This post is a part of our Women in Cybersecurity series. As part of the Women in Cybersecurity series, we plan to shine a light on women in the IT security trenches at our customer sites and across the industry. If you would like for us to recognize a female colleague in IT security, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy the series. Read the kickoff post here to learn more about the series.
Penni Kessler, Director of Product Management at Spirion
Can you tell us your current job role and provide a summary of your career?
I am currently the Director of Product Management – making sure the Product Management team keeps on course with delivering current and new products for Protecting What Matters Most (your privacy). Sometimes I call myself a Professional Cat Herder!
Working with the executive team on strategy and then making the strategy a reality is also part of Product Management’s role within the organization. I collaborate with Engineering and QA on putting processes in place to expedite development and delivery of product. I then work with other departments such as Product Marketing, Customer Success, Documentation and Support, to ensure they have what they need from Product to get their jobs done.
I originally started as a programmer/analyst which was before people were called software engineers. I learned quickly that I preferred doing the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ more than the ‘How’ and made the move to Product Management.
What do you love about IT security?
I love being able to see real world use cases solved and helping people and companies protect themselves. I have gotten those emails saying you might have been part of our security breach, and it feels good to work at Spirion where there is a solution to help other organizations protect what matters most by reducing their security risk exposure.
I have been involved with the security industry since early 2000, first implementing the security framework for a SaaS enterprise HCM solution. Now I get to work for Spirion where the organization lives and breathes privacy and security. It’s a great experience.
Why is diversity in IT important now more than ever?
Everyone needs to be a part of the discussion. Different experiences and viewpoints provide a more well informed decision-making process, especially in times of crisis. Now more than ever, diversity in IT is needed to guide our companies in tough times and into the future.
What is something you struggle with in professional life that other in women in IT might have trouble with too? What are you doing to overcome that?
I still feel that IT is male dominated. In recent statistics, women only hold 25% of jobs in the technology industry. This makes it hard to get a seat at the table and then be able to use your voice. I try to find mentors and people that embody diversity to help bring those values into the culture. This helps me feel empowered to speak up and have my voice heard. Having a good mentor helps guide me in my career and overcome some of the challenges that I encounter in the workplace.
What tips do you have for women starting in technology/IT security?
Embrace your feminism and who you are as a human. When describing other women use terms such as assertive, empowered, intelligent, instead of words that might have bad connotations. First impressions make a difference, and once words are heard, it’s hard to undo the damage. And don’t be afraid to use your voice!
What advice would you give any women in IT to advance their careers beyond entry-level?
Keep on educating yourself…Never stop learning. Find people who you want to emulate and mentors that will help elevate you to your next level. Lean in and embrace new opportunities and challenges.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to travel with my husband. We have been to all 7 continents and over 60 countries. Concerts are an outlet for me – having seen over 100 different artists – from Eric Clapton to Prince to Green Day. I believe live music increases your happiness factor. I also love hiking and spoiling my dog!