Cybersecurity is Tech’s best kept secret. We’re here to share how anybody in the world – especially Latin American women – can break into the industry.
Today, two leading Latinas in cybersecurity share their perspectives on why cybersecurity has consistently been categorized as one of the fastest growing areas in tech, and how they are forging a grassroots effort to help shape it into a more inclusive career option for women around the world.
Denise Giusto Bilic and Cecilia Pastorino are two Buenos Aires-based Security Researchers at ESET Latin America, where they specialize in discovering cutting-edge cybersecurity advancements. They publish their findings through industry journals and at global conventions like DEF CON.
#LatinaGeeks: How and why did you become Security Researchers?
Cecilia Pastorino: After studying Networking and Communication, I worked on data infrastructure before transitioning into information security in 2015, helping enterprise companies run security audits. As soon as I started working, I knew I wanted to spend my whole life in cybersecurity.
Denise Giusto Bilic: I studied Systems Engineering. Back then, there were no cybersecurity-related majors where I lived, so I took the initiative to be self-taught. I joined ESET right out of college to research mobile security topics – including malware threats.
Our job as Security Researchers is, essentially, to find unintended behaviors in existing systems in order to improve them; to find and correct flaws, and to make the system better. We track threats and look for attack vectors that can cause harm to both users and companies.
#LatinaGeeks: I love that! This sounds like a really fulfilling career. What is the most – and least – exciting part about working in cybersecurity?
DGB: I love working with different mobile malware and trying to find clues to uncover who might be behind their creation. Every job has its ups and downs, but when you find something you are passionate about, every new challenge is exciting.
CP: I agree. And even though most conferences are now remote because of COVID, another exciting part of the job was to travel the world to speak at conferences. Finding and maintaining a balance between personal life and corporate life can be hard with all the traveling though.
And sometimes managing people and discussing findings with clients can be difficult.
DGB: Yes, in this job, you might spend hours researching something... and find nothing unprecedented! But breaking stuff and finding bugs is awesome.
#LatinaGeeks: Breaking systems and tracking malware… it almost sounds like hacking.
CP: Oh, if you are considered a hacker in the industry, that is a huge honor. The infosec community doesn‘t condone the media‘s portrayal of hackers as cybercriminals.
#LatinaGeeks: [Jaw drops] And as if hacking was not enough — you two are also deeply committed to making cybersecurity careers more accessible to women. Tell our readers a little more about that.
CP: When Denise and I started our career, we knew very few women in our field of work. But in the past 3-4 years, the number of women in our community – that we know of – went from a handful to near a hundred.
DGB: Yes, and companies are starting to understand that it’s important to train the next generation of women for infosec jobs, and to guarantee a non-toxic environment to allow their careers to flourish. Universities are also jumping on board in Latin America to encourage gender diversity in the industry.
CP: We believe that having gender diversity in the role attracts other women to work in cybersecurity and technology in general. Creating a sense of community through Las Pibas de InfoSec and NotPinkCon‘s annual conference – two organizations we are very proud to be part of – has been a successful journey because of that core belief.
This article was written by Laura Dominguez
Laura immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia in 2008, and now lives in sunny Los Angeles, California. In her job as a Career Services Manager at Flockjay, she helps “nontraditional” job-seekers launch their career in Tech Sales. Laura specializes in working with underrepresented minorities, and is passionate about helping tech companies meet their D&I goals, one hire at a time. In addition to #LatinaGeeks, Laura has worked with 4.0 Schools and Saturday Business Academy in Southern California.