Guest Speaker: Confessions of a Former DHS Cybersecurity Official

WASHINGTON — July 20, 2017 — On July 18th Dr. Phyllis Schneck, former Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications for the Department of Homeland Security, visited the classroom to discuss cybersecurity with a panel of her colleagues from Promontory Financial Group. Promontory protects US agencies, banks, and other entities in the private sector from cyberthreats. Dr. Schneck serves as Promontory’s managing director and global lead of cyber solutions. She is also an active member of the Women’s Initiative Network.

Dr. Schneck, Natasha Ghatak, Martine-Pascal Guajean, and Joan Tomlinson each have different roles at Promontory. However, as they explained to the girls, all four women have found their knowledge of technology essential for their success. As the leader of Promontory’s cybersecurity practice, Dr. Schneck’s 15 years of cyber experience is fundamental to her role. Ghatak is in sales, but her background in information security is helping her lead Promontory’s integration with parent company IBM. Guajean is the firm’s associate and deputy general counsel, yet she relies on her technical knowledge to provide her company with legal support. As senior vice president for product development. Tomlinson supervises the development of software that helps banks ensure they’re in compliance with regulations. After the panelists described how understanding technology helps them do their jobs every day, Dr. Schneck drove the point home for the girls: “You can spend this entire summer learning [computer science], and take that knowledge and do whatever you want with it.”

The panelists also encouraged students to discover their passion and make a career out of it – no matter how long it takes to find that passion. Guajean revealed that she didn’t become a lawyer until she was in her thirties. “It’s never too late to change your mind,” she advised. “Allow yourself room to grow and figure out what you’re passionate about.”