Cloudflare TV

Building Careers in Cybersecurity Sales

Presented by Rebecca Roche, Maryam Garifulina, Lucy West, Sarah Meyer
Originally aired on 

Join us for a panel discussion with four experienced females having developed a successful career in Cybersecurity Sales and learn more about challenges and opportunities in the industry.

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Women in Sales

Transcript (Beta)

Okay, well welcome to this session and we're going to be talking about kind of women in cybersecurity, women in security sales.

What does this actually mean for us?

So I'm joined by three amazing women who get to be on this panel with me. We're going to start off with just kind of introducing ourselves and what is our role within sales for it because the sales kind of sales is a general term that can mean lots of different parts of a whole process here and we have great members who represent all parts of the process.

So let's start off with Maryam, do you mind introducing yourself and kind of what part of the sales process and what part of EMEA do you get to support?

Maryam, do you mind?

Sorry, yeah. Okay, sure. My name is Maryam. I'm responsible for the field accounts in responsible for sales for field accounts in Central Eastern Europe and Israel.

And yeah, well, I'm just trying to give more knowledge to the customer and find the right way how we can help them.

Awesome, great. So really helping in that kind of pre-sales wise helping customers identifying out the problems there.

Rebecca, do you mind going next? No, of course not. My name is Rebecca.

I joined Flapshare three years ago and I'm kind of in the same position as Maryam but working from the Munich office.

So I'm supporting customers in South Germany, answering a lot of questions, doing a lot of education, finding solutions that kind of bring them a step further in digitalization and having those customer conversations.

Great. Thanks, Rebecca. And Lucy, you're kind of on the other side of the sales process.

So after Maryam and Rebecca have found these great customers, matched them to the great products, and now you're on kind of the other side in the implementation.

Do you mind introducing yourself and have what part of the sales process you're a part of?

Yep, sure. Yeah. So I'm working at the moment.

It's in Cloudflare one as an implementation manager role whereby what we do is we get involved after contract signature.

So once the solution has been sold, we come along and we help implement that within Cloudflare for the customer to get them through to actual delivery of the service.


And so you're very much more on the helping implementing, helping them move forward and less having to once it's already been sold and now you get to help them make it happen.

Yeah, exactly. It's kind of like the bit between the sales of the solution design and all the rest of it, but then actually making it come to fruition, making it delivered.

And then also before it kind of gets handed over to sales, sorry, excuse me, to service assurance to support teams.

All right. Thank you.

And I think this is good because now we have the great viewpoints from both the pre-sale side of it.

I think what people more traditionally think of as sales, but then we also have the viewpoint of the crucial part of making sure that it works and getting people up to speed with the products that they've purchased.

And for those, my name is Sarah and I'm actually kind of helping on the sales side, but helping more on the enablement.

So helping all these great people try to figure out what the products we are and how to sell them for it.

So let's kind of start with rounds of how did you get into the industry?

So I think there's always a question of how did you actually either stumble into it or purposely get into this industry?

And Rebecca, I think your story is a little similar to mine. Do you mind starting off with how did you get into IT and then how did you get into more IT security?

Yeah, I think by accident is the right term here. When I was super young and naive, I thought it would be great to live in Dublin for a while.

So I moved to Ireland and realized I was looking for a job that like all the big IT companies, the American ones, all at the headquarters there for Europe.

So I really just started looking for a job in the IT industry and worked at Google and Microsoft and had really great experiences and then at some point more purposely chose the security side of things because I could easier relate to it, you know, because it's something we all have to think about in our day-to-day lives.

And so I chose the IT industry and now I'm working for Klaviyo.

And you were part of the Germany office, like one of the first ones in the Germany office too.

So how has it been for you kind of seeing that Germany office grow?

Oh, it's been fantastic. It's really crazy to think back three years ago when we were like four people in a really small office and we spent a lot of time with, you know, building shelves and cupboards and, you know, doing all our own marketing.

And now we have like this luxury of having people for marketing, for tenant enablement, people like Lucy who do implementation, you know, all this supporting structure.

And it's amazing. We had a ladies night yesterday in Munich and I remember when we were like two of us and there's like a group of 15 or 20 and it's so great to meet everyone, especially now after COVID.

Yeah, I remember going over to Munich. It's like good to see the growth of it there.

Lucy, and you kind of, I know we were talking before and you also came to it not kind of in a different, more, maybe not as traditional path into the space.

Do you mind kind of telling your story of how you came into the industry and then how you've made the shift over at Cloudflare and kind of how that's different from your journey?

Sure. Yeah. I didn't have anything to do with, I didn't come from a computer science background or anything similarly to Rebecca.

I ended up being in a city and temping in a job agency that put me into a startup that was just starting to do Internet via television set tops.

And this was in the late nineties.

And I thought this sounds exciting. So I came back to the UK and tried to get myself into more traditional graduate program schemes.

So I sort of went down the graduate training route at big companies in order to get a proper grounding in networking.

And so that was firmly my background. I worked in network engineering for 20 something years, and then I've moved to cybersecurity.

So it's been a really great move to really understand and get a full picture of kind of like, not just the networking for corporate networks, but also the Internet, the Internet security side of things as well.

And how have you found that shift from just networking to more kind of the Internet security side of it?

I found it really interesting because it sort of takes all the things that you know about and you work on, on a kind of an internal basis when you're looking at internal corporate networks and then applying them to the bigger picture and the challenges that are there in order to protect these businesses and organizations from the attacks that are coming in on the Internet.

Thank you for that.

And then Miriam for you, I know you came more from the traditional or what people might see more of the traditional route for it.

Do you mind telling your background of how you got into both IT and how you've gotten into IT security?

Sure. Actually, yes, you're right. I'm a more like traditional way how I joined this area.

I started when I finished school, I thought about what I'm going to do and I like mathematics.

So I thought I will be an engineer then. So I finished engineering specialization.

So it was microelectronics and nanotechnology. And after that, I was thinking about what would I like to do.

And I wanted to work for big international companies.

And I started with IBM, then Lenovo, and then further.

And then I came back to Cloudflare. However, some people ask me how, why did I decide to move from engineering background to sales?

So it's a little bit different type of questions, but still people ask that.

And when I was finishing university, I thought about what do I want to do?

And I understand that I don't want just to implement some new features.

I want to be closer to the customer and understand this particular need of the customer and be on the side who will help to decide what the new feature will be important for the customer.

And that is why I moved from engineering, but with the engineering background to sales, because I thought by this, I will understand what the customer wants better.

And I will translate it to engineering team because I could speak with them on the same language.

How have you felt that that has helped you in moving to sales to have that engineering background or to have those conversations?

Because a lot of people that you're selling to have similar backgrounds to, do you feel like it's been, has helped you kind of make that transition easier or?

Yeah, it's a good question because, you know, since I grew up in this kind of like surrounding of people with the same background, I'm more or less, I think I understand how they are talking and what is their point, not a pain point, even like what do they value?

What is important for them? And like sometimes they see me more like they don't know me, right?

They see me the first time and they assume that like I'm a woman and I'm from another industry and something like this.

However, once we start talking, understand what roots come from, they understand with my background, understand that they could speak with me at the same level and they can trust me and maybe even rely more and I can deliver for them something what they really need because they could speak with me the same language, let's name like technical language.

Oh, that is good. And I guess Rebecca or Lucy, building off of that with similarly like kind of stumbling into or coming in to the space, have you found, I know Lucy, you mentioned that you went through and did more kind of formal certifications and to get up to speed with networking from there.

Rebecca, is there anything that you found that helped you learn more about the industry or learn more about kind of IT or IT security that you think would be helpful for others?

Well, first of all, I think I want Marian's background.

Sounds super useful in conversations.

And I think as someone, I knew nothing about engineering or IT when I started.

And the only thing that really helps, you do have to learn a lot of things if you're new to the industry.

And what helps me a lot is the curiosity and that I'm honestly and genuinely interested in the topics that I'm selling.

So it is super interesting to see how companies are being hacked, why they do have downtime, what can happen on the Internet.

And it's something that we use the Internet every day, all of us for shopping, for whatever.

And when my favorite shops aren't available, I understand better now why that's happening and what they're doing.

And I think that helps when you have to learn so much more than other people, maybe with the right background.

And so Lucy, is there anything else that you want to add to that as well?

No, not really. I mean, yeah, absolutely. Interest goes so far.

Interest will take you and it'll get you reading, it'll make you listen better.

It's got to be something that you, some aspect of it that you find interesting that you can just expand on and then grow.

And then along with that comes kind of as a natural follow on, you get more knowledge, you get a bit more confidence, and then you could start exploring other avenues.

So definitely the curiosity about the industry or some aspect of the technology or something, it will get you a long, long way.

I'm on this. Yeah, go for it, Maria. I might add a little bit here because like everyone mentioned about the curiosity, and I think it's even more important than background.

Because nowadays, all new technologies, they appear in every day.

And if we would not have this kind of way of curiosity, then we are just, yeah, technology will be just old and that's it.

So it doesn't matter.

Like background helps you a little bit to understand how it was started with.

But at the end of the day, time is going, there are so many new things coming.

What I was learning 10 years ago is already different. And if we all will be like curious about innovative things, and trying to add additional ideas, we will create something better.

And I think this is important that with all different backgrounds, we would different way achieving the good things.

That was a great summary of it.

And I was going to build on that too, is seeing the, because I get to see all of our new hires that are joining our sales team here in EMEA.

And that the ones you can just see that are like, enjoy and are very successful are the ones that do have that just that natural curiosity, regardless of the background, they can come from working in print to working in, I think it was one that was selling veterinary and stuff before from it, like all sorts of different backgrounds from it.

But that theme of just natural curiosity runs through far from there.

So absolutely, if you're watching this and going, I don't come from that background or anything, have that natural curiosity.

And absolutely, that can get you so far.

As Maramita said, it's just changing constantly.

So you just have to have that natural curiosity into it from there. Well, let's kind of shift gears a little bit.

And we've talked about it slightly, but there is kind of that idea of it might be more difficult, or it might be more, it's just kind of different to work in security, work in IT security, work in cybersecurity, and especially being a woman in the industry.

I know when I was more doing direct sales, there's most of the time I was in meetings, and I was only a woman in it, and you just kind of got used to it.

But maybe Lucy, let's start with you.

How have you found kind of in the different industries that you've worked in, or kind of the different experience?

Have you found being a woman in this industry, and have you maybe found it different from some of the other industries you've worked in?

Well, definitely for a start. Yeah, definitely. It used to be the case that being in network engineering, or working in that side of things you were, or going in data centers, you were usually the only woman in the building.

So definitely the only woman in the floor, you know, bit of a novelty.

But you know, I think things are massively changing, particularly at Cloudflow.

It's really refreshing. There's a big workforce here of diversity, and genders, and everything.

So it's changing, and you know, I think it's, it has been the case that it was very much females in the minority to begin with, but I think definitely that has, that's changed hugely just in my time here.

So it's definitely changing all the time, and you know, getting diversity of people, and more people around the table is always a good thing.

Good, I completely agree with that. Verum, I know you mentioned it a little bit earlier, but you were talking, and we were kind of prepping for it, about some of your experience, and how maybe you see it actually as a benefit for it.

Do you mind telling a little bit more about kind of your experience with that, and especially in the market that you're working in?

Yeah, sure. Yeah, as I mentioned, I'm responsible for Eastern, Central Eastern Europe and Israel, and sometimes when I start the conversation, I understand, maybe if like from the way how I'm talking or something like this, that still it can be taken that I'm a woman, and I'm not so good in technology, because we still have this stereotype.

Not with everyone, but it happened. And sometimes at the beginning, when I just started working as sales, I was a little bit frustrated, because I thought like, I know the saying, white people treat me different.

But later on, I understand that it can be converted to the right direction, because at the beginning, maybe they're not taking you seriously, but then while you're asking questions, showing your curiosity about the company, they feel more comfortable in order to give you like, right details.

And then once you're proposing some solution for them, they understand that you actually understand what this technology is about.

And they're really surprised, and it's positively surprised regarding that they could talk with me on the same level.

And at the end, I found that this is a good thing, because they understand, the woman can understand what we're talking about.

And at the same, I can talk to them with the same level, and understand their problem, and help to cover these problems with the solution what we have.

Great. I think completely using that, using your true strength, it's absolutely using who you are, and how you can help to have the right conversations with people.

Rebecca, is there anything that you want to add to your account? How has your experience been in the space, and maybe kind of in the different companies that you've worked in, and in your career too?

Have you noticed any difference in it?

Yeah, I think it's probably a general sales problem. I was just thinking back when I was 18, just after school, I was selling TVs in this big store, and all the other guys selling TVs were about 55 years old, you know, gray hair, it's a great experience.

And obviously, that's what all customers wanted. They wanted to talk to them, because obviously, they have the experience.

And I think if you have a good team around it, like back then, all the guys, all my colleagues were saying, every time someone asked for men, they all just disappeared off the floor.

So the customers had to talk to me when they came in.

And it helped me a lot, because you know, you have to learn, you have the conversations, and you get the experience.

And I think that's the same in any industry, you know.

So it's possible, and it can be a lot of fun too.

I love it. They would just disappear. So you're like, okay, there we go.

It was fantastic, you know, it was great colleagues around, and it helped.

Good, yes. And it's just having that, it can be, it's, I won't say challenging, but it can be slightly like, okay, I remember the first couple meetings I was going into, and I was going, okay, deep breath, but then it just, you get your confidence, and it starts to become more normal, and you don't even, I don't think, think about it as much.

Or it's just kind of like reality, and you go, and you get to know the problems that they're having, how it can help solve them for it, and get to know great ways that we can support them with it.

Well, let's kind of go to more advice.

So we also have talked a little bit about our experience so far. What would be advice that you would maybe wish that you had known, or you would want to provide to others that might be interested in finding out more, maybe starting a career in sales, in IT security, kind of, what would be some advice that you'd want to give to them?

And maybe, Lucy, if you want to start, since you're on kind of that implementation side, what would be some advice maybe you'd want to give to others?

Yeah, I mean, I definitely found having a degree of technical understanding really helpful in just perhaps giving me the confidence to ensure that I knew what I was talking about when I was talking in front of customers, and sort of understanding how the bits and the bytes fit together for them.

So I went through the sort of Cisco training, which is, for anyone who's not aware, it's Cisco networking, but they have now gone into all other areas as well.

So you can specialise quite a lot, and it goes to very detailed, very thorough understanding, and it's used as a kind of industry benchmark, really, not just in cyber security, but in IT companies, etc.

So it's a really great way, and it's very accessible now as well, as to how you can do that learning.

You don't have to own your own equipment anymore, you can go and do labs online, and those days of running a rack in your garage have thankfully gone, or maybe not.

But yeah, so there's different ways, and it's a really, even if you never do an exam, just, you know, the ability to read and get your head around some of the things that are going on is really, really helpful, I thought.

I think that's very, very practical, just helping to, and it kind of builds off that curiosity for it too, that natural curiosity.

So starting to take and learn and see, because there's so much public either, public information courses that are out there now, so kind of just taking and starting to explore it.

If you don't it, you tried it a little bit, there you go, you can go from there.

And it's really cheap.

It used to be the case that you could only do these learning modules and go and do corporate learning things, which cost a fortune.

But now, you know, it's all online in various degrees, and yeah, although it may cost a bit of money to go and do an exam, the actual content of what you're learning is definitely available and pretty cheap.

That's very good advice. Rebecca, on your end, kind of advice that you would give to anyone who's interested to get into the industry, get into IT security or kind of get into the sales side of it?

Well, I think if I would have to go back and, you know, think about my job decisions and which roles I took, I often took roles on new challenges because of the position that was advertised.

And I think I wouldn't do that anymore.

I think it would be a lot more important for me or for everyone else to pick a company where you believe in the mission, in what they want to achieve the next 10 years, where they're at, you know, where are they located, what's their diversity situation, all those things.

And because I think once you're in, you can always change, find a way to change a position or get promoted or switch positions.

But if you have a great position and the company is right, you can't do much about it.

So, you know, I'm really happy at the moment that I really believe in the Cloud for Mission and helps a lot when selling products as well, if you believe in them, you know.

So, yeah, that would be my advice, go for the company and not the job title.

And that's a very, very good advice. Marymon, your advice that you would give to anyone that's kind of interested in the space or interested in IT security?

I think from my side, it is about the hesitation, especially if we're talking about the woman, the nature of woman is having this hesitation about if they're good enough, if they know enough, if they could perform enough, good enough than others.

And I give a really strong advice, always try. Do not say no to any chances.

If you really believe that you want to work in IT or cyber security, just try and do it.

Do not think like if it is your dream, you always will be successful.

So, just follow your dream and do your work. You definitely will be good if you are learning about this, if you're curious, as we said already, if you are flexible, if you know good, like how to communicate with people.

And yeah, definitely, that would be success. And there are some interesting kind of stats around that of different kind of job descriptions and characteristics of males if they meet like so much percentage of it, they're like, yeah, close enough, I'll go apply.

Or any women are like, I need to meet so much more of that, I thought maybe I'll apply.

So, that's great. Like, just go apply, go for the company that's interested.

It might take a couple of times, but just keep trying going out there for it.

Well, and we're all kind of just the different backgrounds that everyone has had.

You've worked for all kinds of international companies.

And on this call, we're representing four different countries and nationalities on here.

How is it kind of working for Clever as an international company where we get to work globally across the different teams?

How is it kind of working for an international company and working globally?

Maybe Rebecca, if you want to kind of start with your experience with that, and especially in kind of, as you were just talking about with picking the right companies.

Yeah, to be fair, I've only worked for American companies in my entire career, so I'm not super objective here.

But I do really enjoy that there are so many different cultures.

As you said, even in this call, we're four different backgrounds, nationalities, and I do learn a lot out of different conversations and even language how you approach things differently in different countries.

And especially, I think, in the sales environment where communication is key, it's a great advantage.

And you do, I mean, obviously, you do get the traveling as well.

And you know, you could maybe if I wanted to work in some other office at some point in my life, I could truly find a way around working from there.

So there's great benefits in learning, I think.

Good. I absolutely agree with that, that ability to just kind of get those different perspectives onto it.

Lucy, on your side, any kind of thoughts of working with an international company or working with globally?

Yeah, I mean, I've, I have worked for small UK based companies, you know, starting out where we were all in the same building.

And you know, if you wanted to go and meet your teammates or discuss something, you all got in a room and huddled around a whiteboard.

So yeah, that definitely had its advantages. And, you know, just from being, oh, right, you're there next to me, and let's get that sorted.

So that was, but those days, you know, I mean, it's since then for the, you know, I've worked for big international companies.

Since then I've worked for American companies, Indian companies, and European companies.

And I've, I really do enjoy the sort of now I've got, got used to actually now just working with a teammate who I'll possibly never even meet in real life.

But, you know, we managed to form a bond and you just, you talk to them all the time on, on via Zoom or whatever, you know, and it's, it's there, you know, your communication can be there, you can work really well with these people.

And actually, again, I sort of like the diversity of the culture, the people, time zones, you know, it's just everyone works together, we've all got some common interest and common goal to kind of get things done for the customer.

So it works, you know, it really does.

And Maryam, on your side, kind of any thoughts on working for, and especially Gangs, you've worked kind of different international companies or with global companies?

Yeah, actually, I also had experience very similar to Rebecca. I worked mostly with the, for international companies.

However, I was located in Russia, and mostly the people whom I was in contact with were Russians.

Of course, we had managers from different countries, but most of the people still were Russians.

And once I moved to Cloudflare, and I saw this level of diversity, and when I could see so many cultures at the same place, and with different point of view, with different expectations, about different things, how, how do they think, and I definitely believe that I grew up for this time for, like, much higher in, in myself, because I understand that I could be, once I'm saying something, I have to be sure that it will be the right word for these people, right?

Because we are still, we are taught differently, and we are from different backgrounds with the different families.

But the most important is when we treat each other good. And if we really do believe that we believe about the good things, right?

We do not want to harm anyone.

We want that we are all together as a team with different background.

We believe that we can bring something better to this world, right? And when we're creating the new projects, new products inside of the company, thanks by these different nationalities, different people, like a woman, man, doesn't matter.

It's the most important is that all together with all different ideas, we're creating something great.

And that's a great way to absolutely, just a different viewpoint of it and how something you can say something and how it does.

Yeah, just hope you can keep calibrating stuff.

And if you're all working towards that same goal, how important it is.

Well, in our last minute that we have together, quickfire round, what is your favorite kind of, or most interesting thing that you've learned while being at Cloudflare for it?

So maybe Lucy, if there's anything interesting that you've, the most interesting thing that you've learned while being here.

Okay, yeah. Just the volume and the size and the frequency of attacks coming through from the Internet to businesses.

Yeah, this has been a real eye opener for me, definitely.

And Rebecca, for you? I would go in the same direction.

Also, how easy it is to oppose security threats to companies or to private individuals, how cheap things can be bought, really distracting things for companies.

So that was really shocking to me. And Maryam, in five seconds, most interesting thing you've learned?

Flexibility in the company, how we're just, yeah.

I think that is great. Well, thank you so much. Now stay tuned to our next session.

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