Dinah Davis: A perfect synergy of intelligence and leadership wisdom

Women in Security

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inspiration for many, Dinah motivates her team to stay on the front foot, accept every challenge, expand their potential and shatter every limit that stops them from reaching their full potential. A leader in a true sense, Dinah aims to change society’s perception of how women are viewed in technology and provide them a place they deserve.

In a recent interview with Aspioneer, Dinah shared her view on the industry, the challenges she faced, and her action plan to turn the industry into a thriving and flourishing one.

Aspioneer (A): Dinah, could you enlighten us about yourself, your brand, and its services?

Dinah Davis (D): “I am Dinah Davis, VP of R&D Operations at Arctic Wolf. Arctic Wolf is the global leader in security operations, delivering the first cloud-native security operations platform to end cyber risk. Powered by threat telemetry spanning endpoint, network, and cloud sources, the Arctic Wolf® Security Operations Cloud ingests & analyzes trillions of security events each week to enable critical outcomes for most security use cases. The Arctic Wolf® Platform delivers automated threat detection and response at scale and empowers organizations of any size to stand up world-class security operations with the push of a button. We aim to become the leader in Security Operations and our mission is to end cyber risk.”

"Be Persistent. We have seen a lot of positive change for Women in Security over the last 15 years, but we have hit the hardest part of the process. The part where everyone knows that increasing diversity in tech is the right thing to do."

(A): What led you to form Arctic Wolf? What are you trying to achieve through Arctic Wolf?

(D): “We realized early on that security isn’t solely a tools problem or a staffing problem, it is an operational problem. We built a cloud-native security operations platform and created the industry’s first Concierge Security Team to deliver key operational capabilities like Arctic Wolf® Managed Detection and Response, Managed Risk, Cloud Detection and Response, and Managed Security Awareness to our customers. We are unique in the industry because the Concierge Security Team not only works round the clock to protect customers from threats but also plays a strategic role. Since your Concierge Security Engineers are named resources, they develop a unique understanding of your environment over time, use this knowledge to continually assess your overall security posture, and work proactively with you to ensure that your organization always improves and adapts to the threat landscape. This combination of tactical execution and strategic guidance is what sets Arctic Wolf apart. We envision a future without cyber risk. Every organization should be so effective at security operations that both the likelihood and impact of a cyber-attack are minimized to the point where risk is essentially zero. The Arctic Wolf Platform and Concierge Security Team make it fast and easy for organizations of any size to get world-class security operations that continually guard against attacks efficiently and sustainably.”

(A): So how did you enter into the world of cyber security?

(D): “When I was in high school, I was very good at math. I took the high school calculus class and prided myself on obtaining better grades than the boys. When it came time to choose a career, I went to the school counselor for advice. He said, “You’re great at math and science and you are a girl, so you should be a math teacher.” My 17-year-old self naively believed him and didn’t even consider schools with engineering, mathematics, or computer science programs. I went to the University of Lethbridge in Alberta to become a math teacher. After my first year there I realized that the most critical part of becoming a teacher was to be passionate about teaching. I found that I was passionate and dedicated to mathematics and not teaching. I decided not to become a teacher. That was the best choice I could ever have made! I waited until my third year of university to take my first computer science course. All my friends told me it was very hard and no fun at all, so I had put it off. After the first few classes, I realized it was no more difficult than my other math classes and I enjoyed it. That is when I fell in love with Computer Science. What I hadn’t realized before was that the strongest skills you need for computer science are logical thinking and problem-solving. These are exactly the skills that talented people in mathematics have. I loved that computer science gave me a real-world way to use this talent. Later in my third year of university, I decided to join the co-op program (internship program) to try and acquire some much-needed job experience. A role with the Canadian government opened. They were looking for math students with computer science experience. Excellent! That was me! They had me implement the Bluetooth spec in C++ so they could evaluate its security value. This was how I discovered and fell in love with Cyber Security. It is the perfect career for someone who loves mathematics and computer science.”

Dinah Davis
Dinah Davis

(A): Can you share your experience in the industry? Did you face any gender bias? How did you handle it?

(D): “Since being told to be a math teacher instead of an engineer, or software developer at 17 because I was a woman who was interested in mathematics, I knew the cards were stacked against Women in Technology. This hit me again when I took an upper-level computing course at the University of Lethbridge. The school had a ratio of 6-1 women to men, but I was only one of two women in a class of 60. The last straw for me was getting treated very badly by a direct supervisor after almost 10 years in the industry. This is the point at which many women would quit tech, instead, this was the moment I chose to use my voice to try and create change! From that day on I started blogging, leading coding workshops, and doing whatever advocacy work I could do to make a positive impact. In January 2016 I consolidated this work into Code Like A Girl, codelikeagirl.io, an online publication amplifying the voices of Women In Technology. Code Like A Girl has over 1000 writers, and gets about 2500 visitors a day.”

(A): How do you normally unwind?

(D): “I love listening to books and podcasts on my daily walk with my Goldendoodle Sudo. Here are some of my favorite podcasts: Smashing Security – I love its mix of security information and humor, Darknet Diaries – Great in-depth security stories from the people involved and Cyberwire Daily – Your one-stop shop for staying on top of daily ongoing security news. My go to books are The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll, The Perfect Weapon: How the Cyber Arms Race Set the World Afire by David E Sanger and This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race by Nicole Perlroth.”

(A): Last but not the least, what advice would you give to all the women trying to make their mark in the industry?

(D): “Be Persistent. We have seen a lot of positive change for Women in Security over the last 15 years, but we have hit the hardest part of the process. The part where everyone knows that increasing diversity in tech is the right thing to do. Many men are trying to effect positive change, but sometimes their unconscious biases are undermining their good intentions and alienating the women, people of color, and other minorities who work for them. This can be extremely frustrating for those of us impacted by those biases. However, if we hold the frustration in, we will become tired, bitter, and disengaged. We need to release the frustration first and then we can channel it for good. So how do we do this without impacting the progress we have already made?

We need to have people in our life to vent to about our struggles. People who will listen and empathize with us. People who will remind us what amazing strong smart beautiful women we are and that we cannot give up. People who have been through the same thing we have so we know we are not alone. What does it mean to channel our frustration into positive change? For me, it means building up the women around me and advocating for them wherever and whenever I can. It means mentoring them. Taking the time out of my day to help build the next generation even though I am exhausted. Without them, we have no future. We must be persistent. Together we will rise!”

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