Welcome to our Speaker Highlight Series where we are getting to know some of our past Diana Initiative speakers.
Meet Keirsten Brager , one of our 2020 Keynote speakers. She presented “Gatekeeping, Gaslighting & Grieving: Excelling Despite The Ugly Phases of Your Security Development Life Cycle” on Saturday, Aug 22 2020. Keirsten also presented “Seconomics: How To Earn More Money & Influence In the Next 5 Years” at our 2018 event.
Keirsten Brager is a Sr. Security Consultant/NERC-CIP SME in critical infrastructure and was recently named one of Dark Reading’s top women in security quietly changing the game. She is also the author Secure The InfoSec Bag: Six Figure Career Guide for Women in Security. She produced this resource to help women strategically plan their careers, diversify their incomes, and fire bad bosses. Keirsten holds a M.S. in Cybersecurity and several industry certifications, including GICSP & CISSP. As an active member of the Houston security community, Mrs. Brager has participated in a number of panels and public speaking engagements promoting strategies for success. In her free time, she loves sharing career advice, studying Black history, and convincing women not to quit the industry.
How did you get started in Information/Cyber Security?
I did the work no one else would do. Technical people tend to like tools, but they do not always like creating/maintaining documentation, interacting with auditors, and working in cross-functional capacities that involve dealing with people. I happen to be technical and a people person, so I took on projects that required both. Basically, I created my own opportunities.
What accomplishment are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of the work I’ve done helping women negotiate higher total compensation, career opportunities, and seeing them pay it forward.
What is a struggle you have faced that you were able to overcome? What was the most important thing you learned from that experience?
The biggest struggle that I’ve faced: recognizing and letting go of poverty related trauma. This causes us to think we cannot do better than whatever situation we are currently in, personal or professional. The most important lesson that I learned is that whatever I focus on, I become. When I thought I could not do better, I remained in bad chapters of my life out of fear and self-doubt. Every time I gave myself permission to do better, and focused on actions to make that happen, I always came out on top. Mindset coupled with action changed my life.
Can you tell us a little more about what you chose to highlight in your keynote and why you decided on that theme?
I wanted to acknowledge what experienced practitioners going through and let them all know that their feelings are valid. I also wanted to provide transparency to those new to the field and those considering entering the discipline. We suffer in silence and many women opt out of the industry because the there’s no forum for the uncomfortable dialogue and how to succeed despite it all. More importantly, I wanted to provide solutions to overcome our shared challenges.
What is the most important piece of advice you want to give women who are thinking of entering this field?
You will face people who treat you like you do not belong in the workforce. People will try to impose their inferiority complex on you. You don’t have to invest in every argument or fruitless mind-changing exercise. Cyber careers are meaningful and experienced cyber security professionals are commanding salaries of $105,000 – $192,000 according to the 2017 Salary Guide for IT Professionals by Robert Half. Let that keep you motivated during the thankless days and sleepless nights that might be topped off with days like the women faced in Hidden Figures.
Invest in building your network. Your network will help advance your career and open more doors than credentials.
Your boss should not be the only person who knows the quality of your work. Advocate for yourself at every step of your career.
Plan your career in 2 to 4 year increments. That’s the only way to command competitive compensation, keep your skills fresh, and continue growing your network.
What enables or inspires you to stay passionate about infosec?
Securing critical infrastructure is important to me. I grew up in hurricane alley & didn’t always have electricity, so I have intimate knowledge of the impact of reliable power. It also gives me pride to work in a niche that contributes to national security.
What are some of your favorite topics within Information Security?
Public policy around critical infrastructure, NERC-CIP, security architecture, configuration management, ethics, and governance.
Anything else that you would like to add?
Give back before you need a job (volunteer, mentor, or contribute in some way). Also, invest in financial literacy and saving beyond the typical retirement account advice. Learn how to make your hard earned money work for you so you. Finally, send the ladder back down.
Thank you Keirsten for sharing all of this great information.