This blog is the third in a series of posts sharing perspectives from Cisco women in security. Previous blogs featured Michele Guel, Engineer and Chief Security Architect and Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer.
When the public thinks of cybersecurity we often envision people sitting in dark rooms writing code and fighting hackers. Although those people exist and are necessary, cybersecurity as a career is much more expansive and is an excellent option for women looking for rewarding opportunities.
I stumbled upon my cybersecurity career before there was an industry for the field. Educated in computer science and trained in information technology, it wasn’t until a Cisco executive approached me about a job change that I considered security. In my previous roles I excelled in bridging relationships between various IT and business departments, not knowing at the time how imperative this skill would be for a soon-to-explode security industry.
I learned that cybersecurity is an aspect of business operations that is layered on top of technology and business practices. Because of this and the evolving threat landscape, cybersecurity practitioners are continually evolving the policies and practices based on risks, technologies and instincts. Additionally, they must be effective communicators to align security strategies and plans that enable businesses rather than hinder them. Often, non-security employees think security teams have a magic button we hit when we need to increase our defenses. In my role, I break down these myths by communicating best practices with different departmental teams and offer guidance to ensure all business operations are carried out securely.
Relationship development and communication – two skills not often associated with cybersecurity, but just as important as the people behind the computers writing code and catching bugs.
For women just starting college or looking to make a career change, cybersecurity offers a range of jobs suitable for the most technical savvy to communication experts. We are starting to see an uptick in women entering traditionally male dominated fields and the creation of new jobs, such as mine, that stem from a continuously changing threat environment. As more businesses incorporate security policies into daily operations, cybersecurity is quickly becoming everyone’s job. We can’t afford to exclude certain populations of people, especially when they possess the skills to solve today’s challenges.
Cisco leadership encourages women to challenge the status quo and offers on the job training and mentoring to build leaders within the organization. The company has built a culture that eliminates barriers and encourages passionate employees to take risks, try new roles and learn different skills. Its supportive businesses, like Cisco, that are helping women carve out a space in the industry to contribute and positively affect cybersecurity efforts.
Like all careers, cybersecurity requires passion and determination. Women now have the same opportunities as our male counterparts but we need to exude the same level of confidence and take similar risks to make our voices heard. I encourage women to think about what excites them professionally and step outside of comfort zones to build a rewarding career in cybersecurity. The possibilities are endless.
Sujata Ramamoorthy is Director and Chief Security Officer for Cloud Platform and Services at Cisco. She has received industry recognition for her leadership being named the Gold Winner for the 2014 Women World Awards for Female Executive of the Year and the Golden Bridge Bronze Award for Security Woman Executive of the Year 2014.