Breaking Barriers at Black Hat 2022 with Women in CybersecurityKasey Ello
After more than two years of having our days filled with Zoom meetings, many of us in the cybersecurity industry have been eager to get back to in-person events and conferences to reconnect with colleagues and create and strengthen business relationships. Alison Adkins, Business Development Manager at ThreatQuotient, saw an opportunity to take the on-site networking experience to a new level and spearheaded a first of its kind event specifically for women in cybersecurity at Black Hat USA 2022. We had a chance to sit down with Alison—a CRN Women of the Channel recipient two years running and a 2020 CRN Rising Female Star—to get the backstory and details.
- How did the inaugural Women in Cyber Cocktail Hour at Black Hat USA 2022 come about?
In an industry where women comprise roughly 25% of the workforce, it can be hard to break through the barriers and feel confident networking mostly with men. Speaking with other women at RSAC 2022 in June, many of my conversations centered around how events tend to be incredibly formal—consisting of panels and keynotes—which contributes to making it hard to build relationships and friendships. We agreed it would be great if there was a forum at the next big event where women could meet comfortably. I decided to even provide slippers at the door so we could all kick off our shoes and relax! It was a fantastic evening with some drinks and great conversation… I may or may not be wearing my slippers now.
- How did you get involved and what was your role?
I’m continuously motivated to take on new challenges and break barriers. So, I got really excited about the potential for an event like this and decided I’d start running with the idea, figuring out the earliest, best forum and how to market it. I was able to secure a space during Black Hat and scheduled the gathering at the beginning of the week, before calendars filled up. I decided to make it a vendor-agnostic event to benefit any woman who was attending Black Hat. Of course, I didn’t do this alone. My female colleagues at ThreatQuotient and the marketing team provided support. It’s safe to say that it was a majorly successful event & I can’t wait to make this a fixture at major cybersecurity tradeshows and conferences so that women can continue to extend their networks and connect with like-minded people.
- Why do you think events like these are important?
I think in any industry, regardless of gender, it can be hard to find your footing and make an impact. The pandemic raised the barriers even higher for younger people and women to make real and meaningful connections because people were only able to get jobs and meet coworkers through video. When face-to-face conferences resumed, we were excited but quickly reminded that it is still hard to meet people within the structure of a typical conference. It’s easier to stop by and make connections at a smaller, more targeted forum where you know you’ll find people who have gone through similar experiences as they’ve come up through the industry.
- What are your hopes for women in cybersecurity in the future?
I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by impressive, resilient women – my mom, my sisters, my girlfriends and now, my coworkers – but not all young women are lucky enough to have female role models and mentors within their reach. My hope is that women in our industry will continue to be encouraged to bring new and innovative ideas to the table – which has historically been occupied by men – but also to serve as mentors and guides for younger women. The beauty in breaking barriers is creating an easier path for those after us.
- What advice do you have for women coming up in the cybersecurity industry or thinking about getting into cybersecurity?
Starting any new position is always intimidating but remember that every person you encounter has started somewhere. At some point in their careers, they felt the same anxieties and pressures that you may be feeling now. Ask questions if you don’t know the answer, find a mentor that has a career path in line with where you see yourself in the future, and never be afraid to speak up and take risks. The industry is changing quickly and every day is an opportunity to learn something new. So, put yourself in a position to take on something that isn’t necessarily in your realm of knowledge. I’ve found it pays off in spades!
Missed out on the first Women in Cyber Cocktail Hour at Black Hat USA 2022? Connect with Alison, and stay in touch for more meet and greets in the future.