The cybersecurity industry is one of change and disruption. The ability not only to sustain, but to flourish, over a 26-year career in this field requires a special level of dedication. Michele D. Guel, winner of the 2016 ABIE Award for Leadership, exemplifies that dedication, tirelessly devoting herself to inclusion, collaboration, and mentorship.

Launching a career marked by “firsts” – the first Distinguished Engineer within IT and the first full-time security professional at Cisco – Michele started in cybersecurity in 1988, before it was even a discipline.

I first “met” Michele via a phone call – when she was interviewing me as a candidate for a job opening she had on her team. She struck me as an intelligent, humble, yet driven person, and she had a great sense of humor. As I got to know Michele better, I saw how well respected she is as a mentor and team builder within the often-fragmented security industry.

Today, Michele inspires others to develop and excel professionally, focusing on current tasks as well as challenges on the horizon. She helps businesses to overcome obstacles in their move to the cloud, digitization, and the Internet of Things – making sure they take a long-term view of protection and privacy. The key to all of this is moving security closer to business decisions, so that it’s seen as growth enabler and change agent.

Michele’s position enables her to foster advancement and success for other women following her lead. She also readily acknowledges the industry changes and corporate programs that are helping to expand this talent base and empower women to take leadership positions.

Striving to address some of the biggest challenges facing women in cybersecurity, Michele has developed programs that cultivate confidence and a sense of community, as well as platforms for advancement. She has created environments where women can learn and grow, while supporting each other as they progress in their careers. An example is the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity Community, an initiative that Michele co-founded and that grew to more than 200 members in its first year.

With colleagues describing her as energetic, visionary, and passionate about elevating other women in cybersecurity, Michele works diligently to ensure cooperation and collaboration among teams, colleagues, and the industry – especially when it comes to the advancement of women. She has excelled in her career by building up others, just as her mentors such as Alan Paller at the SANS Institute did for her.

When recently asked about her key to success, Michele simply replied:

“Go Bold. Be bold and be connected, and believe you can do it because you can.”

And, bold she is. Congratulations, Michele. Your commitment and leadership has had a profound impact on Cisco, along with many other men and women throughout the security community.