Being an Agent of Change

Last week, Arbor Network’s Women on Their Way group was fortunate enough to have Dr. Melissa Grill Peterson with us via webinar. Her goal in speaking to us as women in cybersecurity was to help us separate from genetically encoded stereotypes and find our own value. We know that women in tech can thrive despite the “good ‘ol boys club” but not if we lose sight of our own value. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way and be an advocate of change.

Dr. Melissa believes that we thrive by challenging outdated mindsets and beliefs. Part of achieving this is to flood our brains every day with positive examples – podcasts, blogs, books – that help us stay positive and moving forward. Focusing our energy on positive examples will give us less time to worry about stereotypes and more time understanding how powerful we are. If we don’t believe what we bring to the table is valuable, then we will always be looking to find fault in others – men or women.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been in demoralizing positions many times in my career from being forced to sit in a male managers lap to being talked over or ridiculed in meetings, but those situations do not define me or my value. Were they humiliating? Yes. Did they take away my brain? No. And for every man in my career that has behaved badly, I can also counter with a man who has supported and empowered me.

If we start by asking ourselves what we want, and then believe we can achieve it, it won’t matter that we are surrounded by “the good ‘ol boys club”. The fantastic piece of advice that resonates with me is to look at triggers in our personal and professional lives that light our emotions. If we pay attention to the things that frustrate us or irritate us and use them as teaching moments, then we can begin to focus on what truly matters and stop trying to compare ourselves to the men and women in our industry. Over the last year, I have stretched myself in my role by co-facilitating a training class I thought was over my head. I was constantly comparing myself to the knowledge of the other facilitator and reacting to the anxiety by hyperventilating. It was not until she pointed out to me that I bring value to the table in a different way, that I began settling into myself while teaching. Because I couldn’t see this clearly and because she is someone I truly trust, I was able to open my mind and believe that I could achieve my max potential in this role. I now see myself as an impactful trainer.

Dr. Melissa notes that when we know who we are, we can start stepping into our own personal greatness. I have to offer a virtual high five on this one. The incredible intellect surrounding me daily in the women of Arbor is profoundly humbling and I often find myself thinking “man, if only she would speak up!” I include myself in that statement and I know I am not alone. Being in a male dominated industry means that without the core of knowing who we are and what we want, we will struggle to hold our space in meetings when we get interrupted and we will struggle getting our intelligence across each and every time because our lack of confidence shows.

Knowing who we are and owning the fact that we are critical to being a change agent is going to be what helps us increase the number of women in the cybersecurity space. It is going to give us the confidence in who we are and what we have to offer while at the same time, taking power away from the individuals who are condescending to us or who try and convince us that we are somehow not equal or valued contributors. During her webinar, Dr. Melissa encouraged us to fill in some blanks in this sentence: I am ______, I do ______ so that _______. I encourage this exercise for everyone. By knowing who we are, we bring more to our professional careers because we can allow ourselves to fail and be okay with it, we can allow ourselves to reach outside our comfort zones and be okay with it, and lastly, we can bring our brains to the table with a grace and strength that cannot be reckoned with. Find your value and share your greatness with the world!