Ellison Anne WilliamsI’m the Founder and CEO of Enveil, a data security company focused on protecting data while it’s being used or processed.

I’m a PhD mathematician by training and spent the first decade of my career working in the U.S. intelligence community before founding Enveil in 2016. Our work at Enveil is focused on delivering business-enabling and privacy-preserving capabilities for secure data search, sharing, and collaboration. We allow organizations to securely derive insights, cross-match, and search third-party data assets without ever revealing the contents of the search itself or compromising the security or ownership of the underlying data.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

While I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, I never planned my career. I pursued math in college and graduate school purely because I enjoyed it — and I’m pleasantly surprised with where that decision has ultimately led.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Of course there have been — and undoubtedly will continue to be — challenges. But for me, the key is looking at challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, reorient myself, and approach situations differently. Areas where I haven’t been able to take a straight path from point A to point B, which is pretty much my entire career, ultimately tended to be the most interesting and rewarding . When I’ve faced such situations, I’ve been thankful for mentors and advisors who can offer a new perspective.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m incredibly proud to continue to serve as CEO for the company I founded, and of the success we’re seeing as a result of our nearly five-year journey building a market around Privacy Enhancing Technologies. With the continued acceleration of global awareness, demand, and regulation for privacy, we are excited to continue helping organizations enable critical business functions in a manner that prioritizes the security and privacy of their most sensitive data assets.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I sometimes joke that our company is built on math and grit, but a willingness to persevere despite setbacks is really at the heart of it. Doors close. People say no. Ideas fail. All the time. But, if you believe you have a great product and are willing to put in the work, you can create opportunities and find success.

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

My advice to anyone with aspirations in tech is to just go for it. Don’t let fear or any other assumptions hold you back — find substantive work that you’re interested in and pursue it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who are walking a similar path. I’m blessed to have been surrounded by a number of fantastic mentors and colleagues who have helped me achieve more than I could have on my own.

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

While there are certainly still challenges, I am optimistic about the future of women in tech. I’d like to see us continue to help increase the representation of women in our industry by amplifying the career choices available, normalizing and highlighting women in tech leadership positions, and supporting more opportunities for mentorship.

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

Companies can support women by exposing them to internal opportunities for careers development and advancement, and offering flexible work environments. I also think those of us in leadership positions will continue to lead by example, and amplify our actions and our voices when we have the opportunity to do so.

There is currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would encourage all women in tech to remain focused on their own substantive, interesting work and choose (or create!) employers who celebrate and embrace diversity of perspective and experience. Making meaningful contributions to the space will raise the bar for us all — and blaze the path for those who come after us.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I like to ensure I’m never so focused on my own lane that I lose perspective on bigger picture tech trends and market opportunities so I tend to consume a wide cross-section of research and media. I also particularly enjoy outlets focused on founder stories and leadership — Harvard Business Review and First Round Review are a few of my favorites.

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