Welcome to our Speaker Spotlight series, where we are getting to know some of our past Diana Initiative speakers.

Meet Mari Galloway, founding member of Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu. Mari was part of a panel of non-profits during our 2019 event, and has been an avid supporter of The Diana Initiative for many years.

Mari GallowayMari is the CEO and a founding board member for the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC). With over 10 years of Information Technology, 8 of which are in cybersecurity, her experience spans network design and security architecture, risk assessments, vulnerability management, incident response and policy development across government and commercial industries. She holds a variety of technical and management certifications (CISSP, GIAC, CCNA, etc) as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Columbus State University and a Master of Science in Information Systems from Strayer University. Mari is currently working as a Sr. Security Architect as well as an Adjunct Professor for UMGC.

How did you get started in Information/Cyber Security?
I actually got my start as a network Engineer for a 3 letter agency in Northern Va over 10 years ago. I was responsible for implementing out of band management to access the routers and switches in a remote location. I took a Sec+ and Joe Mccray came in and showed us a router config hiding in plain sight on the internet.

Who inspired you, and why were you inspired by that person?
My mom always inspires me. She had me at very young age but that didn’t stop or hinder her success. She pushed through and always pushed my sister and I to be great.

Why did you choose this industry?
I actually wanted to be an architect and when I started college that’s what I was doing along with management information systems. It wasn’t until I moved to Georgia that I realized I should be in tech. So I changed majors slightly and focused solely on tech. I got into cyber because I love puzzles and that’s what we do daily, solve puzzles. I wanted to be a Pentester but that never panned out outside of my side hustles.

Can you share some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
There are always going to be challenges at every stage in your career. When I first started out, I was the only female and black person on my team. My boss wanted me to be the secretary; I wanted to be hands-on. It was a struggle. When I moved to NC, my team would constantly put me in a ‘box’ even though I told them over and over that I wanted to get down and dirty in this. I’ve faced challenges with my voice being heard, ideas stolen, not being taken seriously, all the above. It’s a constant battle of trying to balance who you are and who you have to be at work. I’ve been called the Angry Black Woman for being passionate about a topic. I could go on, lol.

What advice would you give other BIPoC looking to enter this field?
You will struggle. You will feel like everyone is against you. Take that energy and use it to fuel your drive. Find your tribe. Having a solid core group of friends and associates is important. Build relationships as those are important (I’m learning more of that now, lol). Trust but verify. I sometimes struggle with trusting those around me because I have been burned in the past. You can’t control others’ perceptions of you. You can only control your actions and the information you feed them. Know your worth. Don’t take the first salary offer, negotiate. Do your research.

Are there any groups that have been supportive or extra helpful on your journey?
Of course, Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu has been instrumental in my success. I’ve grown technically and as a leader in the industry. I’ve been forced out of my shell. It’s been awesome.

There are also pockets of people that have been my tribe for years. Having them has been a true blessing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Just do it! You wanna get in the industry, take the initiative and do it. No one will hold your hand. Ask questions and research. It’s a fun field and can bring much happiness.