Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you came to be where you are now.
I was classically trained as an engineer. My path quickly brought me into product management and corporate development strategy. I began to work on teams that evaluated the white space in our portfolios and built strategies around Mergers & Acquisitions. I had a lot of time with the company's CEO and could sit in on diligence meetings, where I learned a lot about corporate development and M&A business processes. Due to an acquisition, I was part of the strategy team to buy. I essentially bought my way out of a job. We purchased several very mature companies with full product management teams, so a mentor suggested I try business development. After moving to the business development group and learning the process, I ultimately ran the group. I learned so much in those years. I made many mistakes in the early days, but mistakes are a great way to learn. That ultimately set me up for my next adventures joining very small companies and startups as part of the leadership team. I've had very successful exits from every single one and am on my fourth startup now. Tufin went public in April of 2019.
What kind of work are you doing now? What are the main emerging areas you're seeing?
I'm leading a team of professionals focusing on business and corporate development. We're a small team, but we work with some of the world's biggest market makers, vast technology alliances, and big business consultants. We try to help our organization, Tufin, benefit from the privileged insight we gain every day by building these relationships. We take time to understand what's particularly important to those organizations, look for overlap with Tufin, and do our best to bring that back to Tufin and educate our organization on how to best capitalize on it through all facets of the organization. From an emerging perspective, I think that, specifically in security, where I've spent my entire career, the industry, that is, the organizations and businesses we sell to, keep making similar mistakes. We keep having to fix the same mistakes. With each innovation, there's still the same issue of truly protecting what's important. Identifying where there's a risk, and protecting the riskiest assets, whether it be financial information, corporate IP, or critical infrastructure. We simply haven't solved all these problems yet. And I don't believe we'll ever fully solve these problems, as there are very smart people every day trying to break the security infrastructure. But we have to be more aware and quicker to respond so that we're more capable of protecting incredibly important assets.
With most companies being forced to work remotely this year, the conversation around cybersecurity has definitely deepened. How has COVID-19 shaped your field, and do you think this change will be enduring?
There is no question that many of the changes that were implemented as we globally battled COVID-19 are with us today, and it's fascinating to watch how it all continues to play out. In May last year, a colleague noted that organizations went through five years of digital transformation in five weeks. I feel that's very true, and we've all learned quite a bit about how we can change the work environment to make it function remotely. My personal opinion is that hybrid working is here to stay. There were so many benefits of working remotely for those who had not been able to in the past. It can't be given up now. Every organization wants to hire the best people, and the best people will now realize that they can be exceptionally productive without being in an office every day. Infrastructure companies like ours will continue to support that and make it easier, safer, and better. Also, as someone in a customer-facing role, I don't think business travel will rebound to the same level as before. We've learned that we don't need to be physically present to build great relationships and organizations.
Technology notoriously has abysmally low numbers of women. What do you think is driving this lack of diversity, and what do you think companies can do to ensure more women stay?
It starts young. I'm a believer in helping young girls find a way to a path in math and science. I was lucky to start very early on, my brother is an engineer, and I decided it was what I wanted to do. We need more mentors and role models. I also think that as younger women enter the workforce, it's exceptionally important to give them a place to have an open exchange. To ask questions, connect with leadership, listen and talk. Having a sounding board and positive role models can help people stay. I took time in every stage of my career to mentor women. It's just so important that you take advantage of every opportunity you have to touch at least one person and create a positive impact. If we all pay it forward in that way, we'll create an opportunity for everyone to feel mentored, supported, and like they have someone to talk to. Do one small thing. One of my team members recently suggested that I build out a women's cyber event. So we did. We built a core group out of Tufin, called on personal relationships, and pulled together an absolute rockstar event with some incredible women in the industry. It was the best 90 minutes I've spent on a zoom call in five years. I learned a lot from my friends and colleagues, the feedback was phenomenal, and it was only phase one. We've decided to continue this path and put together a steering committee to decide where to go next. I was heartened by how many people reached out to ask to get involved.
What has your experience been as a woman in such a heavily male-dominated field?
I started as an engineer. I was welcomed by my peers, most of which were men, and absolutely shunned by several professors. A few professors (not all!) wanted no part of me in engineering. But I’m just too stubborn to give in to things, which has served me well throughout my life. My first job was working for a large tech company that built technology and infrastructure primarily for the government. I liked to joke that I was working at the white, male, ex-military capital of the world. I don’t think there was another woman in my whole department. I honestly didn’t know much about it, but I found my friends. I found the people who supported me. I found mentors amongst the ranks. There were people there who wanted me to succeed, and it empowered me to push forth. I was very lucky that my parents were deeply supportive. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a strong personal and professional support system.
What are some opportunities you see in your field for non-technical people?
I’m definitely biased, but I’ve been in the security industry my entire career, and I’ve learned so much and met so many incredible people. I would advise anyone to come work in the industry. There are just so many areas where people can have exceptional careers. It’s not about who’s classically trained, who’s technical and who isn’t, or who has what degree. We are a deeply diverse industry. We’re better and stronger because of those differences. What is the point of only working with people who look or think like you? Where is the diversity? Where is the healthy conflict that causes us to think differently? How can we build great companies if we’re not challenged? There are so many areas in which people can find themselves in Security. It’s an exciting field with a lot of opportunities to learn and grow.
How do you hire?
Some traits for me are must-haves. Number one, I love to see that someone can learn. It's very important to me. I think it's important to always think on our feet and react. I gravitate toward people who have a propensity to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zone. So I look for people who have made lateral moves. I love working with people with headroom. I'll take a person with heart, who's a hardworking, passionate, collaborative, coachable employee well before I'll take someone who's on paper a better fit for what I have. As a wise mentor once told me, just get the right people on the bus and figure out where to put them.