Back in 1970, the world witnessed its first ever ‘cyber-attack.’ Meant with no malicious intent, this harmless little joke between two technology-heads paved the way to a whole new kind of lawlessness: cyber-crime. Over the years, cyber criminals have not only become more resilient and harder to track but cyber-crime also been responsible for inflicting billions of dollars’ worth of damage to organizations and economies. The truth is that in the modern scenario, without the backing of skilled professionals and highly experienced private-sector organizations, a government alone does not have the scale to manage and improve the overall digital defenses of an entire country.
Modern threats necessitate modern solutions. To counter cyber-crime, cybersecurity has evolved at break-neck speeds, with organizations world over offering an array of cyber-protection solutions to choose from. Best-in-class governments enable best-in-class cybersecurity companies to thrive, and Accenture Federal Services, is nothing but the best.
LTG (R) Mary Legere, Managing Director and Strategy and Engagement Lead for the National Security portfolio at Accenture Federal Services shares, “our purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.” “We do what it takes to help our clients do the extraordinary things it takes to make our world safer, life better, and our future brighter.”
Strengthening the System
The global security landscape is constantly changing, with new threats and disruptive technologies presenting unique and increasingly complex risks on a daily basis. For more than four decades, Accenture Federal Services has been serving some of the most high-risk sectors of the U.S. federal government including but not limited to defense, national security, public safety, civilian and health services, with a dedicated workforce supporting client missions all around the world.
The primary focus of Accenture Federal Services’ National Security team is to help the government anticipate, adapt and respond to the modern and volatile digital threat landscape – whether that be through advanced analytics, full-spectrum cyber, machine learning, secure cloud, multi-domain fusion solutions or others. The company’s true strength lies in its ability to deliver interdisciplinary, future-ready innovations through a unique combination of technology and human talent. They achieve this by bringing together the latest technology, proven commercial innovation and mission expertise to help clients create more impact and value for their customers, their workforces and their governments.
“We also tap into the power of Accenture, as one of the global leaders driving digital transformation for industry leaders in more than 120 countries around the world,” says Mary.
In 2021, Accenture Federal Services expanded their already talented team by acquiring Novetta, an advanced analytics company and its 1,300 employees – including software developers, data scientists, and experts in machine learning, cyber, cloud, and information exploitation. Legere says, “our people are experts not only in the leading commercial technologies that are driving transformative change in the global economy. They also bring human talent to create uniquely tailored solutions in the federal and national security space. You won’t find this cadre of highly cleared; highly experienced individuals just about anywhere else.”
Another thing that attracted Legere to Accenture Federal Services is its commitment to diversity in all its forms. Accenture Federal Services FS hires people with diverse talents, backgrounds, and experience. “Diversity is core to who we are, and what makes us more innovative and stronger. It is what sets us apart from our competitors and creates even more value for our clients,” she shares.
“While more encouraging than only 11% of women in the cyber workforce in 2017, we are still nowhere near the representation needed to be considered a diverse workforce”
Being Lieutenant General Legere
Having joined Accenture Federal Services in 2016, Legere has since focused on expanding AFS’ presence in the defense intelligence community, drawing from Accenture’s leading-edge capabilities across the innovation architecture to assist clients on their data, cloud, AI and cyber security journeys. Prior to joining AFS, Legere served in the U.S. Army as a senior intelligence officer, retiring at the acclaimed rank of Lieutenant General. A decorated officer, today Legere is a revered figure in the global cyber-security industry.
“I spent 34 years in the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Officer. Over the course of my career, I served in over 25 leadership and intelligence roles, including service as Commander at every level. As a General Officer, I served as the Senior Military Intelligence Officer for U.S. Forces in the Republic of Korea, and as the C2 in Iraq, in support of the Multinational Forces Iraq. I then served as the Commanding General of the U.S. Army’s 16,000-person global Intelligence and Security Command, and finally as the Army G2, where I was the Army’s Senior Intelligence Officer, and responsible for the readiness, operations, and modernization of the Army’s 58,000-person Intelligence Corps in 120 countries around the world.”
Additionally, Legere is also a board member for several intelligence community associations as well as the chairperson of the National Military Intelligence Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and mass communication from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), a master’s degree in military arts and science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, a master’s degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College, and an honorary doctorate of letters from UNH.
Having transitioned from the Army in 2016, Legere wanted to continue her service to the U.S. Intelligence and National Security Community, and her role at AFS brought her the opportunity to do so. To get to work with a team of some of the best technology professionals in the world, ushering in innovative solutions and addressing some of the most unprecedented security challenges of current times, makes Legere feel humbled.
In addition to her work with the National Military Intelligence Foundation, the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and the Military Cyber Professionals Association, Legere is also associated with programs like DOD’s SkillBridge, which connects members of the military within 180 days of release from active duty to training and development with industry and employers.
“Be fearless, be relentless and TAKE YOUR PLACE! More than ever, our nation needs the very best from all of us – so to the women currently in or aspiring to lead in this industry, lean in, and bring your very best! You will help us create a better future!”
Addressing the Gender Gap in Cybersecurity
As a woman having spent her entire career in security – first national then cyber – Legere shares that she has always been conscious of the fact that women have largely remained underrepresented in her profession. While the numbers are improving, at present women account for just 24% of the overall cybersecurity workforce. “While more encouraging than only 11% of women in the cyber workforce in 2017, we are still nowhere near the representation needed to be considered a diverse workforce,” says Legere.
She further states, “establishing and sustaining a proactive, adaptive, persistent, and resilient approach to cybersecurity begins and ends with our ability to build creative and adaptive cybersecurity teams that integrate diversity of all kinds – including women, and teammates from across many disciplines, backgrounds and ethnicities.”
Over the years, Legere has observed the change in the tide with more and more talented and resilient women joining the cybersecurity workforce. She feels proud to be a part of this change in which more women are earning cybersecurity certifications, seeking post-graduate degrees in the field, qualifying for leadership roles and gaining seats at the head table.
To empower more women to follow their professional dreams, Legere is dedicated to encouraging those at the outset of their careers or negotiating the next phase of their development. Backed by her own personal experience, Legere feels that finding the right mentor is key to career advancement.
“I know personally how important it was to me to have mentors and role models – both seniors and peers – to encourage me when I felt uncertain about taking on a new role, and to help me remain accountable for my professional goals and potential.” “For all those who invested in me for these many years, I do my best every day to try to pay that forward – as a leader who cares deeply about the people I work with, as an active mentor to those who seek my counsel, and as a volunteer with several non-profits focused on mentoring those who aspire for careers in the national security profession.”
To ambitious women, on their own professional journeys, Legere shares these words of wisdom – “Be fearless, be relentless and TAKE YOUR PLACE! More than ever, our nation needs the very best from all of us – so to the women currently in or aspiring to lead in this industry, lean in, and bring your very best! You will help us create a better future!”
Cyber crime is the new wave of warfare and is here to stay for the generations to come.
Looking ahead, the success of Accenture Federal Services remains deeply entwined with its ability to continue to drive a larger and more advanced ecosystem by acquiring and retaining the most competitive talent in order to serve the mission. Across the company, the company continues to increase their investment to create easier access to opportunities for people through mentoring, skill-building, training, apprenticeships, certifications and other pathways.
The right balance of innovation for future-readiness, and deep partnerships with R&D and private sector partners continue to reinforce the company’s leadership in in cybersecurity. “Altogether, we’re committed to doing all the things it takes to keep skills sharp, create access to new opportunities, create strong communities, and do the most cutting-edge work for missions of national significance,” concludes Legere.