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From our sponsor

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day to celebrate the achievements of women. For organizations in the tech industry, it offers an opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of inclusivity – and the benefits we’ve gained as a result.

At Barracuda, we want to mark the occasion of International Women’s Day 2023 by sharing some stories about how we found our way into tech, what we think of it now we’re here and how to encourage others to follow.

The power of diversity

“Technology and cybersecurity need more diverse thinking. People from different backgrounds and different walks of life bring a different perspective to solutioning. We can solve our problems better and faster with more viewpoints. As a woman in technology, you might find it hard to ‘fit in’ sometimes but that is when your thoughts are needed the most.” Dana Woolcock, VP Customer Success, Engineering


Have the courage to speak up but also to listen, to understand others’ perspectives. Focus on what is important, embrace shared success, be inclusive. Leverage the strengths of those around you. Take the time to be present in conversations and get to know what motivates and inspires others.” Diane Honda, Chief Administrative Officer, and General Counsel, Legal


Start from anywhere, take any route


“I was training to be a musician and a relative suggested I investigate computer science. I was thrilled to discover that I could remain creative, solving problems through code.” Joyce Torres, Software Engineer, Content Security



“I barely made it through the entrance exams for engineering but went on to complete a masters’ degree in Electrical and Electronic engineering. I started to work for Intel and ended up in product management. I love the intersection of technology, business, design, data, experience, and customers.” Sheila Hara, Director, Product Management, Application Delivery


“I started college in pre-pharmacy. Then, with only about one semester left, I realized I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. My parents are both in the technology and security fields, and they recommended that I try an introductory course in programming. I was sceptical, but my parents saw traits that indicated that I might enjoy it: I loved solving intricate puzzles, learning new concepts, and reading just about anything. They were right.” Sara Custer, Associate Software Engineer, Content Security



“I feel like this industry chose me rather than me choosing it. I started my career as a call centre representative. I then moved into sales, and I discovered I had a knack for the commercial aspect and sales skills required for the job. I moved to the UK in 2017 and discovered that there is a place for me in the IT industry. I currently lead a team of eight people helping customers stay safe from today’s ever-growing cyberthreats.” Dana Toma, Regional Sales Manager, EMEA North


“I have been in cybersecurity for nearly 20 years, but computers have always been a feature of my life. As a toddler in the early 80s, my parents bought me Kids on Keys to provide visual reinforcement for my learning. I majored in Information Science as an undergraduate and then joined the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University. I immediately fell in love with cybersecurity. I received my master’s degree and never looked back.”  Shani Mahler, Director, Product Management, XDR



“I’ve always had a great passion and curiosity for science, technology, and innovation, and I realized early on that technology is core to everything, whether it is medicine or finance. I knew I wanted to go into cybersecurity to help organizations in all industries to protect themselves against cyberthreats.” Merium Khalid, Senior SOC Manager, Offensive Security, XDR


“I chose technology because it is always evolving and has the potential to have a positive impact on society. I am passionate about using technology to make a difference in the world.” Leela Suvada, Manager, Software QA, Engineering





“I wanted to work in an industry where I felt was consistently learning and able to make an impact and have a sense of purpose. It felt like it would become a very rewarding career and, fortunately, it has been.” Ensie Bihamta, VP, Global Customer Success



Encourage others to follow


“I have seen many female leaders who have inspired me. Each of them emphasized the same thing: focus on your priorities, take pride in and enjoy and celebrate every phase of your life.” Soma Sinha, Senior Manager Business Application, Engineering


“To encourage more young women to consider a career in cybersecurity, I would appeal to their ‘vigilante spirit.’ From Nancy Drew to Olivia Benson, there are famous fictional female detectives whose main role is to help those who cannot help themselves and stop the ‘bad guys.’ The popularity of these characters suggests many women identify with such a role – and a career in cybersecurity can offer exactly that.”  Shani Mahler

“Technology is a great resource for solving many challenges in life. ‘Softer’ attributes such as nurturing skills or the ability to see and assess vulnerability are as suited to technology careers as programming and software engineering skills – because they can help to drive phenomenal positive change. For example, if you feel the internet is unsafe, choosing a career in cybersecurity could enable you to innovate to protect vulnerable people online. The world needs this.”  Arati Sethy, Manager, ZNTA Software Engineering


“Try it out – take a programming class and see if you like the problem-solving aspect of it. Show them the many possible jobs that could come from having a tech background.” Joyce Torres

“Cultivate curiosity in little ones so they are not afraid of technology when they are older. Talk science at home and run experiments (that do not destroy your home, for the most part). Cultivate courage – let girls jump off structures, swing on the monkey bars and bruise their knees so they feel brave and strong.”  Sheila Hara

“The talent shortage in cybersecurity is higher than ever before. We need to educate young people on the importance of cybersecurity and its significance in protecting national infrastructure – but also show them how their involvement and action can make a difference. Educating women about the impact they can make in the world of technology and seeing other women be successful in the field will be a great driving force to get more women into technology. Having diversity and different perspectives from people from different backgrounds and life experiences is the key to any successful industry.” Merium Khalid

“I would 100% encourage more women to pursue a career in tech/cybersecurity. The one thing I think would make a big difference is awareness around the fact that you do not need a technical background to be successful, and that skills can be learned.” Dana Toma 

“Conversations around the gender gap in STEM can focus more on fields such as medical, mathematical and research – I never thought of technology as part of STEM. It’s the least talked about. My high school didn’t have a single technology class – and offering technology earlier in education will really help to raise awareness. I also think having a mentor once you start your career is a great idea. Mentors provide support, a resource, and a feeling of community in the workplace. One of the reasons I chose Barracuda is its mentoring program.” Sara Custer

“With women outnumbered in many technology workplaces, training and mentorship programs that focus on the needs of diverse employees can create support and recognition of career goals and potential.  We can all play a part in speaking for other women when they are not in the room. Let women know how important their contributions are to the company’s success. Showcase their work and achievements and demonstrate to the entire organization that women are valued.” Sheila Hara

“The one thing that I believe would make the biggest difference to encouraging more women into tech and keeping them there is an inclusive and welcoming environment. Women are often underrepresented in tech, and it can be challenging to feel like they belong in a male-dominated industry. Creating a culture of respect and diversity can make a huge difference in encouraging more women to pursue careers in technology.” Iris Cheung, Director, Sales Operations, APAC 


“It’s important for more young women to consider a future in cybersecurity to increase diversity and bring new perspectives to the field. We need to show them how fulfilling such careers can be and encourage people to support or participate in programs like Girls Who Code or Women in Cybersecurity. Take part in any and all training and professional development opportunities available to you. Having access to successful women in tech who can serve as mentors is critical for your overall success and it’s something I wish I’d known earlier in my career.” Ensie Bihamta

Advice to my younger self

“Change and advances come so fast in technology that I would tell my younger self to always be in a posture of learning.” Joyce Torres

“When I was young, I had visions of myself with an important job, dressed like a business professional every day with a briefcase to boot. If there was something I could tell my younger self it would be that a successful career is not represented by how you dress. Instead, it is represented by what you deliver and how you make people feel.” Shani Mahler

“Don’t let someone else tell you what you can and can’t accomplish.  No one but you knows what is in your head and what you are capable of.  Don’t let self-doubt get in your way, push through, and give it your all.” Dana Woolcock

“Keep the faith and trust the journey! Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to excel.” Sheila Hara

“We need to ensure technology education and opportunity are accessible to everyone. I would advise my younger self to never doubt or underestimate talent and ability. Never stop learning, strive to improve every day and be a better version of yourself. Having confidence and believing in your ability are the key to success and having an impact in any career path.” Merium Khalid

“If I could give advice to my younger self, I would say to be open to new experiences, prioritize continuous learning, take risks and not be afraid of making mistakes, and to prioritize your well-being and happiness. Failure is a natural part of learning and growth, and it’s important to keep trying and pushing oneself outside of one’s comfort zone.” Iris Cheung

“I would tell my younger self to dream big – as cliché as it sounds – and that any job, and even the world in general, is not as scary as it seems.” Dana Toma

“Build strong and broad relationships. You will never get as far as you are capable of without help and support from others.” Diane Honda

“I’m still in the very early stages of my career, but if I had to give any advice to my younger self it would be to slow down a bit. I had an overarching fear of my ability to become a software engineer being impacted by not finishing my degree in four years with a plethora of relevant experience. So, I attended conferences such as Black Hat and DEFCON, started portfolio projects, and more. At the end of the day, these fears were largely self-imposed. You can take a breather, you’ll get there.” Sara Custer

Barracuda has a thriving employee-led council, “Belong@Cuda,” which aims to create, nurture and sustain a global, inclusive culture, where differences foster diversity initiatives to support the needs of our colleagues.

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Tilly Travers

Posted by Tilly Travers

Tilly Travers is Director, PR and Communications, International for Barracuda.

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