Cyber Women We Admire
Posted on Mar 8, 2021 | By Sumeetha Manikandan
This women’s day, we spoke to a few inspiring women executives who are breaking the myth and are soaring high. They are skilled, motivated, and talented and they come from different geographies, backgrounds but are united by their passion for cybersecurity.
We asked five women cybersecurity executives and experts about their journey in the industry and here is what they said.
Technical Project Manager, RiskSense
I entered the cybersecurity industry, a couple of weeks after graduating from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor's in Computer Science, I dove into the field intrigued to explore different machine learning applications to cybersecurity.
It is a male-dominated field and I am sometimes framed as incompetent, and consequently, I've struggled with imposter syndrome which prevented me from asking questions. I've also experienced an imbalance of respect compared to my male counterparts, but I'm working on embracing the challenge and staying determined to learn and grow.
To those who wish to join this field, try not to let the feelings of doubt and intimidation stop you. If you lack prior experience in the security field like I did, remember that it's okay to ask questions after you've exhausted all other resources because that's how you grow. I think there is a constant effort to having your voice heard equally, but I would encourage other women to have confidence in the value that she can bring to the table."
Security Solutions Architect, IBM. Founder of Infosec Girls & Global BoD - OWASP
My entry into cybersecurity was just serendipity. I did not plan it and I certainly didn’t think I would end up working in it. But later on over the years, I realized this is something that interests me the most and this is one of the areas where I feel belonged. What makes me more comfortable and stay inspired in this field is creativity and unique approaches to problems that are different every day. And in turn, I get to learn a lot of new skills and grow while keeping up with the upcoming technologies. With new forms of threats and attacks are coming up we are trying to prepare against the defenses for them and the community is helpful, forthcoming, and supportive.
The industry is mainly dominated by men, they look at you like you don't know this, or you are incompetent or you don't know anything about this. Finding a role model is a big challenge. When I started off my career, I did not have a role model. There is also the notion that women can’t stretch their limits for their work is definitely a challenge.
And it happens that women get merit just because they are women; as if it is charity. But it doesn’t work like that. A person needs to prove their worth through performance. They should deserve the merit they receive.
My advice to other women who wish to join this field would be to stay curious. There is so much to learn in this field. And when people say that learning is a lifelong process, this field justifies that. And remember, how many ever preconceived notions you have, everyone has it. Everyone goes through that. Just speak it out, have a mentor, discuss all these things.
I believe diversity is important to any field and this is true especially in this field., It brings a healthy pulse to a team, with creative perspectives, diverse and unique ideas, and constant motivation to stay agile. With the rise of cyber attacks during the pandemic, the need for qualified professionals is going to rise. When we have more people joining the field, we bring in diverse skills that can bridge the skill gap and gender gap that is predominantly seen in Cybersecurity and other IT sectors.
I first started working with computers and networks in the 1970s when I had access to the US DARPAnet. After graduating from college, I worked in book publishing as an assistant editor - but I was always the "go-to" person for tech and computers. When the company I worked for needed to hire a tech/IT manager I was offered the role. A couple of years later, I'd worked my way up to being the manager of an international network with offices around the world. And an attacker got onto that network - because I wasn't yet deep in security and defense. I vowed to never let that happen again and pivoted my career to IT (now cyber) security.
Early on in my career, there was a level of skepticism - some people didn't think women could be technical. So they looked askance at a woman in a technical role - questioning my capabilities. Now some people question if I get jobs because I'm a woman and part of a diversity hire. The bottom line is that there will always be doubters - what matters is that you stay true to yourself and honest about your capabilities. And to be proactive about calling out sexism and other prejudice against yourself and others.
If you wish to enter this industry, ask yourself what it is about cybersecurity that draws you in. Is it the tech side of reverse engineering malware? The legal work of implementing new regulations or litigating cybercrimes? The leadership of managing a corporate security and risk program as a CISO? Understanding what you love about the profession will help determine your best path. No matter what that path is - start getting involved! With communities and networking and groups like WiCyS (women in cybersecurity). As you progress in the field what you want to do may well change, but the network you build along the way will sustain and support you as you grow.
Cindy A Kaplan
Information Security, HALOCK Security Labs
Entering the field of cybersecurity was through my personal interest originally as I pondered on how do I keep my data secure as we are becoming so reliant on technology for all types of activities. My career at the time was in a highly regulated industry, and cybersecurity was a perfect transition. I could apply my experience into a role that truly applied to me and continue to learn.
While there is a smaller percentage of women in the cybersecurity industry, it has been growing! One of the more recent challenges for me personally is work-life balance. Our changing working environment and emerging threats keep us even busier than before. For those who work from home and have a family and two big dogs like me, we want to be able to devote enough time to everything. I’m always learning new ways to project manage both professionally and personally!
My advice to those who wish to enter this field would be to Connect with cybersecurity professionals through industry groups or LinkedIn and network at cybersecurity events. There are many areas to pursue. Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) is a good organization that promotes advancement for women in the industry. I’ve met many people that are welcoming and genuinely want to support women who want to pursue a career in cybersecurity. I am fortunate to have great colleagues who do so as well.
President, Rainbow Secure, Nextgen Login Security
I was actually very much tired with different passwords for my online accounts and I could not remember it. One day my son was doodling his name in different colors. It gave me an idea that led me to invent and develop rainbow password and rainbow secure technology that keeps logins, data, and business safe from cyberattacks, and that’s how I entered into cybersecurity.
My advice to women entering cybersecurity would be that they focus on learning basics. Keep an eye on emerging trends and technologies. Hackers will upgrade at the first opportunity they get and you should too.
These inspiring women experts are owning the space that was tradtionally considered to be a 'man's world'. Here is what CSW is doing to bridge the gender gap that exists.
CSW's Education Sponsorship Program
CSW will provide a scholarship of $2500 to women students from a weak economic background and empower them to enter the world of cybersecurity. We will also provide these students with internship opportunities at our company to give them a real-world experience of working in this industry and absorb them if their aptitude and talent match our requirements. To facilitate this program, we have joined hands with Infosec Girls – a community for women passionate about information security who will help us select the right candidates for this grant.
Women aspiring to shape their dream careers can apply here.