My path to cybersecurity looks more like a winding road than a straight line, but it’s the influential role models and valuable information I consumed with every turn that paved my path towards a career in cybersecurity – specifically privacy.
I fell into secure networking by chance. I was attending North Carolina State University and earning my degree in computer science when I watched Grace Hopper give a presentation on the speed of the internet. I was captivated by the information she shared and motivated that a woman was so knowledgeable on a topic predominantly practiced by men. After all, the majority of my classmates were male. From that moment on, I looked to Grace Hopper for motivation and was determined to break any barriers that held me back from my career ambitions.
After college, I worked in many facets of information technology, including mainframes, IBM protocols, VoIP, hardened routers and robotics, as well as various industries, such as government, sports and entertainment. I gained a wealth of knowledge on the inner workings of networks and different infrastructures, but it wasn’t until I was assigned to work on Cisco’s Trust Anchor technologies and the Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL) that I found my passion for cybersecurity.
Develop Your Passion
As I learned more about the hacks and attacks that CSDL was defending, I realized my zigzags across Cisco’s technologies and business functions were coming together as a solid foundation to apply pervasive security. I had been working in security technologies and processes for five years working with strong role models such as Edna Conway, Michele Guel, and Cypriane Palma, when I came across a book written by Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer, Michelle Dennedy – Privacy Engineering Manifesto. There,, my passion for privacy was solidified. Once I read it, I was all in and pushed to become part of the team working to embed privacy and data protection in our products, offerings, services, business applications and processes. I looked to Michelle as a leader focused on the innovations needed to protect and authorize the network data available globally. She, along with our collaborative team, set my sights on what is doable today and what is possible tomorrow. “Privacy please” is my Southern way of saying we have much to do to make digital opportunities a place of trust for each of us.
Seek Educational Opportunities
Looking back at my own experience, my advice for young women interested in a career in cybersecurity is to “be all in!” Constantly look for educational opportunities to strengthen your knowledge of the industry and attend various conferences and events that get you closer to today’s leaders. Learn from those leaders and begin to form the foundation of the leader you hope to be one day. Cybersecurity has so many facets and requires different skill sets to manage every component successfully. From traditional White Hat hackers to engineers to policy makers, there is an avenue best suited for you. It just takes the drive and determination to learn about the industry, follow influencers and determine where your talents and skills are needed. The industry is big enough for everyone with a passion to protect our world and defend our networks.
As much as we need to take charge of our own careers, it’s just as important for businesses to foster inspiring and collaborative work environments. Cisco developed its Inclusion and Collaboration initiative to harness the power of diversity and build a robust community of employees, as well as encourage its employees to continuously expand their career possibilities. Every time I think I’m finished with my career, Cisco opens up a new and exciting place to continue to learn, work with intelligent people and affect the world. Cisco’s empowering leaders and employee programs helped me succeed in an industry I am truly passionate about.