The nominations for the IT Security Guru’s Most Inspiring Women in Cyber awards are finally out! We were absolutely blown away by the number of quality candidates that have come through, all of whom have made phenomenal contributions to the cybersecurity industry.
As a reminder, the public was invited to put forward an individual they find remarkable. Each nominee then had to answer a set of further questions to complete the nomination process.
In no particular order, here is PART II of the 2021 shortlist along with snippets of what their nominators had to say about them and a piece of advice for women/girls thinking of entering the cyber industry from the nominee themselves! (To see Part I, click HERE)
30) Kimberly Baldoni, Head of Marketing at Beazley
“Her devotion, passion and knowledge for the cyber marketing business is exceptional.”
Advice: “It is fast paced and constantly evolving, but worth the time and energy as it is an exciting industry with many opportunities.”
31) Ali Dyer, Group CISO at Urenco
“Ali is one of the most honest, real CISOs I have met. Her pragmatic, transparent style is hugely refreshing as she talks about her own strengths and acknowledges her weaknesses.
“Her passion is infectious and you can’t fail to be drawn to wanting to work for or with her.
“A key trait in my experience; similar to her authenticity she leads from the front, but cares for her team and has an incredible balance in her approach to people management.”
Advice: “Don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your potential and achieving your goals. Surround yourselves by a network of strong women who you can turn to when things get tough. A network who will build your confidence when others seek to knock it down.”
32) Merry Song, Analyst at Turnkey Consulting
“Merry is a Year 2 graduate in our information risk management programme, specialising in the Application & Cyber Security practice. As well as contributing to business chargeable projects, Merry has proactively sought opportunities to expand her role into service definition and internal cultural change.
“Merry’s attitude is fantastic. She has a universally unflappable, assured style that exudes confidence and competence in her peers, clients and management. Regardless of the scenario, she is always prepared and delivers exceptional quality in all cases. In particular, her drive to improve herself, her understanding and take steps to make appropriate change is very inspiring. I look at what she has achieved in a very short timeframe and find that hugely inspiring. Whilst delivering that personal growth, she takes that extra step to encourage others to join her on that pathway, instigating real change in the internal culture, galvanizing activities towards gender imbalance and climate action. She is a fantastic role model for all our internal team, future generations of the industry and seasoned professionals to look to.”
Advice: “For girls entering the cybersecurity industry, I would let them know that they’ve made a great choice and tell them to expect a fulfilling career where your actions and contributions make a difference to the type of world we live in. Be open-minded and willing to learn, as there is always going to be new developments around the corner. Find ways in which you can gain opportunities to be in leadership positions and take more responsibility – if we are trying to build a more diverse future where bias is eliminated, we will need more women in these positions!”
33) Karla Reffold, COO at Orpheus Cyber
“Karla is always leading by example through gaining seniority in a male dominated industry to mentoring women who are looking to also grow in their roles and personal life. She selflessly takes hours out of her day to speak to graduates and women already on the career path in cybersecurity. She has previously built and sold two businesses in the sector.”
Advice: “Do it! The percentage of women is increasing and the perception of the industry as being for men or just about hacking is changing. There are so many great career paths, the industry is working hard on being more welcoming to diverse candidates so it’s a great time to join us.”
34) Anjali Das, Partner, Co-Chair Cybersecurity and Data Privacy at Wilson Elser
“Wilson Elser, LLP is nominating Anjali Das (Partner-Chicago) because of her proven, long-standing commitment to both the Firm and its national Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice team. She has been instrumental in building the Firm’s cyber practice from its infancy to one of the fastest growing and high-profile practice teams. She and her team have developed expertise in a wide range of cyber-related areas including Incident Response, Regulatory Enforcement Actions, Data Breach Class Action litigation, and Privacy Compliance. She is a recognized cyber legal expert both in the U.S. and abroad, and has bolstered the Firm’s international footprint in handling cross-border data breaches through the Firm’s LegAlign law firm partners around the globe.”
Advice: “Cybersecurity and technology will continue to be a leading field that will provide a host of opportunities for women across the spectrum. Take advantage of any opportunity to take coursework in technology, cybersecurity, and/or data privacy. Get certified as a privacy professional. Be fearless, take a leap of faith, and explore new and exciting opportunities in the cyber and tech industry. Have fun and never give up!”
35) Padmini Kao, Executive Vice President of Engineering, Infoblox
“Padmini inspires us at Infoblox because she shows us what it’s like to continually push the boundary of what is possible. Since she joined Infoblox eight years ago as senior director of engineering, she has been instrumental in reshaping DDI and security for virtual, hybrid and cloud deployments. Today, Padmini leads hundreds of engineers as Infoblox’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, where she is in charge of building products that serve as the cloud-first networking and security foundations for the modern enterprise.
“Padmini has mentored many engineers and other women at Infoblox and in the larger tech community, joining them on their career advancement journey. She is also an evangelist for Infoblox’s mission, reminding everyone that our work has a tangible impact keeping customers safe from malicious actors.”
Advice: “Follow your dreams and your interests. Cybersecurity is such a large field with so many different aspects that it can accommodate almost anything you are interested in. There’s no reason to limit yourself prematurely. Build a strong foundation of knowledge and use that to follow whatever it is you are interested in.”
36) Pat Ryan, Sole Director and Founder of Cyber Girls First
“Pat could see that girls were being pushed to the side and not attaining their true potential in cyber and coding. Some of them were brilliant, and they were not being encouraged. She wanted to do something about this and decided to organise events for school girls, to inspire them about careers in Tech and help them realise what they could achieve. By taking the girls away from the boys, into a University or corporate headquarters for the whole day, they could be inspired about careers in tech and cyber security. With the support of people within my network, she was able to give girls the chance to meet high profile women from the IT industry, as well as lawyers and accountants, cyber security people and even rocket scientists.
“Pat has truly had a rich career and did it all while bringing up a family and two children who she inspired to do what they love and do it well.”
Advice: “You are pushing on an open door now. For example, JPMorgan insists on having men and women on their teams because, as they said, it cuts down on the Monday testosterone. The big plus is that Corporate Heads unanimously volunteer the information that if they give a problem to a woman, they will hammer away at it until they find a solution, whereas a man will often give up and say it can’t be done. This is not always the case, but most CEOs and Board Members are looking for more women to join their teams to bring a new perspective to the Cyber Industry. When Theresa May was PM, and we had one of our events at no.10, she told me we will need 3 million people in the Cyber field by 2030, and more women need to be recruited and trained. After all, they represent 50% of the population.”
37) Clare Johnson, Partnerships and Outreach Manager (Digital & STEM) at University of South Wales, and Founder of Women in Cyber Wales
“Clare was my tutor during my undergraduate degree. In my first year (2014) I was one of two girls and from second year onwards I was the only girl. This came with some challenges and having Clare to talk to for advice and even to mediate some issues got me through the stresses of uni.
“Since then, Clare has become known in the Welsh Cyber Space for founding the Women in Cyber Wales meet-ups, I’m proud to say that I had something to do with convincing her to start it, and having a group of women in industry to talk to while settling into the working world after university has been invaluable to me.”
Advice: “Find a good mentor, not necessarily someone working in the industry, but a trusted friend or colleague. They will be invaluable when you have moments of doubt, feelings of imposter syndrome, questions about whether you are being treated equitably and much more. Someone who can be kind, supportive and objective. Cyber security is a fantastic career with much to offer and it is well worth navigating your way through the occasional challenges.”
38) Bindu Sundaresan, Director of AT&T Cybersecurity
“Bindu’s experience, which spans more than 20 years, has been shaped by the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most innovative companies. She has worked with industry frameworks, including NIST/ISO/HITRUST, regulatory requirements including PCI, NERC, and HIPAA. Bindu has led dozens of cyber-risk engagements for Fortune 500 clients from strategy to technology implementation to breach response. She was tapped to lead a complex PCI and HIPAA compliance assessment for a leading global retailer, spearheaded a $1M security assessment, and worked on securing Criminal Justice Information Sharing Networks in NYC. Before AT&T, Bindu was a Senior Manager with Verisign. Before joining Verisign, she was a Senior Consultant with KPMG and a Senior Network engineer. Her love for teaching and mentoring started with her role as an Adjunct Faculty with the State University of New York (SUNY).”
Advice: “Entering a field dominated by people who are different from you can seem intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find success. While cybersecurity and many other fields have room for improvement when it comes to representation and fair treatment, change doesn’t happen overnight. The field needs strong women to continue building on the work of those who’ve already started blazing this trail. Dream it and you can definitely be it.”
39) Sophia McCall, Security Consultant at NCC Group
“At such a young age, Sophia is making big waves in the industry and making her and other women’s voices heard. Her most recent venture, is starting a security brand dubbed “Security Queens” where she and two other women in security regularly blog about “all things security” to provide a platform to promote diversity in tech whilst encouraging positive education. In 2021, they aim to hit the security conference circuit.”
Advice: “Hold your head high and go for it, there will be barriers – but the community and industry as a whole are so welcoming and supportive. You’ll never be alone!”
40) Regina Bluman, Security Analyst at Algolia
“She co-founded respect in security and mentors people. She believes strongly we should use our skills for good and is a pillar of the community. She will give up her personal time to help anyone for no gain and no recognition.”
Advice: ”Play the game. I had an attitude for a long time that I didn’t want to leverage my network to get to where I am. It’s great to be principled, but I was going to be principled and unemployed if I’d stuck with that. Do I agree with the state of the industry currently, that you often need a ‘sponsor’ or referral to get your foot in the door? No, I hate it with a passion! However, it is how things work now. The best thing we can do is play the game, get our foot in the door, and then kick it open behind us. We can’t make change if we’re not in positions of power to lead that change from the inside. So play the game, use your network, but don’t forget to reach back and offer a helping hand to those behind you. It’s the only way we can make things better for future generations of women!”
41) Lisa Ventura, Founder of Cyber Security Unity
“I can think of no-one more deserving than Lisa for being included as one of your Most Inspiring Women in Cyber for 2021. She leads by example and contributes much to the cyber security industry and goes above and beyond to help those who are looking to enter the industry. She is also a huge supporter of women in technology/cyber security.
Lisa is extremely resilient, tenacious and determined to succeed which is what I love most about her.”
Advice: “Network, network and network some more – and find mentors. A good mentor can provide invaluable advice on how to find your place in cyber security and facilitate networking opportunities.”
42) Amanda Lieu, Product Marketing Manager at SEON
“Shocked by the stark gender disparity within her industry where women currently make up less than 30% of the workforce, Amanda is breaking down barriers and using her voice for good, bringing others up with her as she rises through the ranks.
Going forward, Amanda is developing a rich pipeline of content and messaging that will help SEON achieve strategic sales targets, including portfolio expansion, innovative solutions, and creating footprints in new markets for SEON’s cybersecurity programmes.”
Advice: “DO IT ! On a serious note, I was just open-minded with whatever I came across. I parked aside any bias. I went with what felt right. No decision is right or wrong, and a decision made doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. So get stuck in, and if you change your mind, it’s fine too. Cybersecurity is an inspiring space as you are building frontiers that shape what our digital world could look like.”
43) Keily Blair, Partner, Head of Cyber, Privacy & Data Innovation London at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff LLP
“I am so fortunate to be in a cybersecurity law team, which is female-led, by the exceptional Keily Blair. Working with Keily everyday is a masterclass on how to tackle some of the world’s most complex cyber law issues and how to support and advise clients facing immensely challenging circumstances for their businesses. Keily’s passion for this area of law is contagious and having come to this field later in my career, I am continually motivated by her dedication and her commitment to encouraging other women to practice in this dynamic area of law. Keily’s work ethic and skill are unique. If I am working on something challenging for a client, she is online with me and always available to assist. In combination with her talent in this field, she is wholly committed to supporting the career progression of the women in her team. She always makes time for feedback sessions, ensures we are given the opportunity to work on a wide range of cases and has provided me with truly valuable guidance and support to ensure I am always progressing on my career path. I am continually inspired by her and how she leads my team.”
Advice: “The cybersecurity industry is not all tech-bros in hoodies. Cybersecurity is an incredibly diverse field including technical specialists, insurance professionals, lawyers, consultants and communications specialists. It is also home to people who are incredibly generous with their time and expertise – so if you are interested in someone’s career profile, reach out to them and start a conversation. You never know where it might lead.”
44) Dr. Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary
“Since her speech on the future of CyberSecurity at Davos in January 2019. She has been connecting with entrepreneurs across the world to encourage them to take their first steps in creating a CyberSafe business. So far she has reached out to over 100 million entrepreneurs in 170 countries.
“She is a true empathic leader, passionate about the future of cybersecurity to transform our world and she focuses on inclusion with everything she does.”
Advice: “For the last 20 years I have pioneered the Web Science research which explains the changes which GenZ and GenAlpha bring to influence our society. This pandemic has accelerated that change. The cybersecurity industry needs your talents to deliver that promise for us all. It is the most interesting and impactful work you will ever do. Come join us now and be part of the change the world needs to see.”
45) Vanessa Pegueros, Chief Trust & Security Officer at OneLogin
“With over 20 years of experience Vanessa has seen it all and paved the way for women and POC in the industry. Vanessa worked up from a network design engineer role in the 80s to a CISO role at some of the most established brands in the industry. But, when she entered the industry there was never a space for women or people of colour, and despite her achieving a Stanford degree, she was still faced with judgement. Through perseverance and dedication to her role, Vanessa has achieved what anyone would be proud of, acting as an inspiration and role model to other women and POC in the industry.”
Advice: “Cybersecurity is a broad and diverse space, there is more than enough room for you to find your passion in the space, seek it out and go for it!”
46) Rea James, Global Cyber Strategic Threat Intelligence Lead at Vodafone
“Rea James is an “authentic” voice. Rea is passionate about doing the right thing, helping to bring others along with her and completely unafraid to ask the hard questions.”
Advice: “When you hit a wall, when you think you can’t go on much further, take a deep breath, believe in yourself and take that step out of your comfort zone to move forward. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to move forward in your career.”
47) Dr. Wendy Ng, Cloud Security Architect at OneWeb
“With a masters in computational biology and a doctorate in medical genetics, Wendy is one of the smartest women I’ve ever worked with. She truly loves security and her curiosity and appetite for learning and sharing her knowledge is something to behold.”
Advice: “Go for it and believe in yourself.”
48) Christine Maxwell, Director Cyber Defence at UK Ministry of Defence
“Christine first wrote the job description for this job and then decided “I should bloody go for it” – she did and she got it! Smart, driven and a wicked sense of humour – I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run for PM someday. Christine is also easy to talk to and I’ve seen her go out of her way to help others in our field.”
Advice: “Don’t expect to be the MOD CISO at the outset and don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Get into IT or cyber junior roles and work really hard and show your interest in cyber and work to get into a role that you want.”
49) Kirsty Fish, Policy & Risk Management Lead at Aldermore Bank
“One of the most detail-oriented people I’ve ever had the great fortune to work with, Kirsty will stick her hand up first to take on any challenge or additional work; she inspires others every day with her work ethic, sense of humour and willingness to “ask the question”.
Advice: “You don’t have to be “technical” – the word technical has huge breadth. You don’t need to be able to tick every box and be able to undertake all aspects of the role. You just need to understand your strengths, what you can bring to the table and then enhance that with the team you have working around you. Don’t let others tell you you can’t!”
50) Nikki Webb, Global Channel Manager at Custodian360, Marketing Manager at The Cyber Helpline and Co-Founder of Respect in Security
“Over the last year, Nikki has been an avid volunteer for Cyber House Party and is a founding member of Respect in Security.
“Nikki runs various workshops in educational settings to not only encourage people into the industry but to also teach the younger generation what is acceptable behaviour online, as well as how to protect their own privacy online and create a positive digital footprint from a young age.”
Advice: “Be authentic and be yourself, if this this is the industry you want to be in then stand up and stand out, and join us. Look around the industry and find great role models. I have many, the likes of Lisa Forte, Sarah Armstrong Smith, Tash Norris, Prof Lisa Short are all women who inspire me and remind me daily why I am here. Do it, if it scares you then that’s great as it means it is important to you, our comfort zones are not always the zones we want to be in.”
51) Sarah Janes, Managing Director at Layer 8
“Sarah has lived and breathed the human factor in security ever since she started her career in-house at BT. Sarah moved on to deliver award-winning behavioural change programmes to FTSE 100 clients at The Security Company, before partnering with the rest of the Layer 8 team to launch a company that combines a diverse set of skills and experience to offer one of the most accessible culture change programmes on the market. Her approach to cybersecurity is refreshing and contagious – a real inspiration!”
Advice: “Look at others for inspiration but you are unique, don’t be afraid to show people the real you.”
52) Marilise de Villiers, Founder & CEO of ROAR! Coaching & Consulting
“Marilise is passionate about raising organisational awareness of information and cyber risk, embedding secure mindsets and habits into an organisation’s culture and helping others develop their security skills. As an executive performance coach, she helps cybersecurity professionals improve their impact and influence to become trusted business partners. She also mentors and coaches women in cybersecurity, something that is very close to her heart.”
Advice: “It’s a tough environment to navigate so you have to strengthen your resilience muscle daily. Turn your thoughts, feelings, words and actions into your four superpowers. Prioritise YOU on your list of priorities. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.”
53) Madeline Howard, Chairperson and Director at CyNam & Global Information Security Co-ordinator at Sage
“Madeline is a young woman on a mission. She is always willing to put her time into industry initiatives and is hugely inspiring. Madeline is part of the NCSC’s Cyber Schools Hub, where she speaks candidly with students about different routes in a career in cyber. She gives her time and advice freely and will motivate a new generation of cyber professionals, for sure!”
Advice: “Be brave. The sector is moving in the right direction and has an exciting future, make sure you’re part of it.”
54) Sue Milton, Owner of SSM Governance Associates
“Sue is internationally known and respected with a specialism in banking and financial services ICT, IT and cyber security. Her career spans 30 years’ in developed and emerging markets. Her seminal work on the formation project of the UK Cyber Security Council which launched in April 2021 places her at the forefront of cyber security framework, policy and governance advisory. Sue is a pleasure to work with and always has time to lend an ear or advice – the cybersecurity community is a better place with her in it.”
Advice: “Being you is the best basic skill you need to enter the industry as your unique experience will help shape the industry’s relevance to more people whilst at the same time reducing bias and exclusion.”
55) Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa
“Despite the obstacles, Anna persevered to build a company from the ground up. She has also offered her time and expertise to help others, particularly young women, join the industry. For example, she was involved in the Gov-X initiative, which is an innovation challenge aimed towards inspiring the youth to assist the government in solving African national security challenges.”
Advice: “Find out what you are most interested in and what brings you joy and follow that path with determination, self study, take certifications and show your attitude of wanting to learn during your interviews; companies don’t hire for experience, but for attitude so this internal fire has to shine through, network and meet other women in this field that are willing to introduce you or mentor you.”
56) Raheila Nazir, SVP Cyber & Tech E&O at Chubb Overseas General
“Raheila is an incredible underwriter and leader in the Cyber Market who often flies under the radar but whose influence can be felt and seen throughout the industry.”
Advice: “Do it –consider how much this industry has advanced and how technology is so integrating in our professional and personal lives, the scale will only grow and we need women to help shape this industry.”
57) Emily Overton, Managing Director of Records Management Girl Ltd.
“Emily has a passion and enthusiasm for infosec and protecting information. During lockdown, she was responsible for working remotely to empty a local government building that was closing. Through skill and expertise, she arranged for the removal of 25,000 boxes of records with the limited resources on the ground. She has worked 15 years in the information industry dealing with everything from retention, education, use of records, big data, dark data, storage, access, security, data protection, freedom of information, intellectual property, and copyright to upholding individuals’ human rights and ensuring the privacy by default of anyone she interacts with.”
Advice: “It may be a male dominated industry, but there are some epic women in cyber that may not be directly in front of you. Seek them out.”
58) Vanita Pandey, CMO at Arkose Labs
“Her continued strength and ambition are an inspiration. We have worked together three times now and she brings the same level of passion, knowledge and strategic value to every single role. Her career journey has been inspiring to watch. As a mother of two young children, she has continually gone from strength to strength – taking her family with her and continually prioritising them at every step!
“She has made a huge impact at each organisation she works for, with recent roles seeing her applying her innovative, strategic thinking to take companies to new dimensions.”
Advice: “Be purposeful and own your career. You may not know everything but you will find the help needed to get you to where you want to go, if you are willing to ask for it and work hard at your goals.”
To view Part I of the nominee shortlist, click HERE.
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