Some big changes are afoot at RSAC, specifically with our leadership: Sandra Toms, who helped spearhead RSAC for two decades, has moved on, with her co-pilot along much of that journey, Linda Gray Martin, stepping in to take the reins.
Linda has been a senior leader of RSAC for over 13 years and has been instrumental in the growth and continued success of our Conferences across the world.
As RSAC enters a new era of leadership, we spoke with Linda about her background, the evolution of Conference over the years, and her plans moving forward.
What’s your background with RSAC? How have you seen it change over the last 10 years?
For the past decade and a half, my professional life has revolved around RSAC. While I’ve had different roles on the Conference team over the years – from managing RSAC Europe to helping launch RSAC APJ – putting together the absolute best experience possible for attendees each and every year has been my core responsibility. I began my tenure with RSAC in 2006 managing RSAC’s European event, back in the days when massive data breaches were few and far between and when privacy meant home security. How times have changed!
Over the past 10 years, as our attendee count has grown, so have our standards for the Conference. The show is bigger, the lights are brighter, the topics are more dynamic and technical, and the challenges faced by cybersecurity professionals have become tougher each and every year.
At RSAC, we view it as our duty to create the best possible forum for the community to come together and talk security. A place to foster inclusion, where diverse voices have an equal share of the stage. Where healthy discourse can result in new ideas and novel approaches to a changing threat landscape. And most importantly, a place where we can find real solutions to real problems.
What makes you excited about the future of RSAC?
The future of RSAC is incredibly bright largely due to the foundation laid by Sandra and her vision for Conference. While Sandra will be sorely missed, her greatest strength was her understanding that creating a strong and passionate team is the key to our success - no single person or group alone can create what RSAC has become and will continue to be.
Our conferences are a reality because of the hardest-working team I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. This includes folks behind the scenes – operations teams, event management teams, hospitality, marketing – and the more visible components – presenters, speakers, vendors, show floor staff – all of whom are passionate, dedicated, and driven to continuing the legacy of RSAC. This is what makes me excited about the future of RSAC… the people who are RSAC.
I am also excited to see what new challenges the cybersecurity community will face in the coming years. With every NotPetya and WannaCry breach comes a silver lining in the form of an impassioned cry from our community to work harder and more creatively fight against our adversaries.
What plans do you have in store for RSAC, both in the next year and longer term?
Planning is already well under way for RSAC 2020 and one of our primary focus is how we can create more personalized experiences for our attendees and provide better opportunities for people to connect with each other.
We recently held our annual boot camp, where the RSAC team pulls apart each aspect of the Conference and rebuilds, re-tools or eliminates elements based on attendee feedback. By doing this, we avoid the threat of momentum and inertia – doing the same things year after year because we’ve always done them. Constant evolution is so critical and helps us keep RSAC relevant to, and supportive of, our community.
What have you learned from Sandra that you’ll carry into your new role at RSAC?
Sandra brought a genuine passion for not just security but for people. We host conferences on cybersecurity, but Sandra firmly believed (as do I) that the reason people attend is because of the other people that fill the halls, stages, classrooms, breakout sessions, and cafes of our conferences, and what our attendees can learn from each other.
Sandra and I worked hard to not only bring the best content but also the best people to the conference, both on stage and off. Sandra’s passion for fostering diversity and inclusion shone through brightly, which at its heart is a push to elevate more voices, ideas and experiences of more people. This keen focus on the ‘people’ component of RSAC, is what I believe makes RSAC so successful and what I will continue to invest in deeply in my new role.
What do you do when you’re not focused on RSAC?
I grew up in the U.K., and moved to the U.S. just 5 and a half years ago. My husband (who’s also in the industry) and I live up in New Hampshire and love to take advantage of the fantastic environment there, hiking with our dog, boating on the various lakes and indulging our passion for great food.