Becky Pinkard describes herself as an outsider who found her place, and was able to express her true identity, in the cybersecurity industry.
Pinkard, who has worked in cybersecurity since 1996, is now managing director of global cyber operations at Barclays. She is also a speaker, diversity advocate and security trainer who says that she now feels able to be herself. She feels it is vital to share her knowledge and experience, to “open my mouth, get on stage and share back with people.”
“When I was at Digital Shadows they let me use my voice. That is when I started to open up, share stuff and give to the community,” she told the audience at Infosecurity Europe 2023. “How did I get there, what was my career path, and really talking about inclusion and diversity.”
She concedes that her journey has not always been easy. When working at SANS Institute, where she started as a volunteer, she learned that it is “okay not to know everything, that is 100% okay.” It is also ok to laugh in cybersecurity, “even in a bank,” she said.
“You have to have a laugh in this industry. What is the number one answer to any security question? It depends. If ‘it depends’ doesn’t answer it, then it was DNS. These are the little moments you can find levity in.”
According to Pinkard, to succeed in cybersecurity, you need to treat people with kindness, even when doing so is difficult. “It doesn’t take long,” she said.
We should step outside our comfort bubbles and encourage people to do so too. We should not be afraid of starting a conversation with others, for the fear of saying the wrong thing, she argued.
This has helped Pinkard build her successful career in cybersecurity, but more importantly to find a place where she feels at home.
“It took me a long time to figure that out,” she admitted. “I’m a giant freaking lesbian! I had this internalized homophobia. I realized I didn’t like myself, didn’t fit in and didn’t feel I deserved to fit in. So why would anybody want to have me in a company or respect me?”
Pinkard’s experience in this industry changed that. “What I realized is that security gave me a home,” she said. “Weirdos [in cybersecurity] gave me a home.”
She implored the audience to be open to others who might not fit in. “Remember who they are at home is who they are as a person. That is who they bring to work and that is why they are successful. We have to embrace that and won’t be successful if we don’t.”
The Infosecurity Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of internationally recognized information security visionaries, luminaries, practitioners and advocates. Selection of the inductee is made by the Infosecurity Magazine and Infosecurity Europe editorial and content teams.