This Sunday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day — a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and encouraging further action to ensure equality among genders.
It’s no secret that cybersecurity — and technology in general — has long been a male-dominated field, and it can be particularly challenging for women to break into the industry. So in honor of the upcoming holiday, I asked some of the women at LogRhythm to share their thoughts and advice when it comes to being a woman in security.
These individuals support various functions of LogRhythm’s business, and each bring a unique story to the table; there’s not one definition or experience that defines them.
This will be a two-part series, with the second Q&A post appearing next week. In this first part, our participants are:
- Alyssa Montoya, Product Marketing Associate (AM)
- Crystal Gregory, Global Technical Release Manager (CG)
- Erinn Connor, SI/Partner Enablement Manager – Federal (EC)
- Jennifer Swallow, Lead Technical Writer (JS)
Without further ado, let’s get to the Q&A!
Questions and Answers
TD: How did you begin your career in cybersecurity?
- AM: I was hired as an intern for the LogRhythm Product Marketing team.
- EC: I began my career at an IT distributor and was on the cybersecurity team, because it was the fastest-growing market at the time.
- CG: Totally by chance! I was a Systems Administrator for a LogRhythm customer and, when I decided to move to Colorado, I joined the LogRhythm team. At the time (almost nine years ago) we were just starting to use the platform for cybersecurity. Most of the use cases before that were for event management. I began in the Support department and soon found my true calling in Release Management.
- JS: Completely by chance! A friend who I’d worked with at several other jobs was working as a contractor for LogRhythm. They wanted to hire a full-time employee; she recommended me for the job; and almost four years later, I’m still here. It’s been a great fit for me.
TD: What keeps you interested in cybersecurity?
- AM: I love that everyone is invested in making the world a better place. It feels like we’re all working toward the same goal.
- EC: How fast it changes! While cybersecurity is a big focus for companies and agencies worldwide, it’s still evolving extremely fast. There are so many new attacks, new solutions, and new threat vectors that no one’s ever thought of and that hackers are using to get into networks. Even if you have been involved in cybersecurity for a long time, the challenges and attacks are changing very quickly, and new tools are being developed to defend enterprises. There’s always something new to learn.
TD: Have you faced any challenges as a woman in cybersecurity? If so, how have you navigated them?
- AM: Honestly, no. I think LogRhythm as a company has been so good to me, and with product marketing being majority women, I’ve never had any sort of issues whatsoever. But beyond that even, everyone here is so nice regardless of the team.
- JS: On very rare occasions, I’ve had a coworker talk down to me or treat me as less than a peer, but I couldn’t say for sure if it was because I’m a woman, because I’m a writer among a bunch of developers and I can’t code, or because he simply wasn’t a nice person. It’s important not to jump to conclusions. You should address the behavior — not the assumptions you make about why the behavior is happening. It’s to everyone’s advantage to work well together, so you do need to talk through problematic work situations and not let them slide, but you should have the conversation professionally and with an open mind. That person might not even realize how they were treating you.
TD: What advice would you give to other women looking to begin a career in cybersecurity?
- AM: Make your presence known and refuse to back down! Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it shows you’re engaged and paying attention.
- JS: There are many skill sets and job roles involved in cybersecurity. You don’t have to be a security analyst, threat researcher, or ethical hacker. If you are interested in those careers, great! But cybersecurity companies also need marketing experts, technical writers, product managers, salespeople, and others. There are lots of paths of entry for a career in cybersecurity.
TD: What advice do you wish you had received early in your career?
- AM: I’m kind of early in my career anyway, but here it is — don’t forget what you bring to the table. You were hired for a specific reason, so remember that reason and hold to it!
- EC: Read everything you can get your hands on — about attacks, about successful exploitations, about tools that block or detect attacks, about compliance mandates, about industry-accepted benchmarks. Because cybersecurity is constantly changing and evolving (in response to and to get ahead of threats that are changing and evolving just as quickly), there is a lot to learn in the space. If you get in the habit of staying current on what is happening in the market, you will keep up — but if you don’t, you will fall behind fast.
- CG: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It was only by voicing my desire for advancement that I was able to move forward in each position I took.
TD: How can the community better support women in cybersecurity?
- AM: Hire managers that ensure every voice is heard.
- JS: Women in a company should support each other. When I started at LogRhythm, I felt like I was in way over my head. Our product is really complex! All the women in the engineering department were nice to me, but I was still afraid to ask questions. I didn’t want people to know just how clueless I felt. One particular quality assurance engineer made time to sit with me and talk me through a lot of our software processes. She was endlessly patient, and I was so grateful to her for the confidence she gave me. Also, from a big picture level, companies should simply hire more women. Coming into an environment where there are already women in the room is far less intimidating than being the only one.
TD: What’s been a highlight/some of the highlights of your career so far?
- AM: Getting to interact with other incredible people in cybersecurity! The men and women here are so diverse in personality and ambitions; it’s been really wonderful getting to know and learn from people. I’m very early on in my career, but I’ve worked with a lot of incredible women!
- CG: I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific highlight or two, but watching this company grow from just over 100 employees when I was hired to the hundreds we have now has been staggering. My role as Release Manager has been pretty autonomous, and I’ve been able to expand my role to whatever need arose. Looking back at what I’ve accomplished in this role is extremely rewarding.
TD: Where do you look for inspiration or to continue learning?
- AM: The biggest thing is having managers and mentors who encourage my questions. I have a natural curiosity, and I’m very grateful to have had a lot of managers who answer and encourage that curiosity.
- JS: My colleagues. Developers at LogRhythm are smart and innovative, always trying out new software trends and new ways of making our product work. I listen to what my colleagues are doing and what tools they are using, then use company resources, like O’Reilly Media, to learn about them. People here are also very friendly and willing to answer questions. They like sharing their expertise and if it’s at all possible to make the time to help, they will.
TD: What’s missing to drive other women from getting involved in cybersecurity?
- AM: I think the push these last few years for women in STEM will help bridge that gap soon. As a college student, I’ve met a lot of wonderful women engineers that are excited to get into their fields.
- JS: Possibly our own self-confidence. I read that women are unlikely to apply for jobs if they don’t meet 100 percent of the criteria, while men will apply if they are at least a 60 percent fit. I didn’t have experience in cybersecurity industry when I started at LogRhythm, but my skills were a great fit for what the job required. If you want a job in cybersecurity, go for it! Tailor your resume to highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments. Then write a killer cover letter that explains why your skills are transferable into this industry and why you are passionate about the career move.
Thank you, Alyssa, Crystal, Erinn, and Jennifer for sharing your insights! For more, stay tuned for part 2 of this series, which will feature a new group of women from LogRhythm sharing their experiences and advice.