by Tayse Orlovas, Associate Partner Kyndryl Consult/Security & Resilience
I want to start this article by highlighting something important for readers to take into consideration: my goal here is not to open a debate about statistics, diversity, psychology, stereotypes, or whatever topics that might be correlated to the different global social perspectives, issues, or challenges.
Human beings are complex by nature, and there are thousands of data and research available for you to inquire, review, assess, agree, disagree, learn, and make your own conclusion.
But as a woman in STEM, who has been dedicating around three decades to experiencing different flavors of a career in Information Technology, my goal is actually to share some thoughts about aspects that have been shaping my pathway to serve as a reference for anyone interested on the subject, but most especially for women and girls who have been reflecting about following a similar journey and, for some reason, are not convinced yet or have mixed feelings about the option.
The icing on the cake: I will do that, especially focusing on Information/Cyber Security, this absolutely relevant IT area for all businesses and to which I have been dedicating my heart in the past years.
Let’s talk about the very beginning of this
Once upon a time, a 12-year-old girl was invited to represent her school during an Annual Mathematical Olympiad in Brazil. Yes, that was me.
Regardless of the reasons, rules, objectives, and results surrounding this opportunity, the most important thing for me at that time were the feelings and emotions experienced during all stages of the process.
As a matter of curiosity, I was granted a silver medal due to my final score. But even feeling proud of that, my main achievement was actually to be able to recognize in myself the talent and curiosity for exact sciences.
That happened not only because of the score but especially due to the physical sensation of warmth in my heart. It was the starting point for everything that came next.
From a bachelor’s degree in computer science to specialization courses or technical certifications relevant to the different stages of my professional life in STEM.
From playing different technical roles for several years to acting in leadership or executive advisory positions in large companies of different industries. Lesson learned here: listen to the signs of your heart. That’s exactly how purpose comes to life. And that’s exactly how we find the power and determination to succeed in our life’s goals.
And how about Information/Cyber Security?
Well, that was probably the most curious part of my professional journey. When I was invited to lead the Information security team of a large multinational company for the first time, my first reaction was to decline the opportunity.
Why? After a preliminary self-assessment, I was not able to recognize a full match between my skill set and what was required for the position. And I was not convinced about my appetite to take the risk at that stage of my career.
On the other hand, my career ambition was telling me to go ahead. How to solve the conflict? First: revisiting the learnings from the past. Warm in my heart: checked! Second: making a deep dive into the skills set required to succeed in the position.
Oh, my goodness, that was the craziest part. My first reaction was, “Does this require individuals to be some kind of superhero?”. Well, independently of the deep diving results, my decision was to accept the invite and embrace the challenges. Fortunately.
Many years passed since then. And the need for more cybersecurity superheroes is stronger than ever. In a world that is constantly evolving, with all the challenges imposed by digital transformation, with all the threats and vulnerabilities inherent to people, processes and technologies, with the increasing regulatory pressure, with customers demanding mobility, flexibility, frictionless experiences and privacy (all at the same package), with companies relying on data that must be available, accurate and incorruptible to support critical business decision making, and with the always evolving sophistication of cyber-attacks against different targets due to reasons pretty complex to anticipate, the industry is more than ever relying on the superpowers of information security professionals.
And that drives me to the conclusion
Not convinced about how successful a woman’s career in information/cyber security can be? No problem at all. But please let me offer you some insights on female characteristics (1) and how they correlate to this important area.
- PASSION: as Gary Vaynerchuk’s quote says: “Skills are cheap. Passion is Priceless.”
Passion for a career in information/cyber security can naturally be born in those who feel proud of protecting others. Don’t worry about how proficient you are in all the technical stuff inherent to information security because you will gain traction during the journey. The sense that you are doing what is right to protect what is valuable will prevail over the rest.
- OPTIMISM: by nature, whenever a woman notices an opportunity to grow, learn, improve, or prosper, that will be the fuel for her to believe it’s possible.
Information Security is a never-ending journey and to succeed, you will be required to continuously and tirelessly pursue ways to protect and preserve what matters the most.
- ORGANIZING: women have a strong ability to handle different tasks at the same time, without disruption and delivering with excellence.
Information Security must be embedded in everything we do. Depending on the level of maturity in each company, information security professionals will need to handle different types of requirements (from governance to operations) in parallel to preserve business resilience and minimize risk exposure. And if something bad or unexpected happens, be emotionally prepared to be the leader in the frontline of the business recovery process.
- EMPATHY: by definition, this corresponds to the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, what results on stronger and better relationships.
Empathy generates trust. What is a core component of a successful Information/Cyber Security program. From the communication with all levels of your organization, passing by the architecture of IT systems (infrastructure and applications), and finally influencing how users (customers and contributors) experience products and services, trust must be the omnipresent power. Being empathetic promotes better communication and, therefore, better alignment on requirements and actions to focus on what matters.
- COLLABORATION: usually, women appreciate and act as ambassadors of diverse and inclusive contexts where it’s possible to share experiences, listening to others’ ideas, asking for help, learn from others’ experiences, co-create, support who needs and promote teamworking.
For the ones who are not familiar with the types of responsibilities an Information/Cyber Security professional have, please take a look on the Certified Information Systems Security Professional Content Mind Map. It offers a good visual perception on how collaboration is key for us to succeed.
Hope this serves as a guide to help women and girls revisiting ideas and making decisions. Or a source of inspiration for the ones that, like me, already took a sit at this pleasant place for us to be.
Listen to the signs of your heart. Identify your purpose. Live your superpower. Trust in your talent and potential. Have courage to overcome roadblocks. Pursue your dreams. Embrace the change. Accept the challenges. Adopt a continuous learning mindset. Be yourself. And shine.