Ahead of the Duke Cybersecurity Conference: Women Cybersecurity Experts discuss challenges in the field and how to overcome them

September 19, 2023 | Emilia Chiscop-Head

We asked these experts what the main challenges in the field are and what advice they would give to young professionals.

Women experts in Cybersecurity who will speak at the Duke Cybersecurity Conference

Women with outstanding careers in cybersecurity will bring invaluable insights at the Duke Cybersecurity Conference which starts next week in Washington DC. The event is organized by the Duke Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Program, in collaboration with Georgetown University Center for Security Studies, George Mason University and the FBI Association for Intelligence Analysts. We asked the women experts what the main challenges in the field are and what advice would they give students and other young professionals who prepare for Cyber careers.

Carrie Cordero

Carrie Cordero, the Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow and General Counsel at CNAS, and a reputed scholar and a public voice, will moderate the Cybersecurity, Law and Policy panel. Cordero was appointed by the Secretary of Homeland Security to the Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2022. She led national security studies at Georgetown Law for a decade, while also being an adjunct professor. Her research and writing interests focus on homeland security and intelligence community oversight, transparency, surveillance, cybersecurity, and related national and homeland security law and policy issues. The public has known her voice from articles and interviews published by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN.com, Politico, USA Today, etc.

Kem Gay

Before joining American Express’ cyber intelligence team, Kem Gay worked for 12 years with FBI. And before that, she was a police officer and crime analyst. Kem - who in her current role, produces intelligence on threat actors and cyber operations impacting the financial sector - will moderate the “Women in Cyber Threat Intel” - one of the 10 sessions of the Duke Cybersecurity Conference, taking place in Washington, DC, next week. “One challenge continues to be the evolving landscape of cyber threats,” the moderator Kem Gay added. She is advising students and young professionals to stay informed, proactive, and never stop learning.

Danielle Snyder

“Having a thorough understanding of the cyber threats that endanger your organization's security is a never-ending battle. The challenge is to stay one step ahead of the bad actor, whether internal or external, using proven controls, automation, and an ever-vigilant mindset,” said Danielle Snyder, the Cyber and Compliance Lead for Air Power at Raytheon in Tucson, AZ. She retired from the US Air Force at the rank of Major - following a 23-year career in information technology and cyber operations. Her military career included missions in Iraq and Afghanistan where she provided direct and secure communications for battlefield commanders and was rewarded with several medals, including the Bronze Star Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. She is inviting professionals interested in Cyber careers to stay flexible and curious. She added: “There are many moving parts to cybersecurity and a lot of you will need to understand how your organization works before your security methods can be effective. Understand the risks your organization faces, understand the threats and vulnerabilities. Change jobs every now and then, from analyst to engineer to red teamer to threat hunter. Getting these different experiences will round out your talent and make you very valuable to your organization.”

 Colonel (Ret.) Candice Frost

“Cybersecurity is a field of lifelong learners,” said Colonel (Ret.) Candice Frost, who spent 25 years in intelligence and cyber operations for CIA, National Security Agency, and US Army. Col. Frost is now the Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) Commander at United States Cyber Command.  In this role she is leading the Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC)’s effort to provide all-source intelligence support to cyber operations. She also sits on the Cybersecurity Program Industry Advisory Board at Duke’s Master of Engineering and serves as an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University. She was named one of the top government executive leaders to watch in 2023 and received both the Billington Inaugural Cyber Workforce Award and the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology Impact Award in 2022. 

One of the key challenges for the field, but also an opportunity for the professionals who want to enter the Cybersecurity arena is “attracting and retaining cleared professionals”, continued  adjunct instructor of the Georgetown Center for Security Studies and a Georgetown University and Stanford alumna. She believes that the national security community needs to make it easier for professionals to move back and forth between government and industry. “There needs to be a better communication strategy to dispel myths about working in a classified environment,” concluded Mary Quinn, whose career included a military intelligence officer appointment after graduation, then as an analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and later as a senior executive in the federal government from where she retired to join Deloitte in 2018.

A Duke University and Stanford Alumna, Sandra Cavazos is the Vice President for Product Security and Privacy at Comcast where she is responsible for building security and privacy into all customer-facing and internal products and technology for the company. 

Gurdeep Kaur

Gurdeep Kaur, Managing Director & Chief Information Security Officer, at PSEG Utility, has over 20 years of core experience in cybersecurity that spans across multiple sectors including telecom, financial, healthcare and energy. “IT/OT convergence and II0T implementation have significant implications for the critical infrastructure”, said Ms. Kaur asked about one major challenge in the field.

Rupal Kharod, VP of Communications and External Engagement, the FBI Association of Intelligence Analysts will participate in the conference within the panel on Cyber Education and Cybersecurity - pathways and careers. Rupal has developed an impressive career at FBI where she was an intelligence analyst for almost a decade. She was also a certified adjunct instructor for the FBI, teaching overseas and speaking at conferences at the request of the Department of Justice, International Law Enforcement Academy, United Nations, and LEGAT partners. Ms. Kharod is currently a student in the Duke Cybersecurity master’s program. Lisa Sotto, Chair, Global Privacy and Cybersecurity and Managing Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth, LLP, will be a panelist on the Cybersecurity Law and Policy panel, moderated by Carrie Cordero on September 27.

Jennifer Swann, Director of the Information Security at Bloomberg Industry Group, will be serving on the “Cybersecurity and Operations” panel. “One key consideration within cybersecurity is that the threat landscape is rapidly evolving. The tools, tactics, techniques, and procedures of threat actors are always changing and becoming more sophisticated. To address this challenge, it's best to invest in threat intelligence and develop a mature program,” she said. Stephanie Walker, the Unit Chief of the Cyber Division at the FBI since 2020, and Lauren Williams, Threat Intelligence Specialist (Enterprise Protection), Amazon will also join the discussion.

Those interested in participating can still register. The organizers wanted to make the event an accessible opportunity for students and the public. To secure a spot, registrants will pay between $25 (for virtual attendees) and 100 USD for in person attendance.