Women Absolutely Belong in Cyber and as Leaders

4 min read
(June 7, 2023)

Diana Kelley, the Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Security Officer, and co-founder of Cybrize, serves on the Boards of Cyber Future Foundation, WiCyS, and the Executive Women's Forum (EWF). Prior roles include being the cybersecurity field CTO for Microsoft, Global Executive Security Advisor at IBM Security, GM at Symantec, VP at Burton Group (now Gardner), manager at KPMG, co-founder and CTO of Security Curve, and many other positions.

Her extensive professional volunteering includes serving the ACM Ethics and Plagiarism Committee, CompTIA Cybersecurity Committee, RSAC US Program Committee, and Executive Board member of the Cyber Future Foundation. In addition, she's a sought-after keynote speaker and lecturer and hosts BrightTALK's Security Balancing Act. Has co-authored two books, Practical Cybersecurity Architecture and Cryptographic Libraries for Developers. Kelley was also named the EWF 2020 Executive of the Year and one of the cybersecurity adventures, 100 fascinating females fighting cybercrime. 

This episode highlights include:

  • How her tech background began at nine years old
  • Lifting women up in tech
  • Removing the fear of Generative AI/ChatGPT

The Shift From Editor to Tech

Diana Kelley’s story starts quite early with an interest in technology that began at the young age of 9. Her father brought home a programmable Texas Instruments calculator, and she found herself immediately drawn into the ability to program it to do calculations and print.  Her father, realizing she too was a tech nerd, embraced her passion, and together they built computers.  Later when he was an MIT research professor at Lincoln Labs, MIT gave him an account for the DARPANET (Defense ARPANET), and he got her a guest account to log in.

Even then, as young as she was, she knew that technology was the future, and she fell in love. She could write, she wrote games and taught herself most of it. However, when it was time to go to college, there wasn’t a clear career path in technology back in the 80’s, so she majored in English with a focus on Russian Literature and Shakespeare. After graduating, she got a job in publishing as she wanted to be an editor.  However, she became the “computer gal” at each company– the one they turned to for any issues.

When Kelley landed at a textbook company, they needed software to accompany the textbooks. They put her in charge of acquisitions for the software, as well as training the sales reps on how they would train teachers and professors on how to use the new software. She was quickly noticed for her skills in training and software. She was offered a substantial role leading and training as they began rolling out a new server and required linking of many businesses’ areas.  Kelley reflects on how fortunate she was that a female leader within the company noticed her, but also that the CIO of the company was also a female. She was to be aware of how male-dominated the technology industry was.

Championing for Females

As Kelley’s career progressed, she noted that she was often the only female in the room, and she was very grateful for her boss who noticed her, and in some ways, she feels she owes her career to that boss, Jennifer. Likewise, Kelley now focuses on doing the same for others. She’s aware that advocacy and mentorship were life-changing for her, and she desires to do the same for others.

She’s very active in two groups, EWF, the Executive Women's Forum, which is all about creating a sisterhood of support, and WiCyS, which is Women in Cybersecurity, which assists in recruiting, retraining, and advancing women in cybersecurity. While some women continue to be hesitant and feel trepidation about a position in cybersecurity, Kelley says unequivocally that women need to be in cyber and tech and leadership roles.

Stop the Fear: Generative AI

As with most tech (and other) conversations today, generative AI, ChatGPT, and machine learning became the focus of their discussion. One of the concerns Kelley noted – and one not mentioned enough – is the reduction of critical thinking that is occurring due to generative AI. For example, when using ChatGPT, you lose the opportunity to think for yourself and add your and add your viewpoint and perspective. She has concerns about how AI can further reduce critical thinking and, notes that doing your own research and analysis is priceless.  

However, Dr. Wynn and Kelley call out that although there is fear that AI will put people out of business, the reality is that it’s been around since the 1950’s and in Machine Learning in the 1960s. People may not remember or be old enough to know that ELIZA, the MIT AI, created significant fear in the 60s. Then, there was much concern that machines would take over people.

And yes, there will be jobs replaced by AI/ML, but it will also create new jobs. Kelley provides a few examples where tasks and jobs will be automated, and she hopes that the focus is on automating the ones that are the most painful for human beings, like repetitive robotics.

“We’ve already seen that on the shop floor. But what about if we had a smart AI jackhammer? Instead of a person having to put all that stress on their body, the jackhammer could do the work… We've already done that with things like bomb robots instead of a person having to go in and see if there's a bomb, we can send a robot in.” 

She hopes that we continue replacing jobs that humans don't really want to do and aren't safe for us—also mentioned some of the repetitive jobs, which a system could do easily more quickly than we can, such as looking for massive patterns and large amounts of data.

Diana adds, “But there are going to be jobs about us making sure that systems are not drifting towards bias. It's still operating as expected and that it's getting the electricity and that system can support the needs.  I think that there will some be some jobs that go away, but there will be jobs that are created by this as well.”

We’ve seen fear with each new technology including mobile and cloud and now generative AI, but ultimately if we focus on the positive impacts it can have on business and humanity and carve out new opportunities to support those technologies, we’ll be in a better place.

You can listen to the audio podcast on any of your preferred platforms and hear more from Kelley: 

Apple Podcasts 
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