Ainsley BraunMy name is Ainsley Braun. I’m a Director of Product Management within the Synopsys Software Integrity Group. I was co-founder and CEO at Tinfoil Security before our acquisition by Synopsys earlier this year.

Before I started my career, I earned two bachelor of science degrees from MIT in 2010, one in brain and cognitive sciences and the other in writing. I also hold six patents and have published two scientific papers in cognitive vision.

Outside of the office, I am always looking to get involved with local and national issues. I am currently a member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), co-leading the cybersecurity subcommittee. SVLG represents more than 400 of Silicon Valley’s most respected employers on issues, programs and campaigns that affect the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley. I’m also a board member of the Women in Cybersecurity council at California Technology Council (CTC). I work heavily with StartX, mentoring startup teams as a neighborhood lead, sitting on the Female Founders Board, and as a part of their selection committee. For fun, I’m also a co-captain of the Samurai Capture The Flag (CTF) team, which won the DEF CON CTF tournament in 2012.

In my new role with Synopsys, I’m looking to bridge the gap between development and security teams, bringing security higher up the stack.

Did you sit down and plan your career?

Not even close! I’m a huge believer that, if you’re lucky, life is long. You have the opportunity to do many different jobs really well throughout your lifetime, so long as you open yourself up to serendipity and try and learn new things every day. Initially, I wanted to go to medical or veterinary school, but life led me down a drastically different path!

What are some challenges you’ve faced along the way? How did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge I faced was myself. When I started Tinfoil Security I was young and lacking a lot of confidence. Luckily, my mindset was “what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll be back in my same job in a year with similar or better pay, given new experiences!” I had to learn to become confident. I also had to learn that we’re all human; even people you might revere are still people. You get a lot farther speaking to them like normal humans.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

There have been so many accomplishments since joining Synopsys in January of 2020, let alone along the way to get here. I’m so proud of the way my team has adjusted from a 16-person company to corporate life. Every single person has jumped in to get their hands dirty, learning from the best and teaching along the way. Putting together such a strong, collaborative and caring team is by far my best achievement.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Leadership requires patience and kindness, but you still must be a leader. You must have a strong voice and speak up for what’s right and justify decisions with data. Analysis paralysis or being too passive only weakens the team and yourself.

What has been the biggest factor in contributing to your success?

The people I’ve surrounded myself with. My Tinfoil investors were wonderful, and many took time to teach me regularly. My customers have become my friends. My employees became people I could trust, even sometimes over myself.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel their career in technology?

Learn something new every day. If you always try to take something away from any situation, no matter how well you know it, you’ll keep pushing ahead in your career. You won’t always succeed in this – I don’t! But 99% of days I do, and the other 1% of days I can’t blame anybody but myself.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, and if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Absolutely. The largest barrier I’ve seen is a woman being a barrier for herself. Yes, there are difficult people in the world to work with, but there are also folks who go out of their way to help women succeed. Find the right people and surround yourself, remove the toxicity you run into, and, most importantly, trust your gut. Your initial gut is strong and usually tells you whether somebody will be a barrier or not.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I am a huge proponent for proper benefits to support all genders working in an organization. The largest thing I could do was to support my employees’ choices for how they run their personal lives and assist them in gaining personal independence and freedom of mind. When somebody is worrying about their personal lives, they’re not busy thinking about their career or the business.

We had many amazing benefits at Tinfoil, but our family planning assistance was by far the benefit that supported our women and LGBTQ team members the most. We didn’t purely support IVF or egg freezing. We aimed to financially help individuals with surrogacy, vasectomy, adoption assistance, sperm freezing, and others, too. Freedom of choice is one way a business can help an individual (woman or not) focus and strive to work toward better and stronger career growth.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I highly recommend joining local and social media groups to meet other individuals in your field. Especially in male-dominated tech sub-industries, like security, there are few women. The women in these industries tend to help each other and there’s no better place to meet them, learn from them, and help them in return than meeting in-person or in a mutual group.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone? Do you have a mentor? Tell us about it.

I love it! I spend a ton of time mentoring, but I don’t mentor purely women. I love helping startups think through what they’re doing well and what they could improve on. I think the only way to get better is by questioning decisions, whether they seem right or wrong.

I don’t actively have my own mentor, unless you count my mother. She’s a startup mentor as well, and has spent the past 10 years mentoring me (and sometimes lecturing me) on decision making for my own startup. Sometimes family ties can get too close, but it’s nice to have somebody I can continuously talk to, bounce ideas off of, and strive to be similar to.

What’s the next achievement you’re working toward? How do you plan to get there?

I’m in a completely new role at Synopsys from where I was a year ago. As a CEO, I strived to build a team where each new employee was equal to or better than the average of the rest of the company. That means, by the end of the company, I should be the worst employee! Well, now I’m the new employee and I’m striving to increase the average of my new team. I’m doing a ton of reading and studying to figure out just where I can help with my strengths. At the same time, I don’t want to lose some of the best aspects of what I learned at my time at Tinfoil. It’s a juggling act, and the only way to succeed is to try and fail, but to fail quickly. From there I can iterate, learn, and improve myself and my new team.

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