One intern who I met at the Women in Cybersecurity Conference (WiCyS) will always stand out to me because I had a front row seat to her career journey from Cisco intern to an amazing team member: Anthea Gonzalez. I will admit to the bias of having #latina, #latinaintech pride, but I also have nostalgia and immense pride for the new hire program I helped build for the Cisco Security & Trust Organization. Over the years it has remained one of the programs where I get to show up the most authentically, and it is often a reminder that this is the most effective way to influence change. Being authentic about our identity and personal commitment can form a powerful bridge to helping us connect with others.   

Why WiCyS? 

I connect with the WiCyS mission on a deeply personal level. I consider myself many things: a woman, Latina, immigrant, and more. WiCyS’ mission to build a strong cybersecurity workforce with gender equity gives me the space to show up as a more authentic and truer version of myself. Balancing identities around being a woman and a woman of color in a male-dominated field lends itself to forcing you to pick and choose which parts of yourself to highlight. WiCyS encourages us to break these limiting barriers and is the security industry event where I am most genuine, and I simply enjoy being there.  

What is your biggest takeaway from the Women in Cybersecurity Conference? 

My biggest takeaway from WiCyS is not an item of branded swag or a profound piece of industry wisdom; it is a person, Anthea Gonzalez. At the conference you meet and connect with all kinds of women and allies, but Anthea stands out. With little introduction, she approached me and simply and earnestly stated “thank you for existing.” In that moment, she vocalized something I had not totally understood before how important it is to find another Latina in cybersecurity and how important it is to adopt the mission of recruitment, retention, and advancement as a personal undertaking.  

As our conversation continued, Anthea displayed: 

  • A drive for cybersecurity – specifically how to better protect the world and the people around her through forensics and advanced security tooling. 
  • The ability to advocate for her passion well, explaining the complexity of her interests in an engaging way.   
  • Her willingness to explore innovative ideas and technologies and accept the role of life-long learner. 

From our first conversation at the Women in Cybersecurity Conference, it was clear to me that Anthea had the skills needed to take on the vastness of today’s threat landscape. I committed to advocating for her wherever I could, and in return she provided a perspective that inspired me to put a sharp focus on the importance of making advocacy and advancement a personal and ongoing endeavor for me.   

What impact did that have?  

The simple answer? After that WiCyS Conference, we hired her. Anthea joined Cisco as an intern in Cisco’s Security & Trust Organization the summer after we met. Over the summer, she was able to learn, work with some incredibly intelligent people, and make many new friends. Her time at Cisco was so impactful that she was extended an offer and joined us as a full-time employee in 2022. Anthea’s journey in cybersecurity is just beginning, and I am glad to highlight her value and empower her at every opportunity that I get.  

Beyond Anthea’s success, the experience really cemented for me the importance that I show up best as the intersection of all my identities. I learned that the most effective way for me to influence change is through authenticity and personal commitment. Making it personal is how we bridge opportunities from today to tomorrow, at the WiCyS Conference and beyond.  

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Mariana Gardinali

Strategy & Planning Manager

Operations - OneX Platform & Services