A conversation with Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and Emily Mossburg, Global Cyber Leader at Deloitte
Given our increasing reliance on technology in every facet of our lives, cyber is one of the most dynamic and vital sectors in the global economy. In advance of the Equality Lounge® at RSA Conference, brought to you by The Female Quotient, Deloitte and RSA Conference, FQ’s CEO Shelley Zalis sat down with Deloitte’s Global Cyber Leader Emily Mossburg to explore the latest developments in the field and why gender equality is essential in this growing industry.
Shelley Zalis: The cyber industry isn’t a one-dimensional place. In the interest of expanding future recruitment efforts, can you paint a more detailed picture about what (and who) makes up the cyber sector? What are the different kinds of roles in cyber, and what skill sets are vital to success that people may not have considered part of the mix?
Emily Mossburg: Cyber continues to expand into an increasingly broad topic. When we started in this space, it was focused on protecting the perimeter of an organization. Think about protecting a castle: If we put the right moat around it, we don’t have to put locks on the castle doors or on anything inside the castle. But the world that we live in today has evolved so much in terms of our dependence and use of technology. The castle doesn't have a moat anymore, or it might, but there are also multiple bridges coming in and out. And now you can also drop things down from the air and parachute in.
What that means is that the risks associated with a cyberattack have changed. And it's not just about keeping people in or out of the organization. It's about understanding the primary business, understanding the types of data that are being shared, understanding what data is sensitive and why, understanding the legal ramifications of the policy, and understanding what an adversary may be after. And for all of those reasons, the types of individuals that we need to think about the problems have changed. We need a broader set of individuals with different backgrounds, ideas, and experiences to face this daunting challenge. People committed to fresh takes on how to approach a problem and invest in solving it. People who are willing to collaborate with others to craft a solution. It’s definitely a team sport.
SZ: What opportunities are there for women in cyber?
EM: I think that traditionally we've talked about cyber as a tech or engineering field, and indeed it is. But as it continues to evolve and expand, cyber is an area increasingly driven by professionals with rich experience in privacy, risk, business, and the law. It's vital that we recruit a diverse group of individuals who can successfully navigate this more broadly defined sector.
Women are making inroads into technology and engineering, and they boast even more significant power in related fields that are now vital parts of the cyber arena. I've been in this space for about 20 years. I have a degree in environmental science, not environmental engineering. And look where I ended up! Women have been proven connectors in businesses of all kinds. In that respect there are so many compelling opportunities for us in cyber.
Cyber is also a sector that is growing exponentially. Regardless of what survey you look at, the number of unfilled roles is in the millions globally. If we are not bringing all types of people along on the journey, we will not be able to meet the mission to protect the organizations and the society that we're all part of.
SZ: Who is your role model in cyber? Is there a woman leader who has added nuance to our understanding of cybersecurity and its evolving and expanding role in our work and our lives?
EM: Rather than just one person, I have a patchwork of different people who have inspired me in various ways. Inspired me to be a stronger and better leader. Inspired me to be a better cyber practitioner in terms of understanding the field and expanding my competency. Inspired me to develop better ways to collaborate with others. I try to learn from everyone I work with, across all disciplines. They may be people that have led me. They may be my peers. And they may be individuals on my team sharing exciting ways of looking at the world that I want to emulate. I have a 360 degree approach to meaningful mentorship.
SZ: What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self about getting started in cyber?
EM: I’d tell my younger self to ask more questions. Looking back, I recall that I didn't ask as many questions early on in my career as I should have. I think it was because I viewed asking questions as showing that I didn't know something, or I didn't understand. The way that I think about asking questions now is I inquire to show that I want to understand, and I want a deeper meaning and a deeper understanding. So definitely don’t be afraid to ask questions!
For more thought leadership from women at the forefront of the cyber revolution, please join us in the Equality Lounge @ RSA Conference, at North Expo in Booth N-6179.