Job Title: CISO, The Chaos Guru, Wellness Expert, Author, Speaker, Dance Director
Company: NIH & Power of Healing 360
Location: Virginia, USA
Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you.
I have travelled to over 40 countries and 48 out of 50 states in the U.S. I love living my life to the fullest and thriving in the chaos of life.
What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I always loved solving problems and having a career that brings new and exciting problems to solve everyday, instead of doing the same thing everyday.
What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
I love the psychology and leadership aspects of Cyber that most people don’t recognize the industry is sorely in need of. Being able to resonate with all types of stakeholders and use EQ skills are crucial for Cyber leaders that often go missed.
What things are the most challenging in your role?
Strategic communications to senior leadership in order to have them resonate with the budget and resources you need as a Cyber leader is crucial to the role yet the most challenging. It is also challenging to raise awareness of the role that all users play in security, not just the cyber teams or IT staff.
Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
I have lived through quite a few challenge-tunities in my life, especially in my career and the corporate workforce. What I have found is that at the end of the day, there is a person and a soul inside all of us. Sometimes, when we are in the middle of chaos, and there is a manager or someone else that seems to be giving us a hard time, it’s easy to take it personally or feel hurt by their words or actions. However, it is important to understand that what they say or do only reflect their own inner struggles and insecurities, not yours. For example, many of my bosses have looked at me as their “golden child” as I was excellent in what I did. However, after some point their mindset changed and they started viewing me as a threat to their own roles, even though I had no intention or interest of wanting their position. It took me several years to realize that it was their own insecurities and lack of self-esteem within themselves that viewed me as a threat to their own existence.
What have been your career defining moments?
My career defining moment was when I wrote a proposal to the CIO of my previous organization to change the governance structure for the security office I was leading, the role that I should report to, and the roles and positions I needed on the team. I knew that my current supervisor, the Privacy Officer would feel upset, however this was still the best thing to do for the highest good of everyone involved. The proposal was well received by my CIO and he made all the changes I had requested happen and initiated a massive re-organization and approved all the positions on my team I had requested which enabled me to grow my office and my career as a Cyber leader.
What changes have you seen in the cyber security industry in the time that you have been in it?
I am a big proponent of diversity within Cyber, especially in growing the number of women and girls interested in Cyber careers and I would love to see exponentially increase. When I started in Cyber about 15 years ago, there was hardly any women especially in leadership roles, and unfortunately that is still the case. I have been doing what I can to play my role in changing this dynamic, however I’d like to see more done.
What trends or changes do you think we will see in cyber security in the next 10 years?
I believe we will start seeing a lot of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and innovative technologies to secure the internet of things. I also think we will see a rehaul of the CISO role in that a modern CISO must be holistic in nature and have technical knowledge, but more importantly, emotional intelligence, business knowledge, communication skills, and relationship management.
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?
There is definitely an increase in Cyber positions both in the government and in the commercial sector especially for entrepreneurs and business owners due to the changes to move online that the Covid era represented.
Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your career, and if so in what ways?
Yes, my schedule is a lot more stressful and hectic than ever before. I feel that people lose the sense of time and space, so those of us teleworking fulltime and managing kids feel like we’re working 24×7 on both nonstop, which leads to excess burnout and overwhelm.
What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
Emotional Intelligence, strategic communications, relationship management, and leadership skills in my opinions are key to success for men and women, but women are naturally wired to have these traits, so it is all the more reason to bring it to the Cyber field.
Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
Cognitive diversity enhances teamwork and produces more creativity, fun, and innovation. Without women, Cyber would never grow into a mature field as everyone would look the same and think the same. Also, Cyber is such a diverse and exciting field in itself. There are so many different paths women can take in it and keep growing as one can never know everything in Cyber. Also, it is never too late to jump in! It is one of the few fields that women can come on board at any time regardless of the field they may be in now.
How does someone from another industry make the move into cyber security?
My suggestion would be to take some basic security certification training programs, and try to volunteer your time to gain experience first, or look for internship type of programs. You may also consider doing a Masters program in Cyber which is usually for adults and it may be a good way to get your feet wet and look for job opportunities as well.
In your perspective what are the biggest cyber security threats to companies presently?
Legacy systems, too many tools not being used effectively or fully, internet of things, supply threats
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?
Most definitely, and there are multiple ways. We need to start young, teach girls at the elementary school level itself about Cyber and make it exciting for them. We have to change their mindset as well as encourage parents, teachers, and culture to do the same. We also have to create opportunities for girls and women to learn and gain experiences, even if it is not paid. We can also foster partnerships between large organizations and government with academia (schools, universities, and summer programs) for internships, experiential opportunities, and other ways to gain experience on the job. We can also resource within the organization itself by growing women into Cyber roles and offering cross training and on the job opportunities.
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?
I have seen marginal improvement and we can always do more. The more women leaders in Cyber speak out and use their voice for the good by being role models, the more other girls and women can see that and be inspired to reach beyond the glass ceiling.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I would offer that we all need to strive to reach our maximum potential in life and Cyber is one of the few fields where you have the opportunity to use a variety of skills, expertise, soft skills, and even psychology. It is a great opportunity for women and girls to bring in their naturally wired talents and combine them with challenging and exciting opportunities.
“The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 2” is available now via the links below: