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Inkhouse virtual media panel on diversity in Cybersecurity touches on key insights

Inkhouse virtual media panel on diversity in Cybersecurity touches on key insights

Inhouse virtual media panel on diversity in Cybersecurity touches on key insights

YARMOUTH, Maine – The tech industry and cybersecurity field remains for the moment an old boys club, however a group of leading women in security and human resources came together this week to discuss strengthening the industry through diversity.

The “Bridging the Security Talent Gap Through Diverse Viewpoints” virtual panel was hosted by Inkhouse, a Massachusetts based public relations firm. Guest speakers were joined by moderator Jessica Bettencourt to find an answer for the disparity in the security industry. According to Bettencourt, recent studies by (ISC)² show that women only make up 24% of the cybersecurity field, and more, that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to face pay discrepancies and hold non-managerial roles at their companies.

With that in mind and in an industry starved for new talent Bettencourt opened the panel by asking, how did they find their path into the field?

“I really started out in the infancy in enterprise business and security, it was necessity and curiosity,” said Michelle Killian, Senior Director, Information Security at Code42. “It was a small company, and someone had to do it, and I absolutely fell in love.” Killian said that she came to understand that duality was learning to balance security with business value. Above all she stressed that people from outside the traditional paths should be encouraged to enter the security industry and bring their unique talents and perspectives with them.

Shweta Vohra, Vice President, People, at Lacework similarly found herself entering the security field through nontraditional methods and said she came to it by jumping on opportunities that presented themselves and leading company initiatives. “You don’t have to know security,” she said. “Don’t self-select out of the process because you don’t think you have what it takes.”

For Alissa Brownson, Human Resource Director at Mend coming from a background in healthcare, it was the excitement of a new industry. “I wanted something different, healthcare gets a little monotonous, and the cyber world was booming and exciting.” She said and encouraged prospects to take that leap and get their foot in the door.

Moving on Bettencourt asked panelists about the talent gap facing the industry, what’s the recruiting strategy for diversity?

Alissa Brownson encouraged companies to respond to employee referral campaigns to attract candidates a company might not otherwise have apply. Employees won’t recommend a company to a potential candidate that they don’t like it Brownson insisted. “I think it’s a reflection on them who they refer,” she said and encouraged companies to welcome these potential candidates with an open mind. “Everyone has something to bring to the table, and you don’t know what that is until you meet them.”

Karen Worstell, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, at VMware noted that the lack of familiar faces in upper-level roles was at fault “I think what we’re seeing is that it’s still tough out there and it’s not growing at the pace it should.” she said speaking about how the profile of company leadership in Silicon Valley is still largely white men. “That, I think, is discouraging to young women who want to get into the engineering.” Worstell went on to say that the hardest places to break into the industry is at the bottom rung, and the next break point is at the directorship level. Also, that those responsible need to be intentional about offering opportunities and tailor those opportunities to showcase talents. Companies need to make sure the managers they hire are people persons, and not promoted solely on technical expertise.

Vohra agreed with Worstell, “We overlook good candidates because we’re looking for that unicorn.” She said.

Shamla Naidoo, CISO, Head of Cloud Strategy, Netskope believes that what the industry is suffering from isn’t a talent gap, but a skills gap. A rush to fill positions with people who have seniority but lack qualifications has become the bottleneck. “We should be more flexible about how we teach people skills.” she said.

As for more advice for job seekers looking to break into the market, Bettencourt asked panelists what some of the soft skills they most looked for in candidates.

“I have two here, the first as much as we may not like it is public speaking.” Melissa Miller, Managing Security Consultant at NetSPI stressed. Preparation and clarity are important in the role, and she said public speaking exhibits that perfectly. The second to her is passion for the field.

For Shamla Naidoo, the most important things a candidate can bring to the table is an aptitude for learning, and most importantly, a great attitude. “I can teach people technical skills, but I can’t teach them to be good people,” she acknowledged.

(This is just a sample of questions and responses from the panel. Security Systems News was invited courtesy of Inkhouse. You can learn more about their work at


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