May 22, 2024

Career Spotlight: Rachel Bierner

Meet Project Cyber Co-Founder Rachel Bierner and learn more about her journey in tech and cybersecurity, her thoughts on diverse and inclusive teams, and her advice for those aspiring to reach leadership positions in cybersecurity.

Welcome back to our 'Women in Cybersecurity' spotlight series! Today, we are featuring none other than one of our co-founders, Rachel Bierner.  Rachel most recently served as Head of Cloud Security at Wells Fargo in the Cybersecurity organization, where she was responsible for developing and driving the company’s cloud security strategy and control framework. In simple terms, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services (e.g., servers, software, storage, etc.) over the Internet. It eliminates the need for individuals and businesses to manage physical computing resources and only pay for what they use. Cloud security refers to controls (people, processes, policy, and technology) designed to protect data and services delivered through cloud computing.

To learn more about cloud security, check out Rachel's recent talk at the RSAC 365 Virtual Seminar on best practices and strategies for cloud environments here.  

Thank you Rachel for taking the time to share your inspiring insights with us!

1) How did you get your start in cybersecurity?

After 15 years in various technology delivery roles, I was itching to apply myself in a different capacity. I reached out to my network and connected with colleagues in our cybersecurity organization, where they were standing up a new cybersecurity planning function. I was able to take on a role where I could transfer over the skills and strengths I had developed thus far in my career and would give me the chance to learn and develop new competencies.

2) How did you get into cloud security specifically?

Right time, right place, and great sponsorship! Cloud security was an emerging space that the organization knew it needed to get ahead of the curve on. At the same time, I had been in my role for about four years and let my management know I was ready for a new challenge. The stars aligned, and I was given the privilege to establish the cloud security program, which would leverage my skills across technology, cybersecurity, risk management, strategy, and execution. Sponsorship played a big role here - I worked for an organization that was invested in my career development and its leaders entrusted me with enormous opportunities. And, it was up to me to rise to the challenge!

3) Since co-founding Project Cyber in 2018, how have you seen the industry evolve in terms of gender workforce balance? What strategies do you find effective in fostering diverse and inclusive teams and environments?

ISC2's recent Women in Cybersecurity report (April 2024) indicated that 20-25% of the cybersecurity workforce is women. This is up from 10% a decade ago. Not yet "balanced," but important progress has been made! This same report observed that "women work at organizations with a higher percentage of women on their security teams". I observe this in the field as well - diversity begets diversity; inclusion begets inclusion. Diverse candidate slates and diverse interview panels help to attract diverse talent. An inclusive team culture will help to retain and grow diverse talent.

4) Along the same lines, what is your approach to mentoring and supporting the next generation of talent, especially women, who are entering the field?

I encourage individuals to connect with a mentor who embodies their professional aspirations - a mentor who is working in a field they are interested in, at a level they want to reach, or embody skills that they want to gain. I find it incredibly important for the mentee to drive the relationship with the mentor. Otherwise, how will you get what you need out of it? As a mentor, I am happy to be a sounding board, but I think it is more impactful to help my mentees take action toward their goals. This can be through working on their resume, connecting them with other professionals, or practicing interviewing skills.

5) Finally, what advice do you have for others who aspire to reach leadership positions in cybersecurity?

You can build and demonstrate leadership skills in any role you serve in, not just management roles. Take every opportunity to hone soft skills such as communication, planning, problem solving, adaptability, and conflict management. Soft skills will amplify your leadership abilities and put you in a good position to move into leadership roles.