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International Women's Day: Jane Yu and Mia Wilhem, Sumo Logic

This is part of a running series for #IWD2021. We sat down with women leaders across the industry for a Q&A to get their insights on the state of women in cybersecurity. Recognize Women Leaders in the 2021 Tech Ascension Awards.

Jane Yu, Security, Compliance and Privacy Analyst, at Sumo Logic:

How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?

  • In a general sense, women are becoming more comfortable with taking up space, especially in what are traditionally male-dominated industries. While still lacking in some areas, I think representation has increased at an exponential speed that we have never seen before, and there are definitely more women who are role models in our immediate community - especially the online community and even more due to the pandemic.

  • People are also realizing that those top female executives you admired in the past, the unicorns of the sort, are brilliant folks amongst us and next to us. These success stories are becoming a lot more relatable, and women are realizing that they don’t have to have a computer science degree or know how to code to make an impact in cybersecurity, they just have to have the tenacity and grit to do what is necessary.

  • More people are recognizing that understanding technology and speaking to it is very different from being able to simply sit down and write code. It’s actually extremely cross-functional. There are so many aspects of cybersecurity that include compliance, privacy, automation, product, development, and analytics.

What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?

  • Have the courage to join the conversation. It’s better to go forward and do something than to be stuck and do nothing, even if that means starting with a question.

  • Embrace your uniqueness — your identity, your background, your story, your passions. I think we’ve grown to be extremely self-conscious about who we are and how we represent ourselves, much in part due to the age of information and social media. We all have a story that can create an impact - even if it’s just one person.

  • Making mistakes and learning is part of the fun. Embracing your areas of opportunity and imperfections is a great thing and only makes you better. Knowing the difference between “I don’t know” and “I don’t know but I will find out”, will set you apart.

  • In addition to learning constantly in a high-tech world, it’s also important to do the development work on getting rid of that voice in your head that drives your imposter syndrome — the one that reminds you when you’re at your lows that you aren’t good enough. I think everyone struggles with this, but the differentiator is who learns to manage and control that voice in our head, as well as bolstering their technical knowledge set to support it.

How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?

  • Increase awareness that cybersecurity is not just for women with computer science degrees or who have a high level of technical skills. For example, out of the 11 people on my team, 3 of them came from a finance background (including me). It’s about the level of interest that you have on the subject and drive to incorporate your unique strengths with the multi-faceted areas of cybersecurity.

  • Increase awareness by encouraging and normalizing women in the field to share their stories on a regular basis. We’re a lot more relatable to each other than we give ourselves credit to be. I think we focus on how people don’t want to hear another story when we really should focus on the fact that there is at least one person, we will impact with our story. That is what drives change.

  • Don’t feel dictated by society to only share what is “cool” or relevant. What is cool is always changing and I think right now, with this rise in female movements, women are taking back the power to determine what is cool and what is mainstream by sharing their inherent interests, which in this case is technology/cybersecurity!

Mia Wilhem, Security Sales Engineer at Sumo Logic:

How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?

Women in cybersecurity are definitely still under-represented, but I am a strong believer that diversity is especially important in this job, as different approaches to problems have the potential to unearth something incredibly important (threats, risks, exposures, defenses, etc). I believe most cybersecurity teams are aware of this, and are more actively looking for women and other minorities to help build their teams.

What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is both a competitive landscape and underemployed. That said, always put yourself in a learning mindset but know your own strengths too — it's a tough-love industry. We need more cybersecurity experts, hopefully many, many of whom will be women, and we need those people to be smart and fully invested. Being in a male-dominated industry (which I presume will be the case for a while still) isn't always easy, but do not compare your weaknesses to their strengths, fill the gaps and keep moving.

How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is an intimidating career from the outside (for men and women), but don't let stigmas or expectations shape how you view your own validity. There are so many different domains that require different skill sets and personas and all of them are equally important.

Be bold — cybersecurity isn't a space you'll likely ever be invited into. So, show up and push your way in, and once you're in, keep pushing. A lot of cybersecurity experts come from a military background or have worked in various agencies, so the only way you'll make it is if you decide you want to, and stay in the game. Do your research, be technical, and fundamentally believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

As for women in the workforce in general, remember we're all on the same team, fighting a similar fight, all day every day, and it can be exhausting. There are days you feel unstoppable, and other days you need someone else to hold you up entirely. Offer a hand, a shoulder, an ear, and some encouragement when needed. Remind other women that they've always got someone in their court if/when they need it, as we all do at some point, no matter how tenured or brave we may seem on the outside.



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