Women in CybersecurityPROFILE - GIANNA WHITVER & MARIA VELASQUEZ
Gianna Whitver & Maria Velasquez
Cybersecurity Marketing Society- Co-Founders
What is your current role?
Gianna: Co-Founder & CEO of the Cybersecurity Marketing Society, VP Marketing at Votiro
Maria: Co-Founder of Cybersecurity Marketing Society, Director of Demand Generation at Feroot Security
How long have you worked there?
Gianna: The Cybersecurity Marketing Society will have its 2-year anniversary next month. I’ve been at Votiro for almost 2 years.
Maria: 4 weeks at Feroot Security 🙂
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Gianna: I enjoy the team I work with at Votiro. There’s nothing better than good people. At the Society, I enjoy the process of building everyday, trying new things out, and creating!
Maria: What made me fall in love with Feroot and convinced me to make the leap is the people. The founders truly believe in marketing and the impact it can have on the company’s growth, what’s more, Chris Kolling the VP of Marketing is the exact type of leader and mentor I need at this stage in my career.
What do you enjoy most about the company?
Gianna: Votiro is in an innovative and fast-growing space, which means there’s a lot of opportunity. The Society, as a community, is helping others, and that’s very satisfying. We have received so many messages from other cybersecurity marketers that we helped them with a marketing issue or even finding a job!
Maria: We’re small but mighty, we have some brilliant minds in cybersecurity helping shape the product roadmap and ensuring we continue innovating and staying ahead. It is also exciting to be part of a journey to educate the community and market on client-side security and why it’s important. But from a marketing perspective, I love that we are a marketing first startup that is leading its growth strategy with full belief in marketing’s potential, giving it its deserved resources, budgets, and patience it needs.
How did you get into cybersecurity?
Gianna: I, like many others, tripped and stumbled into it by accident. I met my first boss in cybersecurity at SXSW in 2018 at SXSW Pitch. I just asked him if he needed marketing help, and he said yes!
Maria: I got into cybersecurity by chance, joining a local company here in CT that sold hardware-based cybersecurity products to the government and critical infrastructure. It’s where I learned about the industry, its intricacies, and its tough but crazy smart audience.
What are your hopes for women in cybersecurity in the future?
Gianna: Cybersecurity can be a lucrative career. I’m hoping more women rise to the high ranks of the space.
Maria: I have two daughters, my 8 year old always asks to hear about projects at work, she thinks it’s fascinating that I work in cybersecurity, and is always so proud to talk about mommy and her work on the society and the podcast we just launched. My hope is for this generation exactly, for today’s 8 year olds to see that it’s very much possible and attainable, to be a leader, be part of a community, to make a difference and to have a seat and a voice at the big boys table.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. What does that mean to you?
Gianna: Breaking the bias is being intentional in trying to eliminate bias from our lives. We must not just recognize, but become empowered bystanders who can help others also recognize biases and break them!
Maria: As an immigrant, woman, arab, married to an hispanic immigrant, we set out to break biases everyday of our lives, even outside the 9-5 hustle. This theme just means that there are so many already breaking biases every day, and that feels nice in a way, to know you’re not alone and that you’re heard.
What is the Cybersecurity Marketing Society?
Gianna:The Cybersecurity Marketing Society (the Society) is the largest private community for marketing professionals in the cybersecurity industry to network, mindshare, and grow professionally. We host networking, fun, and educational events, create resources like our Cybersecurity Marketing Compensation Data, host a podcast called Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing, produce original research like our 2021 State of Cybersecurity Marketing Report, and support cybersecurity marketers in growing their careers. It was founded in 2020 with the goal of bringing community, resources, and education to a complicated, constantly changing industry. To learn more and become a member, visit www.cybersecuritymarketingsociety.com.
Maria: The society is a private community created for marketers who work in cybersecurity. It was born from a need. A need to have a place where cyber marketers can come together, help each other, complain about failures and celebrate wins. 2 years after inception, 900 members strong, this community does exactly just that. It’s free to join and it’s already helped so many with new ideas, strategies, and even new career adventures. We have big plans for this community, we love our members and the support they’ve shown us since day 1.
Why did you start the community?
Gianna: Maria & I had met each other when she interviewed at a previous employer. We kept in touch, and she and I would call each other when we had marketing challenges that we wanted another set of eyes on. Our informal peer mentoring was super helpful! In February of 2020, we were just catching up on a phone call when we said: Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring this to more people? Together, with Aileen Casmano, we launched the Cybersecurity Marketing Society in March 2020 as a Slack community with 10 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 900 and continues to grow every day!
Maria: We started the community in March 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. Gianna, Aileen and I put all our hearts into it, while juggling full time work and family. We knew we needed a group for cyber marketers because it’s so niche, special in many ways and only marketers who work in cyber understand what it takes. It has taken off and has become so vibrant because it’s a testament to the need for it.
How many members are there?
Gianna: As of 2/22/2022, more than 930!
Maria: We are almost at 1,000 members! It’s been wonderful to see the growth of this community, how excited people are to join and the caliber of talent, companies and expertise we have in our membership.
How can people join?
Gianna: Apply to join at https://cybersecuritymarketingsociety.com/request-to-join/
Maria: If you are a marketer who works full time at a cybersecurity company, you can visit our website and find the application to apply to join. You can visit: www.cybersecuritymarketingsociety.com
Anything else you’d like people to know?
Gianna: We have amazing conversations in the Slack community (talking about and recommending vendors, helping solve challenges, discussing trends) but if Slack is not your thing we also have 3 newsletters and other ways to engage!
Maria: We just launched a brand new podcast called Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing, with exciting conversations with the brightest in the industry, telling their stories and sharing their knowledge. Find the latest episode wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, please remember to subscribe and review to help support us.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Gianna: A veterinarian or a writer.
Maria: I actually wanted to be an archeologist. I loved everything about ancient Egypt and was fascinated about traveling back in time through discoveries.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Gianna: A friend sent me the Cult of Done Manifesto once, and I’ve taken a lot of it to heart since then. Also: ask for a number that makes you uncomfortable, and talk slower.
Maria: Don’t be intimidated by people in higher positions than you, they hired you because they need you, not the other way around.