Women in tech: Heather Mahalik, fellow instructor at Sans Institute
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Women in tech: Heather Mahalik, fellow instructor at Sans Institute

Women in tech: Heather Mahalik, fellow instructor at Sans Institute

To achieve true progress, we need to educate and empower women with the knowledge that their potential has no limits

Sans Institute

How would you summarise the year 2022 for yourself, Sans Institute and Cellebrite and the tech industry?

2022 was a “getting back to normal” year for everyone in tech. Some returned to the office, the classrooms, and others permanently adjusted to working remotely.

For me, it was a year of growth. Learning what works for me in my roles at Sans and Cellebrite and what doesn’t. Since Covid-19, I have done a lot of searching internally on what makes me happy, what makes me succeed, and most importantly, what is best for the companies and people I support. So, in summary, I think 2022 was a year of reflecting on where we have been and where we can go.

What are your expectations for 2023?

I have grander expectations for 2023. We are living in an interesting time financially, but that isn’t slowing anything down in DFIR. Tech is always advancing, criminals are still attacking, and the innocent are targets.

Our industry is constantly growing, and I see a lot coming in 2023, from new advancements in hunting threats, mitigation methods, and even understanding ways to fully perform digital forensics in cloud platforms.

As the DFIR curriculum lead at Sans, I expect authors and instructors to stay ahead of the curve, where possible, to be the best educators around. An expectation I have for myself is to find new ways to encourage growth, excite people about DFIR, and continue to lead an amazing team who cares about technology and education.

In a male-dominated tech industry, what steps should be taken to attract more women in tech?

Breaking the cycle of gender inequality starts at a young age. From the early days of high school, we see stereotypes being ingrained and gender roles being imposed, especially when it comes to technology and science.

As someone who was never encouraged to explore a career in computer security, I know firsthand the importance of opening up diverse paths for young girls and women. To achieve true progress, we need to educate and empower them with the knowledge that their potential has no limits.

What are the key tips/advice you will offer aspiring women leaders/entrepreneurs to help them progress in this industry?

Identify your mentors – people that you look up to in terms of their career progression – and closely follow them.

Be outspoken – you know what you want and need from your career, so don’t be afraid to say it and find an opportunity that will give it to you.

Also, this might be slightly controversial, but it’s okay to job hop (a little bit!). I always thought it would look bad on my resume, but it’s actually the one piece of advice I now give people.

Explore all the potential your job has for three to four years, and then find something different, instead of clinging on to something comfortable forever. This way, you know where you truly want to be, and where you want to land.

Lastly, and most importantly, prioritise your work-life balance! Draw those lines for yourself; boundaries are very important.

Heather Mahalik is the fellow instructor at Sans Institute and senior director of Digital Intelligence at Cellebrite

Read: Women in tech: Orla Mc Carthy, director of Professional Services – META at Cloudera

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