Part 2 of this 3-part series. Listen to part 1 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 – part 2.
In part 1 of this 3-part interview, Karen started at the beginning of her journey when her parents expected her to be a scientist even though she “sucked at math” and wouldn’t pay for school if she took any arts/humanities classes. Then came the day when this mother of two toddlers couldn't even afford .40 cents-a-pound apples and didn’t know what to do – until her brother put a TRS-80 computer on the kitchen table and told her she had to learn to code. That changed everything and soon she landed her first job doing computer security for the Boeing Company, and went on to be CISO at AT&T Wireless and Microsoft.
As she got into these leadership roles, the stress just kept mounting and she just kept working harder because she was afraid of being declared unfit for the job – until one day when she realized that she couldn't make herself do InfoSec anymore. A clear voice in her head said that she was a fake and she was terrified that she had actually lost her mind.
If Karen’s story and struggles and thoughts sound familiar to you, then you’ve gone through something like this, you’ve had some moment where you think ‘I am not enough’ or ‘they’re going to find out I’m a fraud’ or ‘I can’t ask for help - I’m supposed to be the expert’. People get praised and rewarded for all the extreme behaviors that have become so typical in InfoSec – like working 12-hour days or well into the night, taking pills or overdoing the caffeine just to keep going, and the taboo of sharing that you’re struggling and need help – so Karen has generously shared her personal story in this interview to show you that you’re not alone.
Without further ado, here is part 2 of Karen’s story “If I Can Do It, You Can Do It: The Struggles Of An InfoSec Life.”
Tune in to part 3 to hear Karen share how she got her Masters in Theology, finished 2,000 hours of supervised clinical training, and became a Chaplain – and how doing this work in grief and trauma led her back to InfoSec.
About Karen Worstell
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.