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IT Hot Topics Conference Spotlight: Diana Kelley

IT Hot Topics 2019 is right around the corner! This conference is going to be hot, hot, hot— and it’s in part to our incredible speakers who have volunteered their time and talent to teaching current and emerging security professionals about the ever-evolving cybersecurity industry.

We recently spoke with Diana Kelley, Cybersecurity Field CTO, Microsoft, an IT Hot Topics keynote and peer breakout session leader. She’s just as fired up about the Conference as we are! Check out our Q&A with Diana for an insider look into her cyber career and IT Hot Topics breakout session:

Tell us about yourself and the company you work for?
My name is Diana Kelley, and I am the Cybersecurity Field CTO at Microsoft. I fell in love with the collaborative potential of computers in the 1970s when I got onto the DARPAnet. When I went to college I studied English because I didn’t realize “computers” could be a career. I became the go-to IT person for my first few jobs out of school until the head of IT for our sub’s corporate parent saw me present on how to use educational software and tagged me to be the IT person for our company. From there I went on to become the Global Head of Systems Administration for a Cambridge, MA based startup – and when attackers got on the network, I pivoted my focus from network management to secure, resilient network design.

I joined Microsoft about 18 months ago because I believe in the promise and value of the cloud as passionately as I believed in connected computing back in the 1970s. You can’t benefit from the cloud if you can’t trust it – and Microsoft’s commitment to building security, trust, and transparency into the platform is why I’m here.

What sets Microsoft apart from its competitors? How does your company keep up with the ever-changing nature of the security industry?
We have a very strong culture of building security into the platforms, starting with systems design and building all the way through management and monitoring. Microsoft has unique insights into activity around the globe via our Intelligent Security Graph through which 6.5 trillion security signals are analyzed every day. Microsoft invests 1B USD in security every year, and we have security analysts and experts around the globe. 

What topic(s) are you speaking on at the IT Hot Topics Conference?
It’s a BoF (Birds of a Feather format) on “Cyber Green Orchard” – a peer to peer conversation around how to manage one’s career in cyber. As for my experience with the Cyber Green Orchard, I lived it! I’ve been in the field professionally for almost 30 years now. The reason I wanted to do this session is that the number of people approaching me to ask about how I got to where I am and what I recommend they do to succeed has been steadily growing every year. It felt like a great time to get people together to talk about what’s worked for them, what hasn’t, and explore different paths and approaches with a community of peers.

Why do you feel this topic is important?
Cyber is a tough profession in many ways. We can’t “cure” security or eliminate criminals, so we’re always in defensive mode. Many corporations only focus on the security team when something goes wrong, so the job can feel a little thankless without the right support. And the pressure and long hours add to the stress. But not all jobs are as stressful as others – and knowing there’s a career path can help put some of that acute stress into perspective. Having the opportunity to bring people together to discuss their own career hopes and trajectories felt like something that could benefit the community.

What are three takeaways you hope attendees will learn during your session?

  1. There’s no single, perfect path – there is a path that works best for you
  2. It’s never too late – to try a new career or retrain in an existing one
  3. Showing up and mentoring others a great way to give back (and keep learning yourself!)

What are you most looking forward to at the 2019 IT Hot Topics Conference?
Networking with the participants, getting a chance to hang out with Jennifer, and listening to Adrian Lane and Stacy Thayer speak.What trends are you seeing in the cybersecurity field?  Why do you feel they are important and/or how do you see them impacting the industry?
I’m definitely seeing more burnout, which may be connected to the cybersecurity skills gap. This matters because if we can’t keep good people in the roles, we risk weakening overall cyber defense. We need to figure out how to alleviate some of that stress and provide alternate job paths so the best and brightest don’t burn out and leave. I’m also seeing a trend towards encouraging a more diverse culture in cyber, which is a really positive sign. Cybercriminals are diverse– they are thinking outside the box. To be successful as defenders, encouraging a mindset that is diverse in cyber is going to be very important moving forward.