interested in engineering and cybersecurity as well and passed down his curiosity to me.

Why did you choose to attend Hopkins?

My first visit to Hopkins was moving my older sister, Maria Moncaliano ‘18 (BS), into her dorm. What I like most about Hopkins is that it gives you the flexibility to pursue a variety of interests simultaneously. I was passionate about exploring technology; however, I was also interested in international relations and humanities. But when I selected computer science for my major, I knew that it was the perfect fit for me.

How did you secure your job?

A teacher assistant recognized my abilities and reached out to her Qualcomm contact who referred me to their student accelerator program. After a series of annual summer internships over the years, they offered me a position.

If you had to choose an engineer for inspiration or motivation, who would it be and why?

I am inspired by Claude Elwood Shannon, the mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer, who gave us the binary digits of one and zero and helped to create the foundation for information theory. In the engineering field it’s hard to believe that you’re going to be able to discover something new or that you’re going to be able to understand how something works. Seeing that he was able to formulate a theory with nothing to support his hypothesis ahead of time is inspiring. I am also inspired by an amazing woman named Noreen Njoroge who is a cybersecurity engineer at Nike. She also leads a global mentoring program for anyone who wants to learn about cybersecurity. What is most inspiring about her is that she helps people discover new areas of cybersecurity through her network of industry experts.

What are some extra-curricular activities that you have been doing to maintain during the pandemic?

In 2020, my friends and I started a virtual book club to keep us all connected. This was fun because it has been a long time since I have read something for leisure. It also enabled us to talk about current events and reflect on our new normal. At home, I enjoy cooking my favorite dishes with my grandfather and practicing yoga for self-care.



JHU Information Security Institute