After a career centered around business, I fell in love with security about 14 years ago and have had many wonderful experiences in the industry since then – from my time at the United States Secret Service to my work now at Mastercard. As anyone in a leadership position will tell you, there are highs and lows, especially in an industry that changes as rapidly as cybersecurity. I have been lucky enough to have many mentors along the way who have greatly shaped my own career as well as how I approach aspiring security professionals. My top piece of advice: show up for others and you’ll strengthen yourself.
One cybersecurity conference in particular, is ingrained in my memory, not because I was one of the very few women executives in the room, but because of the dismal level of respect I received from some attendees – from refusing to call on my raised hand to asking if I was the one serving coffee. It was time to show up for myself and the other women in the room, so I demonstrated exactly how much expertise and experience I had. When they didn’t call on my raised hand for commentary or questions, I physically stood up and, by doing so, I made sure I was seen… and heard. After the presentations were over, I spoke to some of the other women in attendance who asked me how they could pivot their own careers from administrative work to a more technical profession. I advised them to not be afraid to learn new things and expand their own possibilities. I took the time to breathe belief into them that reinventing yourself is always possible, and that trying new things to find out what you like and don’t like is one of the greater gifts of life. I remember saying to one “next time we talk, I want to see you on that stage.” Two years later, I got a message from that same, eager learner that she had just been promoted to Senior Security Engineer. Hearing that is one of the highlights of my career.
The power of showing up goes far beyond an individual mindset. It’s being heard and seen so that others feel empowered to take whatever steps may better their own lives, professionally and beyond. When you make yourself heard, it’s not just for your peers in the room or those looking to flank the ranks you’ve climbed. It’s also for individuals who don’t look like you or are unfamiliar with the power those different perspectives bring and to challenge the mindset that leadership has to look a certain way or be grown from a narrow set of common paths. No single, familiar face defines what a leader looks like, and it’s time to disrupt the mindshare that believes otherwise. I am excited about the future of cybersecurity with women and more diverse leaders at the helm. For those just starting out in the industry, be curious and be hungry about your craft. You are your own best advocate and when you break whatever glass ceiling you find yourself up against, bring others along with you.