NYU Tandon and Cyversity partner to celebrate trailblazing women

4 women that organized an event to celebrate Women in Cybersecurity

Left to right: Alexandra Adegoke, Grace Chi, Ruth Gittens, and Alexandra Tarabour

Recently, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Digital Learning at NYU Tandon joined forces with the nonprofit organization Cyversity to hold an inspiring event, “CyberTrailblazers: Leading the Charge for Women in Cybersecurity.”

Campanella Godfrey Jr., a Cyversity leader, explained that the partnership between his organization and the School of Engineering was a natural one. “Addressing cyber threats requires a diverse workforce with varied skills, background, and perspectives, and our mission is to introduce women and those from other underrepresented groups to the possibility of careers in the field,” he said. “NYU Tandon has long had a similar goal of encouraging diversity in STEM, and has compiled a solid track record of proof that diverse teams collaborate more effectively and problem-solve more efficiently. With our goals aligned in that way — and with NYU being among the region’s premier institutions of higher learning — of course we wanted to partner. I hope this will be just one in a long string of joint events.”      

Shivani Dhir, the Assistant Dean of Digital & Lifelong Learning, concurred. "Collaboration with professional organizations such as Cyversity is key to what we do at Tandon and the type of bi-directional relationship we continue to maintain with industry,” she said. “Their mission and programming to support a diverse and inclusive cybersecurity workforce directly aligns with our efforts to educate and develop the next generation of leaders from diverse backgrounds in cybersecurity and more broadly, across all technology fields." (Tandon’s innovative Cyber Fellows program, which makes cybersecurity education accessible by providing a 75% scholarship, is just one example of those efforts.)

a panel of female speakers on stage

Speakers at the event, true to its name, included a trio of trailblazers who had each forged an exciting career path:

  • Grace Chi, the Cofounder and COO of Pulsedive, a company dedicated to providing frictionless and community-driven threat intelligence for growing teams
  • Ruth Gittens, an executive cybersecurity leader
  • Alexandra Tarabour, the COO of ForceField, a company with patent-pending software for digital evidence that verifies metadata in real-time, offering solvability and provability against disinformation, content deletion/spoofing, physical threats, and cyber attacks.

Advice and encouragement were watchwords from the panel, which was skillfully and smoothly moderated by Alexandra Adegoke, a recent cybersecurity graduate, and each speaker provided several takeaways.

Tarabour, for example, described herself as a generalist, rather than a diehard techincal practioner, and stressed that cybersecurity companies need people adept in areas like finance, human relations, and marketing too. “A company can have a dozen top-notch engineers and practioners, but if none of them are comfortable interacting with clients, interviewing potential employees, or garnering new business, that’s not going to be a viable enterprise,” she said. “If you are interested in keeping the world safe, there’s a place for you in cybersecurity.”

Chi related that in her hundreds of meetings with clients and partners, she had still ever been to only one meeting of cyber practitioners attended solely by women, admitting that while the field had greatly diversified in recent years, there was still a lot of growth needed. “It’s important to persist and not be dissuaded by rejection,” she asserted. “You might send out 100 applications and get only a few positive responses. That’s not failure, because one great ‘yes’ is all you need. Taking those chances, accepting rejection, and continuously improving is how you’ll find success. And to all who may see youth as an impediment, keep in mind that a year of good experience can be more valuable than many mediocre years of ‘dialing it in.’ In a relatively new and maturing field like cybersecurity, meaningful experience and drive can set you apart early.”

All of the panelists stressed the importance of finding mentors (think of them like parachutes, Tarabour advised; you might still fall a bit, but they could keep you from hitting bottom). 

Gittens has been in tech for more than 20 years and has made it a point to help others throughout her career. “Enough of us have gotten to a point where we can support and uplift each other, and we have an obligation to do that,” she asserted. “From where I’m sitting now, I just want everyone to know that anything is possible.” 

Event participants reviewing literature at a table