My Contribution to Making the Online World a Safer Place

By Sheryl Wharff, HP Enterprise

The date was June 30, 1998.

The very first electronic check passed through the Department of the Treasury and was accepted by GTE Government Systems Corp for professional services rendered, which used new PKI technology of GTE CyberTrust. As many publications stated: “This forever changed the face of banking and security as we know it today!” This was my first entry and job in the security field as Director of Marketing Communications, GTE CyberTrust.

I was so excited to be driving the joint GTE and industry communications around this event. It was a three-year cooperative initiative to get to the “go live” date because there were so many details and companies with which to coordinate. BankBoston, NationsBank and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston were the first financial institutions to support the use of this e-check technology. At this time I was reporting to Diane Albano – VP of GTE Sales and Marketing – who was both my mentor and colleague.

I started my sales career in a very male-dominated world where women were predominantly in clerical positions; some were in marketing, a few were in sales and even fewer were in IT roles. It took even longer for women to be players in the security space. Today Hewlett Packard Enterprise is one of the few successful security companies that is led by a great leader and woman, Meg Whitman, who believes that security is top of mind in all that we do for our customers and promotes that mission. Additionally, I’m very pleased to serve under Sue Barsamian, who heads up our HPE Security business, and work with Julie McHenry, who leads our Data Security Marketing efforts. All three women have superior skills and communication styles that other leaders would do well to learn from. I know I have.

According to the National Cybersecurity Institute, “women can provide unique perspectives and intuition that their male counterparts cannot.” And Psychology Today states that “women tend to have better instincts than men, a skill that would be advantageous when facing unpredictable cyberthreats.” In addition, “a big part of cybersecurity is reliant on the ability to interpret human emotion and behavior,” which women tend to be better at than men.

Having worked for and reported to both men and women over the course of my career, I feel lucky to have experienced great leadership from both male and female managers. Although men and women tend to look at and value different aspects of the work/home balance, I find that more and more male leaders have working spouses and so have learned to appreciate equality in the workplace. The most important part of working for anyone is to keep your priorities, skills and contributions to the company clear and measurable.

I believe women of 2016 should consider training and jumping into the security field as there is no shortage of companies who need individuals who are focused on and experienced around security. The Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report shows a global shortage of InfoSec professionals (1 million unfilled jobs!). Data Architects, for instance, is a hot and growing field, and if you love to analyze information, you’ll be in high demand. Even if you have small children at home, you are likely to be able to negotiate a home office position at a company seeking individuals with strong security expertise.

As a female in this fast-paced security market, I try to balance my work life with my personal life. This is not always easy. It means putting in long hours, traveling cross-country or abroad, being constantly on the phone, spending hours on my PC, laptop or mobile device, and doing late night calls with employees, colleagues or partnerships. While raising my daughter Rachael, I felt that it was not the quantity of time spent with her, but rather the quality that really mattered, so I always made sure that the time we had together was meaningful and that she always felt important and valued. Thanks to technology, I could reach her and guide her daily by phone, video chat or text so that we could share about our days and send pictures of what was happening even while I was on the road. Today, she’s grown up to be a wonderful daughter, mother and wife who is, like her mom, a working professional who is balancing her personal life and career.

One word for all of this? Exhilarating! And there’s no place that I’d rather be working than at HPE Security. We all want to do something that makes a difference, and working in the security field allows me to do just that.