Advice from Cyber Professionals for Women’s History Month

While every month of the year should be dedicated to women, March is specifically dedicated to highlighting women who have made a difference in history, opening up possibilities to young girls.

This Women’s History Month, we highlighted women in cyber to get their words of advice about navigating the workforce, their entrances into cyber, and advice they’d give to young women starting their careers.

SCV: What advice do you have for a young woman getting started in her career?
Saxon Knight: My advice would be for women starting out in cyber to take opportunities that at first glance don’t seem directly related to the cyber security practice… So much of what I use in my role every day I have gleaned from a liberal arts background, years of honing my writing skills within the US government, consulting for C-level executives and other soft skills that don’t necessarily seem to translate to a cyber security role. I find that some of the most interesting and thoughtful leaders in the space have diverse backgrounds and I would encourage women starting out in cyber to bring diversity of thought and experience to their roles, remembering that the toughest skills to teach are usually not the ones directly related to the role you’re filling! If you can write well, present well, synthesize disparate ideas into a coherent narrative for executives, etc., your options are limitless…

SCV: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Missy Gillette: Women’s History Month is a welcomed reminder, focus, and celebration of the historical contributions and accomplishments women have made, and continue to make, to create a better world.

SCV: What advice do you have for a young woman getting started in her career?
Missy: Invest in yourself by prioritizing time to define where you want to be in 3–5 years — this vision will be your guiding light on roles and responsibilities you take on early in your career and beyond.

SCV: What is something you’re extremely proud of?
Missy: Supporting women in cybersecurity to find a place and career path within a male dominated industry. Empowering women throughout their career and being a mentor to enable career growth and provide new opportunities. Nothing is stronger than women supporting women — and this is the only way to move the needle towards a more diverse workforce at all levels of an organization.

SCV: Are there any women in tech/role models you have?
Missy: YES! Alice Fakir, VP at Booz Allen and Kelly Rozumalski, SVP at Booz Allen. Both women have broken the glass ceiling and paved a way for other women to follow. They build women up and enable their success. They fight for us to be recognized for our accomplishments and support our career growth.

Women’s History Month highlights women’s achievements and celebrates efforts that have advanced social justice and equality. But it also allows for perspective in a time of so much change.

Women won the right to vote only a hundred years ago — after making tremendous contributions to the nation as it suffered through the Spanish flu. Today, we are seeing true obstacles to female achievement in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working women are struggling across sectors. Women’s History Month allows for that context — a point to connect the dots and ponder historical perspective.

There has been change. So many challenges — and hard-fought wins — that would have been unimaginable to my great grandmothers. I wonder how proud they would be of me, and us as a country. Technology and cybersecurity present new opportunities for women. I am inspired by the women leading in the technology space — and I look forward to leading in this space, as well. Having more women in a workplace creates better outcomes overall, and I am dedicated to expanding opportunities and promoting gender diversity and inclusion.

SCV: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Betsy Carmelite: I love Madeleine Albright’s quote “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.” For me, this month means honoring the women who have helped the women alongside them, and who came after them, and using those examples to lift women and girls up now so that they create history.

SCV: What advice do you have for a young woman getting started in her career?
Betsy: In cybersecurity, try anything and don’t have notions of a specific career path. It’s often the cyber events, and the role you find yourself in at a moment, that shape us and our careers. Let the exposure to experience guide your path, and don’t forget to maintain your determination.

SCV: What is something you’re extremely proud of?
Betsy: I built a team of cyber analyst-linguists about 15 years ago. This team still exists, while I have moved on to different phases in my career, and that’s a great feeling to have built a lasting mission. I have a passion for foreign language and cybersecurity, and I’m so proud of the legacy of that team and the critical work it performs for our country.

SCV: Are there any women in tech/role models you have?
Betsy: Sally Ride was such an inspiration to me as a kid; she was the epitome of intellect, calm, and competence under pressure. For not only the reason that she was the trailblazing astronaut who at 32 was the first American woman in space, but also for the work that came after her NASA career; her work in international security verifying the Soviet nuclear arsenal, establishing influential STEM programs for children and educators, and pioneering diversity and inclusion in STEM education and careers.

For more content on Women’s History Month, watch or read our interview with Danielle Meah, Senior Manager of Threat Intelligence at Zoom.

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