Cloud computing featured

Changing working policies and challenging the status quo

Cloud computing, cybersecurityBy Rinki Sethi, CISO, Rubrik

My exposure to cybersecurity began when I was just fourteen years old: I learnt how to uninstall software on my computer that was recording all my chats and blocked my prying parents from being able to reinstall it.

This brought with it a strong sense of achievement and empowerment, as well as feeling truly thrilling. It’s fair to say that sparked my interest in the field of security, leading me to join the security departments of some major brands and international companies, including eBay, Walmart and IBM.

I am now CISO of Rubrik- an international cloud data management company. My dream career became a reality through the vessel of passion. Passion is super contagious. It’s almost impossible not to get on board with someone who is passionate and you’ll absolutely excel by focusing on what you’re passionate about.

I’ve had some great experiences in my career and loved every stage of it. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to this position, but it hasn’t always come without its challenges. Being a female in tech in particular hasn’t always been easy, and for me becoming resilient has been paramount. When I started off in tech, for many years I can honestly say that I didn’t fully understand the impact that a woman could make in the field, which was down to the lack of visible female role models around me. There were very few females in tech leadership positions at the time, which made me feel as if I couldn’t ever go beyond being an engineer. As I began to climb the ranks, it felt as if I was navigating the unknown. How was a woman in a leadership position expected to act? Was I going to be under the microscope? It all seemed very unfamiliar.

With limited guidance and being one of only a few women in the department, I always felt that I would be judged more critically than my male counterparts. I feared the consequences of making the smallest of errors. As you can imagine, the pressure that you put yourself under when you feel as if you shouldn’t make any mistakes takes its toll on you emotionally.

The feeling that we shouldn’t take as many risks is actually a feeling shared by many professional women, with studies such as that conducted by Harvard Business Review pointing to the fact that women seem to be more risk-averse than men. However, this can actually be very damaging both personally and professionally. When I did take risks and made errors, I began to realise that through every mistake, I had learnt a valuable lesson. In fact, with hindsight, the times where I have learnt the most in my career have been when I have made a mistake. I now feel more confident in taking calculated risks and this is definitely something I would encourage other women to do.

As I grew in confidence and experience, I realised I had a responsibility to pave the way for younger women in the industry. When I became a mother for the first time, I was working as a security engineer and was surprised by the lack of support and flexibility given to women with young children. Being a first-time mother is a huge learning-curve and challenge in itself and not having flexibility when it came to child-care was extremely difficult. After many meetings with HR, I worked to change their policies on flexible working, which meant that parents could work from home if they needed to, and also women had better maternity leave.

Achieving this result and making a difference both for myself and other women in the same position encouraged me to take on a range of other initiatives to help other women and girls, such as participating in mentoring communities and speaking on the importance of girls entering STEM subjects. One of these initiatives included leading a project to develop the first set of national cybersecurity badges and curriculum for the Girl Scouts, as a way of trying to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.

What I can say now is that it’s extremely empowering to get involved in initiatives such as these and is something I would encourage all women in the industry to do. There is now much more support and mentorship available compared to when I was starting out in the industry, but it’s a matter of actually finding and making use of this support so that we can really benefit.

We need to think about how we ourselves can help to combat the issues faced as women in a male-dominated industry. We mustn’t shy away from voicing our issues and any initiatives which can help either ourselves, or other women around us, must be taken. We also need to build up our resilience and understand that by having a thick-skin and the determination to succeed, we can make our way to leadership positions. We can empower ourselves by developing our own self-belief, seeking support and challenging the status quo.

Rinki Sethi About the author

Rinki Sethi,VP & CISO (Chief information security officer)

Rinki Sethi is an information security executive known for change, technical and thought leadership across security and enablement disciplines. She is a veteran in the cyber security domain and throughout her career has built and matured technical security teams across security operations, product security, application security, security architecture, and security strategy within the Fortune 500 and other large enterprise including IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Intuit, eBay, Walmart.com, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Rinki holds several recognized security certifications and has a B.S. in Computer Science Engineering from UC Davis and a M.S. in Information Security from Capella University.

Rinki is a well-known thought leader in the security industry. She has served on the development team for the ISACA book, “Creating a Culture of Security” by Stephen Ross and was the recipient of the “One to Watch” Award with CSO Magazine & Executive Women’s Forum in 2014 and more recently the Senior Information Security Practitioner Award with ISC2 in 2018. Rinki regularly speaks at security conferences and on topics related to women in technology. Rinki led an initiative to develop the first set of national cybersecurity badges and curriculum for the Girl Scouts of USA. Rinki serves as a mentor for many students and professionals.


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