If I Can Do It, You Can Do It: The Struggles Of An InfoSec Life #1 | With Karen Worstell

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It- The Struggles Of An InfoSec Life #1.jpg

By Selena Templeton, host of DiverseIT


Part 1 of this 3-part series. Listen to part 2 right here!

W Risk Group founder Karen Worstell chats with ITSPmagazine’s Selena Templeton about the stresses, frustrations and victories along her journey as she got into, dropped out of, and then returned to an InfoSec life.

Karen and I met for coffee at the RSA conference in San Francisco this year. She paid ITSPmagazine some lovely compliments on our Diverse IT podcast, so initially I was thinking that I’d have her on that show, but after our 15-minute coffee turned into an hour-long conversation that only ended because we both had to race off to other events, I realized that she had such a great story that it needed to be told on An InfoSec Life.

This ITSPmagazine podcast, more than any other, really explores the intersection of society and technology. This is where we talk to InfoSec professionals not just about what they do or how technology changes the way we live, but how it impacts humanity and, most importantly, their own personal life, for better or worse.

So many people in this field have said, at one point in their career, “the InfoSec life is killing me,” and yet few people are really talking about this issue. Admitting to anything along these lines is still taboo. This industry-specific phenomenon called defender fatigue usually starts with a passionate drive to excel at your job in cybersecurity, then the doubt and imposter syndrome kick in, then a need to work harder to prove that voice in your head wrong, which soon turns to into anxiety, depression, or worse.

Karen graciously allowed me to have this honest conversation with her and generously opened up about her experience, struggles and victories as she got into, dropped out of, and then returned to an InfoSec life. She’s an eloquent speaker and a great storyteller, so I hope you enjoy this  – part one of Karen’s story.

Tune in to hear how her parents expected their daughter to be a scientist even though she “sucked at math,” what she did when her brother put a TRS-80 computer running DOS with 64K of RAM on the kitchen table and told her she had to learn to code, how she landed her first job doing computer security for the Boeing Company, and how starting in the arts has helped her in her InfoSec career. There was nothing intentional about getting into cybersecurity  – as Karen says, it found her – but it turned out to be a profession that she is passionate about and led her to CISO roles at AT&T Wireless and Microsoft.

And stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3-part series next week as Karen takes us down a darker segment of her security journey….

Part 1 of this 3-part series. Listen to part 2 right here!


About Karen Worstell

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W Risk Group LLC founder Karen Worstell, MS, MA is a cybersecurity expert who was inspired to study cybersecurity while a computer science grad student after her professor encrypted a final exam. She had to use her kit of code-breaking tools – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her work was initially in research at companies like Boeing and SRI Consulting to develop computing models for the emerging world of distributed computing and the Internet. She presented appeals for improving cybersecurity for the Internet alongside luminaries like Donn Parker, Peter Neumann, Rhonda MacLean, the late Howard Schmidt, Fred Thompson, and the Secretary General of Interpol in the early 2000s. Later she held leadership roles in cybersecurity for Bank of America, AT&T Wireless and Russell Investments.

Today she consults on cybersecurity talent, matching cybersecurity professionals to the companies who need them, and provides coaching masterminds and intensives that contribute to improved cybersecurity by increasing resilience in IT pros in highly stressful roles.

She believes that computer science and cybersecurity are important career fields for everyone, and encourages women and young female students to excel as computer technology professionals through her mentoring and coaching programs. She has spoken internationally on the topic of cybersecurity, is the author of books on the subject and is also a contributor to publications on cybersecurity, IT, and e-discovery.

Find Karen on Twitter and LinkedIn.