ISACA’s event highlights experiences of ‘Women in Cybersecurity’


Courtesy of Baruch ISACA

Ilsa Lareb

The ISACA Cybersecurity Club at Baruch College hosted a panel discussion in the Subotnick Center titled “Women in Cybersecurity” on March 7. The Q-and-A event was targeted primarily towards women studying computer information studies as it was centered around the experiences of women working in the cybersecurity field

The event was led by an all-female team from the Baruch ISACA Cybersecurity Club. The discussion was co-hosted by Iqra Malik, former president and club advisor, and Co-Vice President Rosa Gomez Escoto.

The panelists were Ashton Laurent, Sallie Newton and Avneet Hall.

Laurent is the senior vice president of New York City Cyber Command. Newton is the founder and principal security consultant of NewtOnGuard. Hall is the cloud security engineer vice president at Citibank.

The panelists were invited to share their career journey and insights from their normal workday with the next generation of cybersecurity specialists.

Escoto started the conversation by asking the panelists what point in their life led them into cybersecurity. Interestingly, not all of the speakers had an early goal of entering into this particular area of the tech industry.

Laurent was a literature major in college. After waking up from a coma induced by a brain aneurism, she discovered her talent for computers. She noted that she applied to work in financial crime, where she worked with risk management, policy and procedures before taking the position of documentation specialist in cyber defense.

Hall impressively has a bachelor’s degree from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Medical College and decided to venture into cybersecurity as a mother of three kids. After joining an advanced cybersecurity class through Empower, she started reading articles about “hacks that have happened” such as “the Target hack [and] the Equifax hack.”

“It seemed really interesting and analytical and diagnostic,” Hall said.

For the past four years, Hall has done incident response, third-party management and global risk assessment. Recently, she has been designing protective guardrails in Amazon Web Services at Citibank.

Smith’s career started in 1986. She has over 20 years of experience with technology. Her day-to-day tasks include writing policies and risk assessment reports for her clients.

When she was at Intel, Smith worked as a Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional. These abilities exemplify her expertise in product security.

Upon being asked by Malik about the challenges of her work, Smith stressed the volatile ever-changing nature of the industry. Oftentimes, security analysts must create solutions for new problems that cannot be applied to a framework.

“You can’t rely necessarily on frameworks that have not yet been done,” Smith said. “Sometimes frameworks lag. Trust your gut.”

The panelist also used their wisdom to give the audience advice on breaking into a cybersecurity job.

Hall’s biggest attribute was the significance and reliability of networking. She recalled that something as simple as a compliment, a genuine question and a cup of coffee can put in a good word for a position.

Smith pushed for the initiative to “create your village” of like-minded hard-working women. She also pointed out that individuals themselves must create the push for diversity rather than relying on management and higher-ups.

Laurent gave the illuminating advice of publicizing oneself. She strongly suggested that students create a blog or a website with their name as the domain and upload their portfolio.

Once the hosts concluded their questioning, they opened the floor to audience members and students were eager to ask the panelists further questions regarding their work.

The ISACA was thrilled about the turnout for their first in–person event of the semester.

The student group hosted another event, “Crafting a Strategic Personal Brand,” on March 14 in the Subotnick Center. This event focused on branding and communication.