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Opening Doors for Women in Cyber Security

Santha Subramoni

I head the Cyber Security business unit at TCS, and people are often pleasantly surprised to hear that. I don’t blame them — cybersecurity has a bit of a reputation problem. Media representation has led most of us to believe cybersecurity is the realm of young men wearing hoodies in an intense war-room atmosphere. Well, I am happy to know and share that the needle has been moving in a positive direction. As per the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce report, women make up an estimated 24% of the overall number even as more are joining the field — and they are gunning for leadership positions. Buoyed by consistent improvement in the educational level of women and a strong rise in women enrolling for online courses, female cybersecurity workers are asserting themselves. And TCS has always pushed the frontiers of what is possible, especially for women. Allow me to present my own case as evidence.

What I do

Cybersecurity has been occupying the front pages for some time now as the attacks and defenses keep intensifying almost in lockstep. Without using a lot of cybersecurity jargon, let me try to give you a fair overview of what my work basically involves: when it comes to enterprise sustainability, compliance to regulations, data privacy, and dealing with the myriad threats that are always lurking on the internet, our customers rely on our services. We help them traverse the complex ecosystem that surrounds protecting the enterprise—their users, their customers, their data and their network. At the highest corporate level, we effectively assure the board that all is well with the enterprise.

Where it all began

I started my career at TCS as a trainee, when I was recruited from campus. Since then, it has been a highly eventful and equally satisfying 24 years. From my first role as a developer, I gradually moved up to customer-facing roles. I have been Program head, Pre-sales head, and have been in Delivery as well as Operations. When the opportunity came my way to grow a new business unit called Business Process Management, I volunteered for it. It was a career-changing move because it helped me get hands-on experience of how to set up and run a practice. From there, I went on to head the Intelligent Process Automation unit. After I was in that role for some time, an opportunity opened up through TCS’ LeaD (Leadership and Diversity) program for the role of the head of Cyber Security, and I was selected.

When in doubt, look within

I believe for anyone, especially for a business leader, being self-aware is crucial. Self-awareness extends to being aware of the good and the bad in your ecosystem as well. This includes giving credit where due to others, surrounding yourself with people better than you, honing sharp listening skills, conflict resolution, and consensus management. And these things become easier to master when one starts with knowing oneself well. Ask yourself—what am I good at, what am I not good at, where do I need help, when should I ask for help? When you lead by example with such an approach, your team feels inspired and everybody gives their best; an inspired team is a productive team.

What keeps me going

Professionally, what keeps me going is the knowledge that every day is truly new. There is no telling what you will see in your mailbox the next morning. Technologies change every day, cyber threats evolve every day, and enterprise priorities mature every day. It does not matter what you knew and were doing for the past two decades as long as you are willing to learn, grow, and innovate as you go forward.

Changing the game for women in tech

Over my substantially long career at TCS, being a woman has not affected my everyday job, but that is just me. It is quite clear that, generally speaking, women in tech do need a leg up. They deserve the means to be able to navigate the well-entrenched “old boys’ club” — with perhaps an “old girls’ club”! One is centuries old while the other is a few decades old, so you see the gap we have to close. That is why we need to foster ecosystems such as women in tech, women in cyber, and women in data. We need special networking opportunities for women and different ways to express our aspirations and abilities. We need to support one another — by sharing our thoughts, personalizing our brands, championing ourselves, increasing our reach, and encouraging fellow women to aim higher.

And all great things start with a small step—exploring opportunities at www.tcs.com/careers.

About the author

Santha Subramoni
Santha Subramoni heads Cyber Security business unit for TCS. Santha has held key roles spanning across multiple areas and is an expert in establishing and scaling technology and business solutions practices from the ground up. Santha loves music, dancing, movies, reading fiction, and has of late been smitten by K-pop and K-dramas.