TEST FORMS

Personal Branding

Fei Peng, CGEIT, is a cloud professional with more than 10 years of global and regional experience in cloud product strategy management, architecture, solution design, governance, service management, risk management and service delivery. She has worked with leading IT companies and accounting firms. Here she shares her experience as a principal product strategy manager at Oracle and as a woman in tech.

Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced when stepping into your product strategy manager role at Oracle?

A: As a global cloud business team member at Oracle, long, irregular hours are required. I have been up late at night and early in the morning to collaborate seamlessly with teams around the world to make sure the initiatives I was responsible for were implemented successfully and in a timely manner.

Q: What are the most important internal (of your own effort) factors that led you to this role?

A: I completed my Master’s in business administration (MBA) in Singapore before I started in my position at Oracle. This helped prepare me for the role when combined with my previous experience as a solutions architect and consultant. I also think that the image I built (both intentionally and unintentionally) over the years correlates with how senior management considered me a fit for the role. Personal branding can have a great deal of impact on what roles you take on and for which you qualify.

Q: What challenges do you see women face in being ready to take on management positions?

A: I have observed that women in different regions face different challenges, but challenges for women pursuing management positions vary even more according to individual personalities, the nature of work, the organization and the industry. The biggest challenge for anyone taking on a management position is having the right qualities and skills to take on the job.

Q: What challenges do you see organizations face as they look to hire more women in your area of expertise?

A: Although women often face more challenges than men, I do not see as big of a divide in my area of expertise. As long as the job role requires a combination of skills and qualities that can be gained through many years of professional experience, women can be just as good of a fit for the role as men. Personalities also impact hiring since the methods an individual uses to problem solve and collaborate with others is important to success.

Q: What do you think organizations can and should do to address retention issues for technology professionals, especially women?

A: Oracle has a program called Oracle Women Leadership (OWL) and it has created an inclusive culture across the organization. Various activities are organized at each Oracle location, across regions and around the globe. Women professionals at Oracle are connected via the program and are able to find opportunities as a result. I know some other organizations have implemented similar leadership programs, and these help demonstrate that organizations care about the women they employ and hope to retain. These programs have even helped to address some retention issues as women professionals often find new opportunities to grow within the organization through connections in the program.

Q: What progress do you see in your industry toward addressing the gap of women in tech?

A: There are definitely some areas of expertise in which it seems that women hold more roles than men, for example, risk management, compliance, marketing and sales, and training. In the fast-paced tech industry, however, new technologies, new business models, and new compliance requirements may emerge at any time and these create equal opportunities for men and women. An important thing that women professionals should keep in mind is to be ready to make a change when the opportunity presents itself.

Pursuing Her Passion

Deidre Melton, CISA, CRISC, CISM, CFE, CIA, serves as an assurance, risk assessor, investigator and advisory professional specializing in IT and cybersecurity at Florida A&M University (USA). Her early experience is in educational and local/state government audits for the State of Florida Auditor General’s Office. Melton is the current president of the ISACA® Tallahassee Chapter and leadership development chair for SheLeadsTech Tallahassee. Here she shares some of her experiences while becoming a lead auditor and pursuing her passion to encourage other women in tech.

Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced when stepping into a lead auditor role?

A: Unconscious and conscious biases regarding my age, gender and race. For example, I became a lead senior auditor at age 28 in a work environment where I was the youngest person among more than 30 IT auditors in our division. People often equate age with both experience and knowledge. However, in the world of IT, where technology, regulations, laws and standards change regularly, there is not a direct correlation between age and having the knowledge to excel. Additionally, our client base was predominately older white males who perceived women and people of color as possessing inferior intellect and skills. Hard work, dedication to constantly growing my knowledge base, a high level of emotional intelligence and great communication skills were the keys to successfully overcoming the obstacles placed before me.

Q: What is one of the most important internal (of your own effort) factors that led you to this role?

A: Letting happiness guide me instead of allowing money or other people’s opinions impact my decisions. I went to Florida A&M University where I completed a 5-year business program in which I earned an undergraduate degree in management and a Master of Science degree in business administration. Candidates who graduated the program often left earning close to 6-figure salaries in junior management positions. During a year-long paid internship where I managed a marketing team’s US$90 million budget while living in the heart of Manhattan, New York, New York, USA, I fell in love with the challenge of using my business knowledge to transform IT applications while taking part in a financial software development project. I learned 3 important things during this internship:
1. I loved IT and wanted a job that involved IT.
2. The ability to communicate vertically and horizontally across an organization is a critical skill.
3. I hated cold weather.

After my internship, I turned down lucrative job offers from major corporations located in the Northeastern US to take a job in sunny Florida as an IT auditor. The position paid considerably less than my internship in Manhattan and, while my parents and school advisors were not thrilled, I was happy and I loved my new job.

Q: What challenges do you see women face in being ready to take a lead position?

A: I have found that women often lack complete confidence in their own skills and abilities which can be a challenge when taking a lead position. Frequently, I see women who will not pursue the lead position because they fear failure or doubt that they have the right knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) for the position. However, successful leaders must step out of their comfort zones and overcome the fear of failure to begin to learn new skills. This will allow them to grow into the leader they are meant to become.

Q: What is the most important external (not of your own effort) factor that led to this role?

A: Networking with people who have already established their careers, who believe in me sometimes more than I believe in myself and who have advocated on my behalf. These people often take the time to give me advice, make me look beyond the surface of what I perceive to be the issues or obstacles, and continue to challenge me to find various ways to approach each situation. Knowing the impact these people have had on my life, I try to be that same positive influence in the lives of others.

Q: What challenges do you see organizations face as they look to hire more women in your area of expertise?

A: Organizations need to consider the KSAs needed to perform the job functions of their open positions. They should then use those KSAs to write new, more accurate job descriptions instead of recycling 10-year old job position descriptions that focus more on duties than the underlying KSAs. In my experience, women feel more capable of competing for a job when they know the KSAs for a position vs. having to assume them because a potential employer only gives a vague description of duties.

Q: What do you think organizations can and should do to address retention issues for technology professionals, especially women?

A: I think organizations should provide flexible work schedules, implement mentoring programs and women-in-tech groups, and provide quality education training opportunities that vary in focus (technical, soft skills, leadership) and delivery (local in-person, distance in-person, virtual). Women should not be forced to choose between taking care of their families or gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful at their job and earn opportunities for promotion. Additionally, organizations must regularly assess and address gender pay inequities within their organization.

Q: Have you seen progress in retaining women in the technology field over the course of your career?

A: Over the last 5 years, I have seen more women moving into the tech field. During this same period of time, I have seen higher levels of retention of women in IT who specialize in audit, risk, governance and security. However, from my perspective, women who work on the server and network teams or other highly technical and hands-on aspects of IT are still being pushed or shut out of the perceived “boys club” of IT. Those who work in these areas are still leaving the field or transferring into other areas of IT.

Q: What progress do you see legislatively or culturally in your region toward addressing the gap of women in tech?

A: The biggest legislative progress in addressing the gap of women in tech in the US may be the Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce, signed 2 May 2019. This executive order integrates and highlights the usage of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (NICE Framework) within the federal government. The use of the NICE Framework is ideal for women because it clearly lays out the KSAs for each job. As mentioned previously, women are then able to focus their training efforts and feel confident communicating their experience for positions. Additionally in Florida, there is currently a growing movement for women to engage in tech careers and progress into management positions. There are a lot of women-in-tech groups, similar to ISACA’s SheLeadsTech, that actively work to engage women in the tech field.

Q: How does being the current president of the ISACA Tallahassee Chapter affect your ability to influence the way people look at women in tech?

A: I believe being the current president of the ISACA Tallahassee Chapter has had a great deal of impact on the way women are perceived in the Tallahassee tech community. My ability to run and grow our Tallahassee Chapter into one of the top IT educational organizations in the area has allowed my male counterparts to view me as an equal. These men now regularly ask for my opinions on a variety of tech topics and career advice, they suggest other female tech leaders to present at events and actively ask how they can become an advocate to help close the gender gap in tech. Over the past year, my team and I worked to implement a year-round SheLeadsTech program in Tallahassee, which consists of a mentorship program, bimonthly educational luncheons with a technical and soft-skill focus, bimonthly webinars focusing on career and leadership development, and lots of networking opportunities. Males within the tech community are also invited and encouraged to participate so that they gain an understanding of the challenges women face, can see women discussing highly technical and complex issues within IT, and can learn how they can become a part of the solution in closing the gender gap. As a result, I am seeing more and more women increasingly land management and other coveted tech jobs within the community.

Changing Careers

Zinet Kemal, CISA, CySA+, Network+, Security+, was a legal assistant in Ethiopia before moving to the United States 6 years ago. Once she arrived in the United States, her technology career journey began, but her interest in tech started much earlier. She has long been fascinated by the power of technology to help solve people’s everyday problems. Currently, Kemal works for Hennepin County as an IT auditor identifying weaknesses in the system network, making recommendations to prevent security breaches and effectively evaluating IT risk by auditing cybersecurity controls, and volunteers as technology director at the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) Minnesota (USA) Chapter. She is most interested in cybersecurity and IT risk management and compliance. At Hennepin County, she also serves as chair of a subcommittee of the millennial’s employee resource group. Here she shares her story about changing to a new career while also adapting to a new country with her family.

Q: What struggles have you faced entering the technology industry?

A: One of my biggest challenges changing careers has been attending school while raising a family. Raising three young children and attending classes can be difficult and finding affordable childcare can be even more difficult. Even so, it has been rewarding to know that I can inspire and serve as a role model for my children. I show them how to be consistent, resilient and how to pursue goals. When making the switch to technology, I did not have the background in math, programming or the necessary computing concepts, and that was also a challenge. I have risen to the challenge, however, and studied harder to catch up to my other classmates who were born in the United States and have had exposure to these concepts earlier in their education. Outside of school, navigating and learning how to break into the workforce, including learning a different work culture in a new country was another hurdle.

Q: How have you seen the industry change during your career?

A: I am still newer to the industry, but I have learned and observed some interesting things about the industry itself since starting my journey. I have noticed in school that there are very few women in my classes and there are even fewer women of different ethnicities. I have learned that women in the cybersecurity industry only account for 11% of the workforce, though that number is expected to grow to 20% by the end of 2019. This figure is too low. The industry needs to continue pushing for more women in tech. Initiatives and associations such as SheLeadsTech and Women in Cybersecurity help increase awareness on the topic and move the needle in the right direction. I also believe women leaders are important in changing the industry because women role models help motivate other women who aspire to break into the field and also strive to become leaders.

Q: What advice do you have for others currently in or looking to join this industry?

A: For those who are looking to join this industry, I would say if you set your mind to it and are passionate about technology, you can do it and it does not matter if you are changing careers, new to the country or lack experience. Avoid intimidation and stereotyping and tell yourself, if you put in the work you will go a long way. I will say in technology, one needs to be willing to adapt to change since things in technology constantly evolve. For those already in tech, knowing the goals and processes of your organization will help you not only see the bigger picture, but also make you indispensable to your team. Once you find something you are passionate about to specialize in, be open to learning and self-development. I like to explore and earn certifications so that I learn new concepts. As a working mother, I am very passionate about contributing to changing the narratives on issues of gender and the racial pay gap. I think this is especially important in technology and will do what I can to encourage the industry to move toward equality and reducing disparity.

Q: What excites you about your career and the tech industry?

A: In my current role as an IT auditor, I enjoy learning about the different areas of IT and security concepts. With each audit engagement, I get the opportunity to learn and research a specific area of IT and security. This helps me develop expertise in that space and helps me get excited and stay engaged in my career. The fact that technology is constantly evolving makes it exciting in itself, and it pushes people to learn and keep up with the environment. I find that very fascinating.

Q: How do you progress your learning and share your knowledge with others?

A: When I arrived in the United States, I pursued my bachelor’s degree in computer science, an associate degree in computer programming and a certificate in cybersecurity and privacy law. I pursue new certifications frequently and am currently working toward my Master of Science (MS) in cybersecurity. I also firmly believe that teaching can help you solidify and relearn concepts. To that end, in the Fall of 2019, I began teaching a class in information security at a community college as an adjunct professor. I hope my teaching can inspire others and my knowledge can help them on their own journeys.

Q: What do you do when you are not working and teaching outside the home?

A: When I am not pursuing my career in tech, I enjoy spending time with my 3 children (soon to be 4) and my husband. I like seeing everyone in my life active and pursuing what they love. I am grateful to have a husband, who is encouraging, believes in my potential and enjoys seeing me pursue what I love.

Charting Her Path

Dorine Nalo, CISA, CCNA, Prince 2 Practitioner, is the robotics process automation (RPA) lead at EY Kenya. She is also the SheLeadsTech Liaison for the ISACA® Kenya (Africa) chapter. Here she shares her experience charting her own path in her area of IT and her thoughts on how to recruit and retain more women in tech.

Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced when stepping into a lead robotics automation role?

A: Charting my own path. Robotics automation is a fairly new service, so there were many unknowns and this created a real challenge. Building a team I could work with around this new service was also a challenge, but eventually, the team came together. Another part of this unknown path requires me to learn new things quickly to deliver to my clients. I had to, and still have to, spend time learning every day.

Q: What is one of the most important internal (of your own effort) factors that led you to this role?

A: Being proactive. I am knowledge hungry. I research and go the extra mile experimenting with various technologies. This puts me ahead of the curve. I also have had to stand up for myself and be bold enough to take on the challenge of setting up a new service line that includes RPA and other emerging technologies.

Q: What other challenges do you see women face in being ready to take a lead position?

A: Many women do not believe in themselves. I have seen cases where a woman is capable of delivering for a certain role, but she does not believe that she can do it. Women also often struggle to handle difficult conversations. As a leader, you can expect to handle difficult situations at times, including making tough decisions, calling out mistakes and working with teams to rectify those mistakes. Women need to encourage fellow female colleagues. They can lead just as well, if not better than some of their male counterparts.

Q: What is the most important external (not of your own effort) factor that led to this role?

A: The support mechanisms that I have had. I have a family that believes in me and encourages me to be the best that I can be.

Q: What challenges do you see organizations face as they look to hire more women in your area of expertise?

A: First, more women must assert themselves in tech. When more women step forward, more organizations may be willing to employ more women in tech. Organizations need to work to minimize stereotypes and unconscious bias around technical roles. People sometimes find it difficult to believe that women can deliver on these roles.

Q: What do you think organizations can and should do to address retention issues for technology professionals, especially women?

A: Organizations can create flexible environments for women to balance their families and still deliver on their work. Flexible working hours would allow women, and men, to manage their time better among all of their responsibilities at work and at home.

Q: Have you seen progress in retaining women in the technology field over the course of your career?

A: Yes, there is progress; it is just not happening as fast as we would want it to happen. There are organizations that have programs in place to support women in tech while others are still instituting them. Generally, though, I have seen progress.

Q: What progress do you see legislatively or culturally in your region toward addressing the gap of women in tech?

A: From a legislative perspective, Kenya has some guidelines and parliamentary acts that enable businesses owned by women, including technology businesses, to operate in the country. Culturally, we still have improvements to make as there are cases where women are viewed differently, and unconscious biases prevent them from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There are some segments of society where women are encouraged to pursue technology, but we can do better overall.

Q: How does being the ISACA Kenya Chapter SheLeadsTech Liaison affect your ability to influence the way people look at women in tech?

A: Being a SheLeadsTech Liaison has enabled me to be more deliberate in reaching out to women in technology at all levels. It has allowed me to share my story and create a platform where other women can share their stories to encourage women to stay the course of a career in tech. This role has also enabled me to engage leaders (both men and women) to support and put forth deliberate efforts to ensure that more women are encouraged to take up careers in STEM and remain in technology roles. Through this, I feel I inspire confidence one day at a time, one colleague at a time, to work together to increase the number of women in tech.

Overcoming Barriers

Sarah Orton, CISA, is director of IT risk and compliance at AstraZeneca. She has more than 20 years of IT risk assurance and advisory experience spanning financial services, utilities, professional services, central government and pharmaceuticals. She is vice president of the ISACA® Northern England Chapter board and she leads the ISACA UK and Ireland chapter-wide initiative for SheLeadsTech. She also serves on the ISACA global Women’s Leadership Council. She uses her amassed leadership experience to share with other women how they can empower themselves to lead as well.

Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced when stepping into a leadership position?

A: Lack of self-confidence. Despite that, with much support, encouragement and coaching from partners and directors at Deloitte, I was able to achieve a director position in 2006. Self-confidence is not only about knowing that you are capable yourself, but also believing that others see you the same way. It is important to have faith in yourself. Achieving a director position at Deloitte was a major career milestone and gave me the confidence to achieve anything in the future.

Q: What is one of the most important internal (of your own effort) factors that led you to this role?

A: I believe hard work and commitment to my career have made me the director I am today. In the 21st century workplace, much stock is placed on how well someone manages his or her own professional profile, and some people choose to do this to the detriment of other things, whether that be technical specialism or service delivery. Every individual has his or her own approach to managing his or her own career. My personal approach has been to work hard to deliver and build credibility in the work that I do. It helps to have integrity during stakeholder discussions I participate in and to do the right thing from an organizational perspective. When I returned from maternity leave in 2004 as a senior manager working for Deloitte, it was challenging to reestablish my credibility and profile, and it was especially difficult as a woman in a highly competitive work environment. I felt I had to prove that having a baby had not affected my professional drive and ambition. Sponsorship to go for a director position in 2006, and achieving it, was a proud moment in my professional career.

Q: What other challenges do you see women face in being ready to take a leadership position?

A: Women lack role models and people to both support and encourage them to overcome the self-confidence/self-sabotage barriers. Self-sabotage is that ability to talk yourself out of going for things due to a lack of confidence. Speaking to a mentor or coach can enable you to recognize your own self-sabotaging behavior(s) of which you may not even be aware. I, personally, have had a mentor over the last couple of years at AstraZeneca and, through this mentorship, I started to recognize areas of focus which I may have been neglecting. These include making senior stakeholders aware of my career aspirations and building relationships outside of my immediate sphere, both of which were, ultimately, factors that led me to a number of informal sponsors when I was pursuing my last leadership role.

Q: What is the most important external (not of your own effort) factor that led to this role?

A: The opportunity presenting itself and access to a network of supportive professional contacts. Again, by having a wide network of contacts within your organization, it is easier to canvas support at important times in your career. Some individuals may not recognize the value of their network, but if they are not building a network, they are effectively sabotaging their career. It is essential to have a supportive network when career opportunities arise. My network at Deloitte provided insightful feedback on key skills I needed to develop to qualify as a candidate for the director position, shared how they felt I was perceived reputationally and recommended tweaks I should make to improve my chances. This was all helpful support in getting to the next level.

Q: What challenges do you see organizations face as they look to hire more women in leadership positions?

A: These days I think it is important that organizations provide the right environment in which women can feel comfortable, thrive, be valued and appreciated. In the 21st century, flexibility in both the work environment and work hours needs to be provided. Employers who provide this needed flexibility will attract and retain talent. Women of the 21st century demand new challenges and opportunities to progress.

Q: What do you think organizations can and should do to address retention issues for technology professionals, especially women?

A: Organizations need to create an environment that is inclusive, where women feel that their voices can be heard. This applies more widely, of course, to the diversity and inclusion agenda which expects organizations to employ women and other minority groups to “make up the numbers.” The true proof of the pudding is how well these individuals are regarded and whether their voices are heard in a meeting environment. If women feel they can be heard and make an impact, that factors heavily in their feelings about whether they remain at an organization.

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