Advisory Board Member Dena Haritos Tsamitis on How She Prepares for RSAC

Posted on by Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis

1. As a member of the RSAC AdBoard, you have a special relationship to RSA Conference. What advice would you give to colleagues who are attending for the first time?

I’ve seen this RSA Conference grow year after year to meet the ever-evolving needs of today’s security field. The program consistently offers quality educational content and vast networking opportunities for returning attendees and newcomers alike.

There’s a lot to do and see here, and you simply can’t do it all! First-time attendees should approach RSAC with intention: know what you want to take away from RSA Conference and be confident in your goals. You can get the most out of your experience by planning ahead which talks you want to attend and who you want to meet. At the same time, remember to have fun and approach RSA Conference with an open mind.

And most importantly: Wear comfortable shoes!


2. What is the RSAC experience like for you onsite? Is there a program you make sure you attend each year, a speaker you can’t miss?

RSAC is a special opportunity to reconnect with alumni from my security graduate program at the Information Networking Institute (INI). Launched in 2003, our Master of Science in Information Security (MSIS) program was one of the first security degrees in the nation and has graduated over 350 students. I am inspired by the impact our alumni have in the security field, as well as their consistently enthusiastic turnout at RSAC.

Another highlight of my Conference experience is engaging with the RSAC Security Scholar Program. It’s an opportunity for top students to showcase their work and interact with cybersecurity leaders. Since 2016, 12 INI students have participated as Security Scholars, and this year, I’m thrilled that three scholars from the INI will be sharing their security research at the Poster Board Exhibition on Wednesday, February 26. I encourage everyone at RSAC to stop by, provide feedback and meet the scholars!


3. Can you talk a bit about the networking you do at RSAC? Does it take a different shape than some of the other Conferences you attend?

Networking is one of my top priorities at RSA Conference. RSAC provides an invaluable opportunity for me to engage with colleagues from all backgrounds and areas of the industry. It’s one of the many conferences where I look forward to reuniting with all of my security friends, and meeting new people every year!

As director of the INI, I have made diversity and inclusion strategic priorities, and RSAC provides ample opportunities to celebrate and advocate for these values with the greater infosec community. One not-to-be-missed event is the annual Meet and Greet hosted by the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF). As a member of EWF’s board of advisors, I look forward to this opportunity to engage with women and allies in our community. Gatherings like these at RSAC are instrumental in building productive discussion around gender parity in the industry and support for an inclusive culture, not just for women who attend this conference but all women in infosec and their allies at large.


4. What has been the biggest change for you when it comes to how you have experienced RSAC over the years?

Last year, the Conference’s theme was “Better,” which spoke to RSAC’s commitment to leading positive and proactive change, particularly when it comes to its Conference policy. In 2015, RSA Conference organizers were among the first in the tech industry to implement a dress code policy for vendor employees in response to the Equal Respect movement, which was spearheaded by a former CMU colleague and others. By intentionally addressing barriers to inclusivity and banning the use of "booth babes," RSA Conference sought to create a more respectful and comfortable environment for all attendees.

Additionally, the RSAC Security Scholar Program is a key part of RSAC’s mission to spur professional growth and inspire the next generation of security leaders. This program has become a pivotal feature of RSA Conference and an invaluable opportunity for students from the INI and their peer institutions to exchange ideas and perspectives that will advance our abilities as a community to stay ahead of cyberthreats. 

Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis

Director, Information Networking Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Kacy Zurkus

Senior Content Manager, RSA Conference

RSAC Insights

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