One of the most common concerns I hear from partners and customers alike is that the talent shortage in security is a real problem. There are just not enough people to fill all of the critical roles to meet the increasing demands of the cybersecurity industry today.  With International Women’s Day, #IWD2021 fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to address the impact women can make by helping to alleviate this talent shortage simply by choosing to challenge their comfort zone and jumping into new opportunities.

It may come as a surprise to some, but deep technical experience or a background in security is not a prerequisite to get a foot in the door. And getting a boost from leaders and mentors can be just the motivation some need to take that next step.

What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you

I started my career at Cisco 15 years ago as part of Cisco’s CSAP program. I started in sales and quickly found my passion in a channel role, working side by side with our partner community to grow their Cisco business.

I was a partner account manager for 10 years when I found myself “getting comfortable” in the role; I was looking for a change. One of my leaders encouraged me to pursue a position on our security channels team. I thought “Is he crazy? I don’t know anything about security.”  But I knew that I was up for the challenge and leapt at the opportunity.

This career move has allowed for me to double down on a passion I didn’t know I even had – securing our digital world – and aligning Cisco’s security platform to our partners’ overall priorities. Now, I lead a team of 10+ partner specialists across the US.

You can hear more about other women and their stories about their careers in cybersecurity and the advocates who helped along the way by reading our new eBook, Lifting Each Other Up: A Celebration of Women in Cybersecurity and Their Advocates.

Shifting the perception for the future workforce

One of the partners I have had the pleasure of working with over my tenure at Cisco is ePlus.  Someone who had a similar start to their career in cybersecurity is ePlus’ National Practice Manager for Cisco Security and Enterprise Networking, Wanda Castelvecchi.

In recent conversation with Wanda, I discovered that we both got our start in sales and it also took a nudge from a leader to encourage Wanda to take the next step in her career and challenge what she knew by trying a role in cybersecurity. One thing that Wanda credits with helping her get her footing and continuing to progress in a cybersecurity role is that she is “always learning”.  It is a focus on learning that propelled her to get involved with helping young women in school get involved in #WomenInSTEM.

“If you haven’t considered a career in cyber because you don’t have a technical background, think again.
There are a number of cybersecurity jobs that require more interpersonal skills than technical ones.
They require analytical thinking, teamwork skills, communication skills, and leadership skills, all of which
can be learned in fields other than technology.  Keep looking, keep learning, keep educating.
We are counting on you.”
– Wanda Castelvecchi, National Practice Manager for Cisco Security and Enterprise Networking, ePlus

Wanda is the Co-Founder of the organization Girls Re-Imagining Tomorrow (GRIT), which was created for the sole purpose of introducing diverse groups of middle school girls to technology-focused career possibilities, with an emphasis on cybersecurity and AI (Artificial Intelligence). Wanda’s goal with the GRIT program is to help close the gender gap in cyber and build a pipeline for talent by showing these kids the potential growth and opportunity that is out there by considering a career in cybersecurity.

Give yourself a boost

Great progress is being made with more women in the cybersecurity industry and holding leadership positions. But there is still a lot more we can do.  Our recent blog cited in the 2019 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, it was found that women consisted of only 24% of the cybersecurity workforce.  Connecting women, men, & advocates for increasing diversity in cybersecurity is more important than ever.

Register for our virtual event on March 9thConnecting Women in Cybersecurity to see how you can get connected with our community to help empower women to achieve their full potential in cybersecurity. And access more resources on our Giving Women in Cybersecurity a Boost webpage.

Making the cybersecurity industry more diverse brings new thoughts, innovative ideas, and different perspectives which is something desperately needed to stay one step ahead of threats.

Take my advice– BE FEARLESS.  Take the initiative to grow and learn.  You’ll never regret an opportunity to accelerate your career.


Alison Stahl

US National Security Partner Leader

Security Sales