How to Succeed as a Woman in Cybersecurity

Posted by Kathleen Smith

A continuation of our discussion with Sherri Ramsay, Senior Advisor, CyberPoint International and former federal employee. For more wisdom from Sherri, read A Cybersecurity Discussion with Sherri Ramsay.

Has the Focus on Women in Cyber Changed the Landscape

First of all, I am extremely happy to see all of the focus on cybersecurity – period. There are so many opportunities out there, so many open jobs that we absolutely need to focus on cybersecurity. Specifically I think we need to encourage more women and minorities to go into STEM education and specifically cybersecurity.

We need a lot of people, a lot of smart people in this field. We need a more diverse workforce than we have had in the past because the field is filled with complex and difficult problems and a diverse workforce will be better able to tackle those problems.

In particular, I think women problem solve differently than men. We need the problem solving skills and the innovation of women and men. I think that the focus on women in the security field has generally made things easier because people are more aware of cybersecurity jobs and the need for more people for those jobs.

On the other hand, it is a complex and challenging field so it has not made the jobs themselves any easier.  I think what will help is as more women go into the field and are able to network, communicate and collaborate with each other. That will actually make things easier for women and help us make great strides toward women being successful in this field.

What Advice Do You Have for Women Working in a Male-Dominated Field

I will give you three tips.

The first tip is to always give 100% to every job that you take on and everything you do. My Dad always told me a job worth doing is a job worth doing well. You want to be the person that your boss, your peers, and your subordinates recognize as the person who always gives 100%. You will get the job done no matter what and that they can count on you. That is really important.

The second tip I would give people is to always be honest. Over the years, I was asked many times for my opinion. When you know a number of people are being asked for their opinion and most everyone is saying the same thing, then it’s easy to just go along with the crowd whether you agree or not. I always wanted to be the person that when anyone asked me for my opinion, that person knew I was going to give them my best answer, regardless of what anyone else said. They would know that I would give them my best advice. And in fact, I always told people please don’t ask me the question if you really don’t want to know the answer. I won’t tell you the answer that you want to hear. I will give you my best opinion. My best shot at the answer.

The last thing would be to always look for ways to improve yourself or optimize the way you get your job done. Just because a job has been done one way for a long time doesn’t mean that is the best way going forward. You want to be known as the person who is always looking for creative ways to improve the way you do your job or perhaps even the way that the job unit or business unit does their job. And of course when you make those suggestions, you want to be respectful in the way you make them. Ask questions and question the status quo. Don’t just complain about the job, but be creative and come up with a better solution. That makes you known as the person who is always looking for ways to make things better and to get the job done more efficiently.

So if you can be known as person who always gives 100%, who always gives an honest assessment of the situation, and who is always looking for ways to optimize or improve their own job performance as well as that of their business unit, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. You are going to earn the respect of your boss, your peers and your subordinates.

In my opinion, it is way more important to earn the respect of your peers and subordinates because they are the ones you interact with every day.


This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24, 2016 7:00 am

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