We are on the Right Way but Not There Yet
Cybersecurity is everyone’s business. Nevertheless, at the end of 2019, we (as well as the cybersecurity field in general) still have a lack of diversity in this vibrant field. By diversity, we mean all: cultural background, educational background, professional background, age diversity, and, of course, gender diversity. With still low numbers of women in cybersecurity field, it’s our opportunity to fill the talent gap through an open-minded approach to all diversity aspects. Not to jeopardize the quality towards the diversity quota but to innovate better solutions through diverse thinking. After all, everyone is affected by cyber threats and each one of us can bring our perspective towards the solution.
We often hear that people are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. We would like to throw this provocative thought out there: perhaps the problem exists because we didn’t do a good job involving everyone in the past. And the only way to solve that is to get people from a variety of backgrounds involved now.
We believe that at SAP, people become the strongest link. With an extraordinary strong and supportive community within this organization, we collectively build a secure Intelligent Enterprise, educating colleagues, partners and customers across all locations and all functions. Even as we focus on Cybersecurity Awareness Month right now as our educational campaign, security is a part of our daily life that spans beyond work. It’s our lifestyle. That said, SAP security experts truly love what they do and go above and beyond through supporting external communities, tirelessly educating the younger generation and especially including the voice of girls into cybersecurity (Toronto (Canada), Atlanta (US), Walldorf (Germany) and Bangalore (India) are only a few to scratch the surface of the work SAP does).
You may ask, how do we do it? – sparking an interest in such a “dry topic” as some may say. The answer is simple – we make it relevant to everyone’s daily tasks and life. For example, victims of social engineering come from all kind of backgrounds, experience and gender – in other words, they are diverse. This brings us back to the importance of diversity in cybersecurity to combat cyber crimes and to build secure solutions.
Building a diverse cybersecurity community is not easy. There are many reasons why we struggle. Cultural stigma and self-doubt – especially when we are talking about women – are some of the mostly highly ranked issues. To overcome those issues, we must act as a community not only within the cybersecurity field but overall. We must support women in their choices. We must tell young girls that this career is possible. We must listen to our employees to really hear where they want to go. For women, on other hand, be brave and follow your dreams – we need you!
For this blog, we have interviewed some women in cybersecurity at SAP who followed their dreams and have a few words of wisdom and encouragement to share.
“Never think it is too big of a challenge. I used to be a Biotechnologist and I made it into the security. If you are curious and like to learn new things every day while working in a field that is relevant to just about everybody on the planet than go for it!” – Birgit Hess, Cloud Security Awareness Lead Europe, Walldorf, Germany
“I am myself a beginner in the area, but I strongly belief the desire to learn and explore and understand how important cybersecurity is to all of us now and in future should be our key motive.” – Shubhangi Sheel, Security Expert, Toronto, ON, Canada
“If you like it just do it. Don’t wait until you have perfect skills for the job. Look for a role model.” – Marina Plag, Security Expert, Walldorf, Germany
“Although it seems like a “thanks-less” job and there is only dark news around about cyber insecurity, do not give up hope!! World needs your security skills and someday, we’ll make a difference. Get a professional certification or degree in cybersecurity and find the right opportunity. This is an incredible time to join this field because cybersecurity has made its way into the board agenda.” – Archana Karnik, Security Architect, Palo Alto, CA, USA
“My advice to women looking to enter a career in cybersecurity is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn, especially at events where you can also make good connections.” – Andrea Werle, Global Director Cybersecurity Incident Management and Digital Forensics, Palo Alto, CA, USA
“I strongly feel that as a female and home maker myself, I feel it’s an innate quality in most females to think of security while we aim at keeping our family and homes safe. We just need to extend this thought and knowledge towards the cyber world so that it would be equally interesting and meaningful in our jobs too. Follow your instincts on sensing your strengths in Security, help the community grow by sharing and learning from one another, not just at office but also in your private lives to keep yourself up-to-date.” – Arathi Vade, Expert Security and Compliance – Digital Supply Chain, Walldorf, Germany
“I support diversity in cybersecurity field in the sense not just women but people from all walks of life. Cybersecurity is something important to everyone and everyone’s insights can be different in how we can protect SAP and ourselves. It is good to have experience in different field before specializing in cybersecurity. For example, I worked in Banking industry before. I am naturally more familiar and sensitive to cybersecurity in the financial industries. I was an application programmer before I moved to cybersecurity field. My programming background also helped me to have more in depth insight in the best practices in application development. Overall, I believe everyone should love and get excited in what they do regardless of the field.” – Patty Wong, Security Solution Expert, San Ramon, CA, USA
“We can only make SAP more secure if we work together. Stay curious and open-minded, and never stop believing in yourself.” – Adrienn Loerincz, Security Expert, Walldorf, Germany
“Stay Confident. Technology moves so fast, each innovation leads to new opportunities and Security and Data Privacy are top key differentiators. Learn up-skill and excel we all fit into this domain naturally. Have mentors from Security domain to shape up your career.” – Sailaja Vadlamudi, Security & Privacy Owner IEG S/4HANA at SAP, Bangalore, India
“This is a community that shares the knowledge passionately – Never stop learning!!” – Shruthi R Patil, Security Expert, Bangalore, India
“Your rule number one should always be “feel comfortable with what you do”. It is important to be passionate about what you work on. Never let others tell you what to do – it is great to gather feedback and listen to others, but YOU are responsible for your own decisions. Spending quite some effort on self-analysis is a great investment for yourself.” – Kathrin Nos, Chief Development Architect Security, Walldorf, Germany
“Get a good mentor from security field” – Lada Gonchar, Development Manager, Security Expert, Walldorf, Germany
“It is a field required continuous learning and consistent improvement. Be ready for the hard work.” – Erica Leung, Senior Director of Engineering, Palo Alto, CA, USA
“I’d advise women looking to get into cybersecurity to stay the course. There may trying times we face in learning the technical know-how of it all, and in dealing with egos in this male-dominated field, but with the right focus and perseverance, we are capable of anything. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up to let your point of view be heard.” – Brittany Barksdale, Director, Security Compliance, Los Angeles, CA, USA
“Work hard to become an expert on a specific subject area” – Anne Marie Colombo, Cybersecurity Architect, Atlanta, GA, USA
“There are many reasons we need more women in the cybersecurity field. One is because of the massive shortage of cybersecurity professionals today, it’s critical to attract historically underrepresented demographics to help fill the need. But ultimately, security success thrives because of diversity. The other side has varying backgrounds & experiences coming against us, so we need to be ready with a more diverse workforce to increase our success. Keep going! We need you!” – Carrie Graham, Cybersecurity Solution Advisor, Philadelphia, PA, USA
“Do not be afraid of anything, be yourself and follow your dreams.” – Galina Ivanisova, Sr. Cyber Security Analyst, Montreal, QB, Canada
Full interviews are published on LinkedIn.
Authors: Helen Oakley & Birgit Hess
And please know that there are plenty of allies and mentors that are happy to support this diversity!
Enjoyed reading the blog and honest reflections on women in cyber-security. Thank you Helen !!
I think this is great, diversity helps build a more robust Cybersecurity program. I personally know a lot of those who left encouragement messages. Keep this going ! We need more of you.