(Photo by Brady Dale)
All of Candace Worley’s direct reports at McAfee are men. She’s the company’s senior vice president and general manager for enterprise endpoint, which made it big helping secure devices against hacking and phishing.
Worley admits that leading an all-male team is a little embarrassing, but said that for every position she has open she may get 200 applications and perhaps ten of them will be women. Which, she’s quick to add, doesn’t mean there are ten qualified candidates in there.
Everyone who reports to her, for example, has a minimum of four years on the ground in the field. She’s not going to compromise on those standards. “We need to fill this pipeline,” Worley said.
That’s why Worley was at NYU-Poly’s “Career Discovery in Cyber Security: A Women’s Symposium” to pitch young women earning technical degrees on the reasons why cybersecurity could be a good path for them. The conference was organized by the school’s NSA-certified Information Systems and Internet Security program.
“I don’t have a technical degree,” Worley told the room, “so you guys are already ahead of me.” She did, however, emphasize that she had technical aptitude. Technical aptitude can get you a long way, but it’s a slower path than if you simply have the training, said Worley.
Worley works as a product manager, which, she explained, means she spends a lot of time with enterprise clients, talking about their software needs, and translating that into technical specifications for her engineering team to deliver on.
Her job is basically that of a communicator. The importance of communication came up again and again in her talk. “If you’ve got an engineering degree and communication skills,” Worley said, “you’re going to win.”
Here are the kinds of people Worley said are needed in the cybersecurity field:
- Adrenaline junkies. It gets really intense in the field sometimes and people can go through periods of living on coffee. There are those that love that, so, if you do, it’s a place for you.
- Warriors. “You need people who view this as a mission,” she said, describing the real costs created by pirates and hackers in the economy, and why people in the field believe they are really helping the world.
- Innovators. The “adversaries” are innovating every day. McAfee sees polymorphic threats that attack in new ways every time the company installs, she said. The defenders have to be nimble too.
- Sleuths. Puzzles are when you have exactly the information you need to solve a problem, she said. Mysteries are when you have loads of information but can’t immediately tell what you need and what you don’t. She deals in mysteries.
- Caretakers. Professionals in this field work with people whose companies are hurting, whose jobs are on the line, who feel scared. She needs people who can help them get through that.
- Heroes. There aren’t many IT roles where people legitimately behave like you saved their lives on a regular basis, but it happens all the time in cybersecurity, she said.
The field has changed a lot in the 14 years that Worley has been in it.
When she started, people hacked for notoriety, now it’s an industry that solely cares about profit. It used to just be kids that did it, now it’s primarily organized crime. Now the mix of personal and business life means that some 60-80 percent of knowledge-based companies are letting chunks of data walk out their doors every day on laptops.
It seems likely that it will keep changing going forward, and Worley would like to do her work with more women.
For anyone interested in having a role like hers, she advised students to start with some type of boots-on-the-ground engineering job. She said that every executive she knew had some sort of “field” work early in their résumé. It helps your employees respect you when you reach management level.
While Worley wants more women in the field, she advised the students listening to lead with their skillset, not their gender. “I’m a GM first at work; I’m a woman second,” she said. “I find most successful women have that mentality.”
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