The IT Security Guru’s Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aims to shed a light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on just one of the many phenomenal women put forward for the 2021 awards. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability.
This year, the awards are sponsored by KPMG and Beazley.
Aileen Ryan, Senior Director Portfolio Strategy at Siemens EDA
What does your job role entail?
I lead a team driving innovation in the semiconductor industry, leading the emergence of ground-breaking in-silicon solutions which can monitor system-level behaviour and detect security breaches at top speed.
How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?
One unique competitive advantage of our product is speed of detection of anomalous behaviour. This means it offers immense benefits for cybersecurity applications in automotive and other transportation systems where there is “no safety without security”. These markets face very significant challenges, design cycles and time to market is long, increasing levels of connectivity and autonomy. Therefore, radically increasing the threat landscape and number of vulnerabilities which could be exploited. Moreover, time *in* market for vehicles is long, thus making it impossible to predict now what the threat landscape will look like towards the end of the product’s lifetime.
I am passionate about helping solve the challenge of securing our transportation environment to enable society to see the benefits of a connected, autonomous vehicle future.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed a long and fruitful career in high-tech so far (and I’m nowhere near done yet!). Of course, there are occasional challenges like people assuming you’re in marketing or a personal assistant, or in the past, I’ve been asked to make the tea/coffee or take the meeting notes. The best way I’ve found to overcome (or at least to come to terms with) these situations is to try to understand that it’s nothing personal, the individual in question is reflecting a cultural attitude and/or their limited experience of dealing with women in tech. Try not to be over-sensitive, politely explain their error, and then get on with the job in hand so they can see the value you bring. Then they won’t make the same mistake again.
What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?
- Building UltraSoC, a Cambridge-based semi-conductor startup into a highly successful player on the world stage with unique application in cybersecurity, functional safety and performance optimisation.
- Building a consortium and leading a successful bid for a £2M Innovate UK grant funding to build a cybersecurity demonstrator for Connected Autonomous Vehicles
- Integrating UltraSoC into Siemens EDA post-acquisition so that we can continue to play out our cybersecurity vision on a bigger, global stage.
What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?
I encouraged one of our talented female engineers to apply for a place on the prestigious Oxford University cybersecurity M.Sc. program and personally championed the financial sponsorship of this program for her.
I actively mentor a number of females in Siemens EDA. Some of the results include one being chosen to present a technical paper at the Grace Hopper USA conference recently, and another applying for and being awarded a highly sought-after position in another (internal) team.
I requested and facilitated the Siemens CEO to sign the CEO Pledge of the Global Semiconductor Association Women’s leadership initiative, pledging to proactively support the hiring, development and promotion of women within the organisation, and also secured internal sponsorship funding for the Women’s Leadership Initiative.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?
Plough your own furrow, chase your own dreams, keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t be derailed by what others are doing, what others are thinking, what others are saying.