During the last week in October, five members of the Adobe Security team and I attended the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) National Conference as first-time attendees. Over 400 were in attendance at the fourteenth annual conference. It was the first time three separate tracks were offered, which focused on the primary topic of “Balancing Risk and Opportunity, by Transforming Cybersecurity, Risk, and Privacy beyond the Enterprise.”
The Executive Women’s Forum has emerged as a leading member organization using education, leadership development and trusted relationships to attract, develop and advance women in the Information Security, IT Risk Management, Privacy, Governance, Compliance and Risk Assurance industries. Additionally, EWF membership offers virtual access to peers and thought leadership globally, networking opportunities both locally and at industry conferences, advancement education and opportunities via EWF’s leadership program, plus their peer and mentoring program. EWF also provides learning interaction at their national conference, regional meetings and webinar series.
At this year’s national EWF conference, several of the presentations and sessions stood out, namely:
- Several keynote speakers wowed the crowd with their personal stories of industry challenges, personal hardships and their rise through the ranks. Speakers of interest included:
- Susan Keating (President and Chief Executive Officer at National Foundation for Credit Counseling). Keating recounted her personal story of managing through what was in 2001 the largest banking fraud in US history and lessons learned from the experience. Her message and advice focused in on being resilient, prioritizing prevention and recovery preparation activities, remembering communication is imperative and one needs to be tireless in connecting at all points (employees, customers, partners, etc.), that bullying and intimidating behavior is not to be tolerated, and that it’s important to keep a culture healthy by always remembering the human component – if you’re not staying connected to people you could miss something.
- Meg McCarthy (Executive Vice President of Operations and Technology at Aetna). Interviewed by Joyce Brocaglia, McCarthy spoke of her career journey to the executive suite, the challenges she faced along the way, and what it takes to thrive as a leader at the top. Among her advice, three pieces stuck out: Talk the talk – get communication coaching, get into executive strategy meetings, and identify and study role models. Saying yes – be careful declining – McCarthy always took opportunities offered to her. The proof is in the pudding – build a track record, visualize your goals, and always look the part.
- Valerie Plame (Former Operations Officer at US Central Intelligence Agency). Plame told her story as an undercover operations officer for the CIA, who served her country by gathering intel on weapons of mass destruction. When her husband Joe Wilson spoke out about the falsities that were levied publically to justify the Iraq War, the administration retaliated by revealing Plame’s position in the CIA, ruining her career and reputation, and exposing her to domestic and foreign enemies. She encouraged all to hold people, government and organizations accountable for their words and actions.
- Nina Burleigh (Author and National Correspondent at Newsweek Magazine). Burleigh explained how the issue of women’s equality is a challenge everyone wants to address and is approaching a tipping point. She foresees 2017 being the year of women, and topics, especially in the US, about female political representation, family and maternal leave and women’s health care will be at the forefront.
- Additionally, there were several breakout talks that bear mention:
- The pre-conference workshop on Conversational Intelligence facilitated by Linda Dolceamore of EWF focused on the chemical reactions in our brains in response to different types of communication. The workshop taught us what to do in order to activate the prefrontal cortex for high-level thinking, as well as evaluate whether our conversations are transactional, positional, or transformational. Proper application of this information should enable a person to build better relationships, which will then evoke higher levels of trust and collaboration.
- A panel session where five C-level executives talked about what they see next and what keeps them up at night. Takeaways included:
- Trust is the currency of the future.
- The digital vortex is upon us and only smart digitization will see us through.
- Stay true to yourself. Stay curious. Ask why.
- The presentation regarding EWF’s initiative for Voice Privacy. As products proliferate utilizing voice interaction, it is imperative we consider the security and privacy aspect of our voices and provide the industry with appropriate guidance for voice enabled technology.
- Yolanda Smith’s presentation on The New Device Threat Landscape. Client-side attacks generally start off the corporate network. Smith demonstrated a karma attack using a Hak5 Pineapple Nano as the deviant access point (complete with a phony landing page) and the Social Engineering Toolkit to generate a payload for a reverse TCP shell. To mitigate the threat of these sort of attacks, remove probes from your devices and refrain from connecting devices to unknown networks.
EWF’s goal of extending the influence and strength of women’s voices in the industry, aligns well with Adobe’s mission to establish Adobe as a leader within the industry for creating an environment which supports the growth and development of global women leaders. Therefore, it’s exciting for Adobe to partner with the Executive Women’s Forum organization. If EWF’s national conference is a taste of their yearly impact, it will be compelling to participate in the additional year-round initiatives, events and opportunities available through EWF’s membership. We look forward to connecting with colleagues and friends at more events going forward.