Name: Lauren Zink
Job Title: Manager, Security Awareness
Location: Ohio-United States
Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you
I love boating and spend most of my nice Ohio weekends with my family out on our pontoon boat, kayaking, swimming or just enjoying the view of the lake.
What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I have always been curious about technology, both the positive and negative aspects of it and how it can make our lives greater but that it comes with its risks. I also love sharing my knowledge and training others which I did for many years as a teacher and adjunct instructor before pivoting into security. I am so fortunate that my current job really marries two of my greatest passions.
What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
That what I do helps people not only protect a company but also themselves both at work and at home as the knowledge in my programs is transferable and applicable to so many aspects of life.
What things are the most challenging in your role?
Getting buy-in that security awareness programs are an essential part of any successful security program and vital to help secure a company and its assets.
Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Oh yes, many of them. I discuss quite a few, though not all, in my chapter so check it out.
What have been your career defining moments?
When I started being recognized as a subject matter expert in my field and started being consulted or asked to contribute or speak on different topics. That’s kind of my “Look ma, I made it” moment-however, there is still the occasional imposter syndrome that creeps in. Unfortunately, I am not sure that will ever go away.
What changes have you seen in the cyber security industry in the time that you have been in it? Books like this one are a great example of the changes being made. There were limited to no resources specifically for women and more books, conferences, clubs, groups non-profits, etc. are being developed each day to support those currently in the field as well as to help develop future cyber women.
What trends or changes do you think we will see in cyber security in the next 10 years?
I’m hopeful that the importance of having a robust security awareness program with a dedicated person and/or team will continue to gain traction as the risk of the human element is not going anywhere and needs to be educated and protected.
How much job demand have you seen for cyber security professionals, and what things to you think will shape this demand in the coming years.
I know in Ohio, as is similar in many places, there is a huge shortage of individuals to fill the growing security job roles. We need to start at a young age educating the future generations of the demand for people to fill these careers and the steps they can take to successfully be the ones to help fill the gap.
Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your career, and if so in what ways?
Definitely. With any huge event cybercriminals tend to capitalize on the opportunity which creates a vast array of new risks that employees need educated on. Additionally, with people who never worked remote having to pick up and start anew in a telework setting they needed to be trained on how to work remotely in a secure manner to protect the company and themselves.
What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
Solid communication skills are a must, and honestly, not just for women but for anyone. Security has to work with so many groups and people cross-functionally and build solid relationships while communicating the overall mission that will protect the business and if you can’t communicate this well it is hard to be effective or taken seriously.
Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
It is a very rewarding and exciting career field to be in and women can bring a lot of different personality traits to the table that can help make a security program more well-rounded. I hate to see that women are discouraged or intimidated to get into cyber, though I understand and sympathize with their concern. We as women in the industry need to help change the narrative and get the word out that security is an amazing field for anyone to build a life-long career.
What advice would you give to a women looking to make the move into cyber security?
Get educated, do your research, network up, find an ally or someone to help champion for you, ask questions and don’t be afraid to take the leap. You will never know unless you try and there are so many entry level opportunities out there to get your foot in the door. You have to start somewhere to get to where you want to end up so just say YES!
In your perspective – what are the biggest cyber security threats to companies presently?
People, their employees, and not in a malicious way, but typically just being negligent or not knowing better. This really comes down to the company educating their workforce on the risks and how employees can play their role in protecting the company and its assets. This risk is why more and more companies need to deploy strong security awareness programs as a preventative and multi-layered measure in addition to policies and technology that are already in place.
Do you think it is important to close the gender gap in cyber security and if so, how do you think this could be done?
Absolutely. It is important that this is done in every field, not just cyber. People should earn wages based on their merit, contributions and what they can bring to the table, not based on their gender, skin-color, age or any other similar factor. This can be done by continually communicating and bringing awareness to this discrepancy until it no longer exists.
While the situation in the cyber security industry has marginally improved in recent years, it is still a very male dominated world. What are your thoughts on this, and have you seen an improvement yourself?
Yes, I think it is still male dominated but with continued conversation and awareness, this too shall shift. We need to find the allies, both women and men, and advocate for one another.
Read Lauren’s chapter and others in “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1″, available now via the links below:
About Lauren Zink
Lauren Zink is an industry recognized information security professional that has developed, expanded & maintained security awareness programs for numerous organizations. Her recognitions include: Women in IT Awards Finalist-Young Leader of the Year, YStark! 20 Under 40, Women in IT Awards Finalist- Security Champion of the Year, Cyber Educator of the Year-Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu, Influential Woman in Tech by Crain’s Cleveland & Women in IT: Honorable Mention by SC Magazine. Lauren is also a LinkedIn Learning cyber author of 2 courses & has been published in numerous industry magazines & websites. She is a huge advocate for women in STEM & volunteers her time mentoring women as well as talking at schools, businesses & conferences.