I have not always ‘felt’ like a security professional. It took exposure and a diverse community to begin to feel like I belonged here, and it was groups like Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) that led me to Cisco and my career in cybersecurity. I was first introduced to the Women in Cybersecurity organization as a student. At the time, I was starting to explore cybersecurity, and an older student encouraged me to explore opportunities at the WiCyS conference. 

In 2019 I attended the WiCyS conference where I connected with diverse people in the cybersecurity field. There were so many women of diverse backgrounds doing amazing work. Exposure to the WiCyS community helped me imagine myself working in cybersecurity after graduation, but it still felt like an intangible and abstract idea until I met Mariana Gardinali. While the WiCyS conference exposed me to many people, I realized that I had not met another Latina until I met her. Inspired by that realization, I approached her, introduced myself, and simply stated, “thank you for existing.”  

Meeting Mariana allowed me to see myself in the cybersecurity field at a place like Cisco – a world class company that powers the internet. Seeing how involved Cisco was in advancing the WiCyS mission of building a strong gender-diverse cybersecurity workforce inspired my curiosity about what a Cisco career could look like for me. I applied for the Cisco internship program after speaking with Mariana, then accepted the offer to be a full-time employee, and have remained at Cisco, where I have had the opportunity to learn first-hand about what a Cisco career is like.  

At Cisco, I have continued to meet new people, learn new things, and genuinely experience what it feels like to be a security professional. I have also been able to participate in several technical and non-technical training courses that have enabled me to grow as an engineer. Through a variety of Employee resource groups, I have been able to expand my professional network and see how others have found their place in Cisco and in industry.  

Being a part of the cybersecurity workforce at Cisco, I have learned how diverse the career options are. Seeing how big and broad the cybersecurity workforce within Cisco alone is has motivated me to do my part in recruiting and retaining new talent. Building a community of likeminded professionals for myself and others has been an ongoing process that inspires me to reflect on the importance of representation and being able to make special connections.  

As I head back to the WiCyS conference this year, I cannot help feeling like I have come full circle. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to have something to give back to this community. I am excited to return to the conference as a Cisco employee and represent both Cisco and the cybersecurity industry. I hope to be able to help others see themselves in cybersecurity the way that Mariana helped me see myself where I am today.  

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Anthea Gonzalez

Information Security Engineer

Security and Trust Organization