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 I 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 II, see HERE)
1) Bronwyn Boyle, CISO at Mambu
“Bronwyn is an inspirational and seasoned leader who has contributed towards the maturity of the security discipline; a role model to many a security professional in the industry and often a voice of sense and sensibility in an industry that is often fraught with hyperbole. She is the consummate security and security risk management professional and since I have known her, she has unassumingly worked on and delivered complex initiatives in large organisations.”
 “She has excellent capability to understand people’s difficulties and strengths, stimulating, inspiring and leading them to deliver their best.”
Advice: “Yes you can! Believe in yourself, embrace the challenge and take your seat at the table to help make the world a better place!”
2) Alex Fisher, Head of Business Development at Optimum Speciality Risk
She is an exceptional individual promoting cyber insurance to brokers and clients and is incredibly passionate about the industry. She cuts out all the general fuss and makes cybersecurity and cyber insurance easy to understand for everyone.”
Advice: “Aim high and don’t be afraid to ask those in those positions to help and guide you. People are more often than not willing to spend time to offer advice and support.”
3) Mercy Komar, Cyber Risk Practice Manager at Calvin Jones
She is the best in Ohio regarding cybercrime and has been noted as such. She truly cares and does what is best for her clients. She never stops learning – she finds it rewarding and helpful – very inspiring!”
Advice: “Education is key.  You will never know everything.  But it is critical that you never stop trying to know everything.  I have always prided myself in not always knowing the answer but always knowing where to find the answer and that is critical.  People will always esteem your knowledge.  And having the esteem of your peers is far more important than any title or position they can offer.”
4) Gail Kent, Director of Messenger Policy at Facebook Messenger
 In all areas of her professional work, Gail champions the future of privacy and safety online. At Messenger, she built a team focused on delivering private messaging to over 1.3 billion users who find a trusted space, where they can easily reach others and express themselves in private interactions. This is a service being built on the principles of encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage. 
Throughout her career, Gail is relentlessly mission-driven, and evidently passionate about innovation in messaging privacy and the benefits this brings to people, businesses and society. She continues to be an inspiration for the next generation of cyber security professionals, and champions the future of private messaging.”
Advice: “You don’t need to pick a career in technology or a career working on ‘people’ issues. You can have both!”
5) Helen Masters, Senior VP International at Ivanti
“Helen is being nominated as she has been a strong leading female executive since 1996, holding various tech C-suite roles over the past few decades. She champions women and strives to be the role model for the next generation.
“Helen has many attributes that have got her where she is today. However, the ones that have served her well in her IT career are her work ethic, her resilience working in a male-dominated industry, and her humility for others.”
Advice: “One of the interesting trends I have seen over the past few years is that the industry has been seeing a drop in women joining, maybe because it is not seen as the best industry for women to be involved in as a strong go forward seeing more in marketing, HR, environmental etc. I would encourage more women to join as we need their voices and vision in this industry.”
6) Kate Dadlani, Head of Security Advisory Services at Logicalis Security Services Practice
Kate’s journey, from early computing enthusiast as a kid to CISO at one of the world’s largest corporations, now creating and leading a new department within Logicalis UK, is unlike many others. In an industry which has been historically unwelcome to minority groups, she has risen through the ranks as an integral part of Logicalis’ transformation from a Value-Added Reseller to a Managed Service Provider. She became CISO of the UK company before 30, with only seven years of experience, and has completely reshaped Logicalis’ internal security strategy and culture.”
Advice: “I think that as a woman, I always doubt myself. I’m not alone in facing this challenge. ‘Imposter syndrome’ is widespread among women in business and especially common among those in senior positions. And, while I certainly wouldn’t wish professional insecurity on anyone, I can offer some advice to others in a similar situation.  
For me, it’s all about being transparent: transparent with your colleagues, transparent with your managers and, crucially, transparent with yourself. Of course, it’s only natural for professionals to portray themselves as confident, capable individuals and to mask any underlying insecurities or fears that they might have. We all do it; we use different masks for different occasions. However, I believe that we can only reach our full potential when we take these masks off and embrace who we truly are. Recognise your strengths, recognise your weaknesses – and be upfront about them both.”
7) Phillipa Berry, Senior Underwriter at CFC Underwriting
She tirelessly strives to promote diversity whilst being an ally to many from all backgrounds. She is also able to do all this with charm and has a unique ability to bring people with her.”
Advice: “Listen to those around you, I think listening is the most underrated skill.  Be true to yourself, be confident and always send a thank you email after meeting someone.”
8) Tammy Kocher, Assistant Vice President – Cyber Underwriting at BCS Financial Corporation
Tammy is inspirational in both her professional and her personal life, for her clear values and for always staying true to herself. When Tammy sets her mind on something, she goes above and beyond to achieve that goal – whether landing a new client, closing a piece of business, or competing in a fitness competition (yes, she did that, and won!!), she puts 110% of herself into it, and never settles for less from herself or her team. She motivates and pushes everyone around her to be better. She is truly a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, and I know that everyone at BCS would agree.”
Advice: “Invest in yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally while every day reading at least 1 hour of education to build your technical prowess.  Success in Cyber means being a part of a team – always.  Cyber is a Team Sport.  Be a student in your industry, but also in life.  Being a successful woman in cyber means “lifting others up”, constantly learning from each other, and teaching.   You can teach the cyber technical skill if you have a passion for learning.  We need more women in this industry.  Each leadership move I make, each presentation I give is with confidence and constantly inspiring our youth to consider the evolution of cyber security and Insurance as it is a ever evolving space using analytical skills, active listening, and earning trust that you can go through hard times with your clients and also protect them in the tough times and will be there is anything happens—just like in life.”
9) Shehnaaz Sonde, Senior Manager – Cyber Response Services at KPMG
Shehnaaz is inspiring not only as an outstanding leader in our incident response team, helping clients respond to and recover from major cyber attacks, but she inspires me as someone who overcomes adversity every day in delivering to such high standards in an unrelenting job whilst managing chronic pain. She has been able to go from zero experience in incident response just under 3 years ago to being a highly effective key senior team member in what is a highly technical and demanding area. Despite all the challenges she has faced and demands on her time, she has still made time to get so heavily involved in Women in Cyber, IT’s Her Future mentoring, and supporting others.
Shehnaaz is bulletproof in high-pressure situations – her calmness is legendary. She’s overcome personal adversity to do that, and is a role model to her peers and those around her. KPMG’s Cyber leadership team were united in thinking of Shehnaaz when we heard of this award.”
Advice: “Just do it! Cyber security is one of the most exciting areas in the technical field. There are so many different aspects to it from pen testing and incident response to strategy, privacy, and risk. In my role in incident response, there is such an adrenaline rush and excitement when a major incident comes in and we have to help the client through one of their toughest times. No two incidents are the same. Every case is different and comes with its own excitement and challenges. 
I could not recommend a better career than cyber security, there are so many opportunities and it’s a growing area within the technical field that is crying out for skills and people. If you are interested, my advice would be to absolutely go for it! What are you waiting for? Come and join the fun and help shape the future of cyber and your career!”
10) Lynn Sessions, Partner at Baker Law
Lynn’s passion for helping her clients navigate cybersecurity breaches and resulting regulatory investigations is immediately evident when you speak with her. She was previously employed by Texas Children’s Hospital, a top five pediatric hospital, where she thrived in a culture of helping others. At BakerHostetler, that drive to help people continues in the form of leadership, counsel and mentoring of younger lawyers.
“With the ransomware epidemic, she works tirelessly around the clock and on weekends to not only shepherd her clients through these very public events but to also provide advice and support on addressing the operational needs of a 24/7 healthcare business. She invests in younger attorneys, and associates request to be on her team because of her passion for her clients and for the work that she does.” 
Advice: “Be tenacious and don’t be afraid to work hard!  This is an immensely rewarding and exciting area of practice.”
11) Jennifer Valentine, Security Specialist Lead at JAMF
Jennifer Valentine will change the way the world does cyber. Her passion is apparent in her work and attitude towards solving global cybersecurity problems. Jenn dedicated eight years of service to the United States Air Force as a Cryptologic Language Analyst, before making her way to the National Security Agency (NSA), and having the opportunity to work directly for the Director, NSA and Commander, United States Cyber Command. Jenn took her experiences to the commercial sector when she joined a cybersecurity start-up, IronNet Cybersecurity, that recently IPOd. Graduating at the top of her class, she has obtained various accolades including the opportunity to help teach the next two cohorts in her program. 
“For those who know her, our privilege is not to witness what she will accomplish next. Instead, our privilege is to see the next challenge she takes on and watch her get to work; never wavering and never stopping to think if she is up for it. She already knows the answer. Yes, and she will.”
 Advice: “Speak up. You already overcame many challenges and hurdles in preparation to enter the industry. Now it’s time to speak up and be unapologetically you. Don’t let an invisible barrier dissuade you from raising your hand and voicing your ideas. Remain persistent and keep pushing.”
12) Areej Eliyan, IT Administrator, Ministry of Education and Higher Education (Qatar)
Engineer Areej is really an example of a successful woman in the field of administration and academia, as she held the position of President of the Computer Club at Qatar University from 2012 to 2016. She is also a doctoral student in the field of cyber security at Hamad Bin Khalifa University ( HBKU) , and a founding member and CTO at SaVest  Company in the State of Qatar. She achieved -and is still achieving- all of this and she still hasn’t reached 26 years old.
“She has achieved a lot in a short period in different fields. I expect that she will be one of the most successful business leaders in the world before reaching 30.”
Advice: “If you’re a woman looking to break into cybersecurity, start slow, read a lot, explore the different parts of cybersecurity, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
13) Anne Woodley, Security Specialist at Microsoft 
Throughout her extensive career in cyber, Anne has been an ambassador and champion for Women in Security. She is a NED, a Mentor and inspirational speaker to raise the appeal of cyber security as a career for younger women.
“Anne has an inspirational effervescence for both cyber security and providing guidance for those who feel intimidated by the preconceptions within the industry. She has overcome many personal challenges within cyber security and still makes time for others to believe in themselves and reach towards their potential.” 
Advice: “Embrace the reality that your gender is irrelevant and what you do in your career is based 100% on your fearlessness, tenacity, and curiosity.”
14) Chitra Elango, Senior Director – Cloud Security Architecture and Vulnerability Management at Fannie Mae.
Chitra Elango is the Senior Director Cyber Security leading Application Security, DevSecOps, Red team, and Security Champion program at Fannie Mae. Chitra was a driving force in aligning software security and business needs by empowering and enabling developers to identify software security vulnerabilities during active development cycles.  Chitra is leading the cultural transformation at Fannie Mae, focusing on how to get developers and security on the same mission.”
Advice: “It is never too late to switch careers into cyber security. In my perspective hard work with the right attitude and aptitude makes everything possible. I always use the analogy of kids and reading. Some kids can read very early, but some take a little longer, but eventually all read. We can all do it, but just the pace and the effort might differ. There is more to cyber security than red and blue teaming. Attend conferences, join cyber knowledge sharing forums and groups and get enlightened about the larger landscape of the cyber world!”
15) Marissa Goulding, Manager at KPMG
I nominate Marissa Goulding, a manager within the i-4 community, for her 20+ years of striving to deliver the world’s best educational events, Forums and Roundtable events which facilitate these two essential elements to the future of cyber security.
“Additionally, Marissa has overcome her own mental health challenges throughout her working life. She is open about these challenges and how she has found effective coping strategies. Marissa cares so very much about the wellbeing of her KPMG colleagues and she has shared the most intimate details of her darkest times in an open forum to inspire colleagues across KPMG Cyber to find the support they need to maintain their own mental health. She has become an internal mental health champion within KPMG and is renowned for always providing a supportive culture for all colleagues to flourish.”
Advice: “Get a mentor!”
16) Lucie Kadlecova, Senior Associate and Czech Republic representative for CybExer Technologies
Lucie Kadlecova is a living example of a young enthusiastic woman who inspires and encourages other young females to consider cyber security as their future career path. 
“In her research, Lucie explores the boundaries of cyber space as a continuously evolving domain while, in her professional life, she emphasises the importance of cyber security as an everyday concern for the public and contributes to the demystification of cyber security as a purely technical field. 
“Her deep passion for cyber security is infectious, and her will to encourage young people to join the field is extremely inspiring.”
Advice: “Don’t get limited by prejudice! If you fear it, find a role model which destroys it for you and “unties your hands”. Work hard and believe in yourself. Seek opportunities and take advantage of them as much as you can.”
17) Dani Michaux, EMA Cyber lead/Head of Cybersecurity at KPMG
I’m a relatively junior grade in my organisation, and from the bottom it often takes a while to notice changes in culture, optimism and activity following a senior leadership change. But you notice almost immediately when Dani’s taken charge. She has a reputation for delivering a seismic shock to programmes that she’s asked to push forward, driving rapid, disruptive change and energising the whole community under her leadership. It’s clear that she gets the best out of her team, and her ability to affect change gets people excited – in doing so, she’s set a new benchmark for what leadership looks like. She’s an excellent role model for cyber professionals in the community.”
Advice: “Be open minded, be creative, be persistent and don’t give up when it’s hard. Cyber security field is amazing and the world needs your creative thinking. Cyber is not all about hacking.”
18) Emily Bush, UK DLP Manager at Aviva
Emily is not the type to blow her own trumpet, she quietly get on with her job. She has been improving our DLP position over the last 4 years to a point that I believe is market leading.”
Advice: “If you work hard enough, you will achieve your goals. Females just need to be confident in their talent, the cybersecurity industry is becoming less dominated by men. If you have an interest in Cyber and Technology, pursue it!”
19) Sema Yuce, Director at Truth ISC Technology and Security Consultancy LTD
She is a visionary information security, governance, risk and compliance expert specialised in defining, building and executing best in class processes, operations and services. She mostly worked as a highly valued strategic partner for C-level executives. She is a proactive leader with hands-on experience and a focus on driving success. 
“After 19 years of experience in Turkey, she moved to the UK in 2017, founded her information security, governance, risk and compliance consultancy company and continues to work as the Director of her company and a management consultant who continuously learns and shares her knowledge and experience.”
Advice: If men can do it, you can do it, too – even I think you can do it better with all the soft skills you have as the industry needs these desperately!”
20) Aileen Ryan, Senior Director Portfolio Strategy at Siemens EDA
“Aileen is a visionary when it comes to unique hardware solutions to keeping the vehicles of the future safe. She drives the definition and delivery of the Tessent Embedded Analytics technology which is unique in the world of embedded hardware technology.”
Advice: “Plough your own furrow, chase your own dreams, keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t be derailed by what others are doing, what others are thinking, what others are saying.”
21) Eleanor Ludlam, Senior Associate at DAC Beachcroft LLP
Eleanor is what’s right about cyber. Fast, efficient, accurate and easy to understand legal advice tailored to your scenario and always getting to the point quickly. Eleanor also contributes a huge amount of her time to promoting women in cyber not only through her actions but by speaking at events, organising DACB Women events, attending client women’s events, and taking the time to talk to graduates about career opportunities for women. Eleanor exemplifies the best in commitment to her role, promotion of others and manages to raise a family at the same time!”
Advice: “Be confident and don’t let others tell you that cybersecurity is not for you. It is a fantastic and rewarding industry to work within, with a diverse mix of people.”
22) Gamze Konyar, Head of Cyber at Marsh CEE & Eastern Mediterranean Regions
She is the most prominent and successful cyber broker that I know of.”
“She is a passionate cyber woman who has increased the awareness of cyber security and its insurance solutions in South Eastern Europe and Turkey.” 
Advice: There is no single thing that we can not achieve as women, so believe in yourself, equip yourself with the necessary know-how and always keep yourself updated. 
“Never give up on what you want, don’t listen to the people who try to make your achievements look smaller, speak up for yourself and for the other women in the industry.”
 “Future is female, future is us.”
23) Violet Sullivan, VP of Client Engagement at Redpoint Cyber
Violet is inspirational through her drive and sincere eagerness to help you succeed. While her cybersecurity thought leadership stems from her entrepreneurial spirit and brilliant abilities to deliver value, Violet is a wondrously nice person and ally. Simply put, you always know where you stand in any moment with Violet: as the most important person in her world.”
Advice: “Be eager to learn. There is so much knowledge in this place, and so many areas to master. The best advice moving forward is just to have a hunger for gaining that knowledge. Learn from mentors, books, classes and obtain certifications. I’m a big believer in the certifications, not because of the credibility attached but the fact that it forces you to learn and grow. I’m currently studying for my CISSP, and it’s been a long road of studying but I would encourage anyone to pick an area that interests them, and master it.”
24) Sarah Self, UK CISO at Aviva
 “Sarah is passionate and energetic in championing the diversity agenda within and outside of Aviva and the Aviva CISO team. 
“Her passion for the topic and willingness to go above and beyond in the pursuit of a more representative CISO team, will ultimately result in better outcomes for our customers. Thank you, Sarah, and keep up the great work!”
Advice: “Be brave and say “yes”. It’s a wonderful industry full of variety and opportunity. It needs your different perspectives, diverse attitudes and energy…. so get involved.”
25) Dr. Carmit Yadin, CEO & Founder at ArcusTeam
“Dr. Carmit Yadin has shown incredible strength and perseverance in establishing and managing a start-up during the Covid-19 pandemic. With her extensive experience gained in the Israeli Defence Force cyber unit and as a CISO for several technology companies, has enabled Carmit to navigate a tough few years. She has been successful in building a product and company, acquiring funding and managing a team of experts in the field of cyber. She is an example for all working women managing both a busy family and work life and striking a perfect balance.
“Carmit has a quiet leadership strength about her that captivates all that work with her on projects. Her ability to gracefully lead, motivate and reach her end goal is truly inspiring.”
Advice: “If you have a great dream, just do it, if you think too much, it won’t happen.”
26) Sherri Davidoff, CEO at LMG Security
Sherri is a great resource for the insurance industry, specifically Beazley insurance and underwriting teams.
“She encourages people to learn more and become more technical by making cybersecurity content approachable and interesting.”
Advice: Cybersecurity is the great equalizer. It changes so fast that everyone is always learning, even seasoned professionals. Remember that no one knows everything. Getting comfortable with not knowing is the first step to developing your expertise.”
27) Bala Larson, Northwest Regional Manager, US Tech & Cyber, Cyber & Executive Risk at Beazley Insurance
Bala’s forward thinking and consistent endeavors to help protect companies during this dynamic cyber marketplace, all within the framework of fun, respect, and agility make her an exceptional nomination.”
Advice: “Seek out other women in the industry early in your career and keep in touch. Ask about opportunities and get involved in industry events.” 
28) Shannan Fort, Partner – Financial Lines, Cyber at McGill and Partners
“Shannan has made a long-standing contribution to cyber insurance and is not afraid to take a stand.”
Advice: “DO IT! You do not need to be a genius hacker or coding whiz to get into this industry – you just need determination, perseverance and an inquisitive/curious mind. I was once told by the former Chief Diversity Officer of Aon, Corbette Doyle, to find something you enjoy and become an expert in it – that way, you will always have a career and will be sought after.”
29) Anna Kagan, Cyber & Tech Underwriter at Beazley
Even in this extremely difficult Cyber market, Anna still goes above and beyond on every account she works on. She also speaks on panels all over the country, gets on UW calls, claims calls, etc. She is amazing in every way and one of the best I’ve ever worked with in 20 years.
“She cares about her clients and insureds and does not view work as an 8 to 5 job. She ALWAYS goes above and beyond.”
Advice: “My advice is to continue being true to yourself. You don’t need to change to be accepted and you’ll earn respect for your accomplishments.”
To see Part II of the nominee shortlist, see HERE.
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