On International Women’s Day, I’m proud to celebrate nearly one year of our Women in Cybersecurity series. We launched the series to connect women in the industry and to spotlight their stories with hopes to increase representation in the field. It’s been a great year of interviews with security experts and leaders, including company founders, CEOs, researchers, and CISOs, sharing their stories, tips, and resources.
If you haven’t already, I hope you check out the series as every episode is informative and inspiring. My hope was to make the content available in anyone’s preferred format; you can read the blog posts, watch the short videos for highlights, and listen to the full audio recordings of the interviews, and I hope you have as much fun hearing these stories as we had doing these shows! Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a show since there is much more to come!
Here are some of my personal experiences along with key takeaways and highlights from the shows.
Women Advocating for Diversity and Inclusion
I’ve worked at male-dominated tech and cybersecurity companies throughout my career. When I was in high school applying for colleges, I remember being told about a 30:1 male to female ratio in a certain private tech school’s engineering department (I won’t name names). Granted, it was a long time ago, and today we have more women in technical fields, but when I go to conferences, it still feels like a “tech bro crowd,” though, on the plus side, there are no lines in the ladies rooms.
In our first episode with Vendana Verma, chair of the board of directors for The Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) and security relations leader at Snyk, Vendana described her passion for bringing more diversity to cybersecurity. She started InfosecGirls to create a safe place for girls to learn about cybersecurity, collaborating with colleges to help women gain the technical training and skills to join our field, and has also created InfosecDiversity as a community to foster diversity and sharing ideas.
Wendy Thomas, President and CEO of Secureworks, also described her initiatives for diversity and inclusivity to increase representation of women in their global workforce. She set a goal to have women make up 50% of their global workforce and 40% of people leaders by 2030. When we talked, she had gone from 26% to 34% women in their global workforce and have increased their amount of female people leaders from 20% to 24% over the past year.
In our latest episode with Tanya Janca, Founder & CEO of the We Hack Purple Community, she described her passion for sharing knowledge, providing free training to open doors to bring more access to our field. We chatted about how inspiring it is to see women speakers and more diversity at conferences, and how it helps make people more comfortable to join the industry. Her efforts include diversity scholarships and help with job placement.
In our show with Barbie Bigelow, a veteran CIO, cybersecurity executive, board member, advisor, and investor, Barbie described her efforts focused on increasing the number of women in the field and in leadership roles. She launched The Women Cyber Governance Collaborative with the mission to equip women board directors and executive leadership with the capability to effectively govern the real and growing risks to organizations from cyber threats. Their goal is to both increase the pipeline of highly qualified cyber savvy women and increase the number of women in executive leadership and board director positions.
Managing Work Life Balance
Early in my career, I had a role model at my company who was married with three kids, and was a top sales person. I remember asking her “how do you do it all?” Her answer: “You wouldn’t ask me that if I were a man.” She was right. There is a stereotype that women prioritize family life over work. When I had my first child, when my husband was at home caring for my son, I deliberately worked long hours to prove to my colleagues that my career came first. Yet at the same time, I saw some new dad coworkers draw the line and say “I need to go home or my wife will kill me.”
Attitudes are changing, with companies being more sensitive to support work/life balance. It is nice to network with others who have faced and overcome similar issues. In our show with Laurie Haley, VP of Strategic Alliances at application security company Veracode, she described how she built her career, holding executive leadership roles while being a mother of four.
“It’s a challenge to be a professional at my level in a very fast-paced business in an industry that requires a lot of involvement and effort. I have got to have people who can help me out. So asking for help to be able to balance everything so you can achieve your goals is a really important piece of advice that was hard-learned for me.”
Laurie cited the Executive Women’s Forum for supporting her throughout her career in cybersecurity. “They are one of the biggest groups to support women in cyber, and I’m a part of their mentor program,” she said.
In our show with Caroline Wong, chief strategy officer of Cobalt and Security Metrics book author, in addition to talking about her career and how organizations and vendors are tackling cybersecurity issues today, we discussed our family backgrounds and the challenges of balancing our career ambitions with family life. We covered the importance of finding the right spouse who can be a partner in raising our children while supporting our career advancement.
It was also inspiring to interview women starting and leading their own companies. We featured Arti Raman, the founder and CEO of Titaniam. She is an experienced entrepreneur, as she started her first company, Liquid Engine (later sold to Thomson Reuters) when she was in her early 20s. Arti has been outspoken about the value of female founders, and she shares her advice for building a successful company on our show.
We also feature Brittany Greenfield, the founder and CEO of Wabbi, an exciting company helping developers incorporate security processes into their existing workflows. In her episode, we also discuss the qualities of women that make them great leaders.
We also had a fun show with Sharon Goldberg, the cofounder and CEO of BastionZero and computer science professor at Boston University. I believe many women can relate to her anecdote from when she started her career, and the feeling of having to prove ourselves.
“You always sort of assumed that no one was going to take you seriously and you were just going to show them… I’ll just show you, you’re underestimating me. Then you go off and do something really hard.”
Career Paths and Tips
One common thread from shows is that the women have followed their passions and interests for their careers, and we are all passionate about our work! Every episode is packed with insight, lessons learned and resources, but here are some other nuggets of advice from our shows.
- Helen Patton, an experienced CISO who literally wrote the book on Navigating the Cybersecurity Career Path and is currently CISO for the Cisco Security Business Group, offered 3 key tips for not getting overwhelmed in our cybersecurity roles:
- Take time intentionally to learn something new, with self-based learning.
- Find mentors and a network as part of a security community.
- Know when to say “no” to things so you can focus.
- In her episode, Gisela Hinojosa, a pentester at Cobalt, shares how she got into the cybersecurity field, moving from software application testing to pen testing to help organizations identify weaknesses in their applications before a hacker can get in. She share tips for building a home lab, as well as what certifications are needed to get into the field.
- In our show with Elizabeth Gossell, who is now AVP Deputy CISO for Amtrak, Liz shares valuable advice for standing up for yourself and advocating for your career.
“Taking the reins of your career development early and being a strong advocate for yourself is absolutely critical.” – Elizabeth Gossell, AVP Deputy CISO for Amtrak
Please be sure to check out these episodes and subscribe to our community! We have many more shows coming, and of course, please reach out if you’d like to be a guest or if you have a recommendation for the show!