I recently became a Ninja. That’s right. A Cisco Security Ninja. You can be a Ninja too!

Ninja fun
Satyapriya Sharma has a little fun with her new Security Ninja achievement.

The Cisco Security Ninja Program (http://wwwin-csdl.cisco.com/ninja_dojo/) confirms lessons learned and challenges participants to reach for higher degrees of competence and proficiency in product security. The program offers four distinct “belt” levels, each one increasing your security knowledge and furthering your career at Cisco.

  • While Belt takes you through the basic security concepts and principles.
  • Green Belt is where you take the basic concepts and tell how you are use them in your daily work whether you are a developer, tester, manager.
  • Advanced belts – Blue and Brown, Here’s where you execute on those concepts and think about security for everything you do.
  • Black Belt Like karate, this belt recognizes you as a security leader who will provide ongoing, significant contributions both internally at Cisco and externally in the industry.

“Get your Security White Belt” – was the first thing teams told me when I joined Security Business Unit more than a year ago. There was a Business Unit initiative to have everyone be White-Belt certified. So I got into the groove of things and earned my While Belt and Green Belt (Mangers) within the first month of joining. At that moment, I challenged my team to be the first whole team under our SVP that would be Green-Belt certified. We all worked hard together and achieved that Milestone! By that time advanced level ninja certifications (Blue, Brown and Black Belts) registration had started and I registered for Blue Belt. It took two months to earn it.

At this time, I started mentoring my team and others to achieve this milestone in their development as well. Then came the Brown Belt and I submitted my work for Black Belt. I had to wait for few weeks before I heard from the Security Ninja Program Submission Committee who set up a call with me to go over my submission. They told me that I am the only manager who has applied for the black belt outside of the team that created the program!

Security Ninja Satya Chhabra
Satyapriya Sharma earned her ninja status, and wants to encourage other women to be ninjas at work.

I didn’t think much of it at that time, but once I got the email that I had earned my Black Belt – it started to sink in  – the only manager in the whole of CISCO to earn it. Wait! That also meant the only female manager in whole of CISCO to earn it. YAHOOOOOO !!!!! I couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone 🙂 especially my Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) team.

I got a lot of support from my family and the management team to reach this milestone. Being in Security Business Unit certainly helped me earn the certificates faster since I live and breathe this stuff daily!

I want to use what I learned from this experience to encourage other women, not only at Cisco, but in technology everywhere to push ahead for these expert certifications. Here are four pieces of advice to become a Ninja in your space:

  1. Be patient and don’t give up! Getting these certifications was hard work and takes time.
  2. Don’t put your own development on the back burner. Due to tight timelines and commitments and work-life juggling we put our development on the back burner –make your development plan with your management, talk to your family and give yourself ample time to get to the milestone so it’s not stressful.
  3. Block time on your calendar each week if you have to. For Green Belt, I used to do one module a day after my daughter would go to sleep.
  4. Get a mentor. Seek help from someone from your site/business unit if needed. I am happy to help as well. Please feel free to each out. J

Always remember – if I can do it so can you.


Satyapriya Sharma

Manager, Customer Scenario Testing

Security Technology Group