Name: Aarti Gadhia
Job Title: Cyber Security Sales Professional
Location: Vancouver, Canada

Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you
Aarti is a very common name in Kenya. Growing up, everyone called me by my maiden name “Barchha” as there were so many Aarti’s in my class. With a double “AA” in my name I was always the first name listed in every scenario from roll call to seating. When I moved to Canada, everyone I met said it was such a cool and unique name. I’ve had interesting conversations of how to pronounce it, what it means and a few times I’ve also surprised clients when they first meet or speak to me as they identified my name as male. I now appreciate the double “AA” as it’s easy to find my badge at a conference table!

What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I couldn’t get a job as a new immigrant in Canada. A recruiter informed me about an entry level position for an anti-virus company. On April Fool’s day I met with the HR Director and she played a  prank on me as part of the interview. Halfway during my interview, Legal Director walked in and said that everyone is leaving the company. I tried to act like I wasn’t listening to that conversation and thought to myself, this could either be a good sign as I’ll be hired right away or a bad sign as they may shut down. Suddenly, the HR and Legal Director started laughing and I thought to myself, are they are crazy….and I hear “April Fool’s Day” and that was when I felt, this would be a fun place to work!

What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
The opportunity to make a difference in our industry and being on the good side as I am contributing towards keeping our digital world safe.

What things are the most challenging in your role?
Every year, companies change quotas and plans! As a cybersecurity sales professional, you learn over time that this is the norm and get used to it.

Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
I faced a lot of barriers getting into leadership positions. Take the time to find a mentor and a sponsor. Find the courage to challenge these barriers, break boundaries and speak up!

What have been your career defining moments?
16 years ago, I was informed I won’t be successful as a Cybersecurity Sales Professional due to my personality and within 3years I proved many leaders wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. Challenge them and prove them wrong!

What changes have you seen in the cyber security industry in the time that you have been in it?
16 years ago, the term cyber security wasn’t commonly used. I still remember educating organizations about the importance of implementing anti-virus and anti-spam solutions. The attack surface was simply watching your internal networks behind the firewall. At that time there were few cybersecurity firms. Today, there are thousands of cybersecurity vendors offering different tools and services. As businesses grow online and, in the cloud, the attack surface is massively expanding. This is becoming an advantage for attackers as they only need to find one vulnerable point to succeed in their attack.

What trends or changes do you think we will see in cyber security in the next 10 years?
I don’t know what the next 10 years will bring, but I do know one thing for sure is that as the attack surface is expanding and in order to close the gap, we need to break down the barriers to entry to hire diverse talent.

How much job demand have you seen for cyber security professionals, and what things to you think will shape this demand in the coming years?
One of my talks sums this up – There is no security shortage! If the attackers don’t have any barriers, why should we?

Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your career, and if so in what ways?
Yes, but in a positive way. I was tired of hearing my location is a barrier to grow my career. The pandemic has proved that working from anywhere is possible.

What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
Soft skills are life skills and through practice, you get better. All these skills help you throughout your cybersecurity journey. Some of the soft skills that I have applied in my role are listening, curiosity, negotiating, networking and persistence.

Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
There are many different roles within the cyber security industry. You can be in marketing, cyber security sales, bug bounty hunter, red or blue team, compliance officer, CISO and may different roles. Whether there is a pandemic or a recession or instability in the market, cybersecurity industry continues to grow. Join us as change it taking place!

How does someone from another industry make the move into cyber security?
It doesn’t matter what background you have as long as you’re passionate and willing to learn. There are many different roles within the cybersecurity industry. 

What advice would you give to a woman looking to make the move into cyber security?
You may feel left out, or sometimes you may be the only woman on the team. You may not get recognition, or you may be told you told you are not qualified. I’d like to encourage you to speak up, be authentic and don’t be afraid of the outcome. Together, we will break boundaries and systemic barriers. We are all here to support each other.

Do you think it is important to close the gender gap in cyber security and if so, how do you think this could be done?
Gender Diversity should not be a woman’s problem to solve, or an HR issue to handle – nor a legislation to be implemented, or a movement to occur… it should be everybody’s problem to solve.

While the situation in the cyber security industry has marginally improved in recent years, it is still a very male dominated world. What are your thoughts on this, and have you seen an improvement yourself?
With a 1% increase per year, it will take us to 2050 before we see gender parity. We cannot close the gap overnight but with every one of us speaking up and doing our part, it will happen over time, but it will take each and every one of us or it won’t happen at all. We need allies to take action and help us break down these barriers!  

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
You’ve read our journey. My ask to you is to help our mission by promoting this book to your network. Our hope is to inspire everyone, build allies and be a change agent to achieve equality.

“The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 2” is available now via the links below:

The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume One – Paperback

The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume One – Kindle/eBook

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