Dr. Ambareen Siraj, professor of computer science at Tech has been named Cybersecurity Person Of the Year by Cybersecurity Ventures.
Siraj is a founding director of the cybersecurity education, research and outreach center at Tech. She also established Women in Cybersecurity, a global organization known for bringing together talented women in the cybersecurity field.
“I started [Women in Cybersecurity] because when I was a student I didn’t see people like me in my labs, or other students that my professors had. That didn’t bother me, but I think I would be much more motivated and encouraged if there were others like me that I could relate to,” Siraj said.
The Women in Cybersecurity website describes the organization as, “a global community of women and men, we are dedicated to bringing talented women together to celebrate and foster their passion and drive for cybersecurity.”
Women in Cybersecurity has had a conference every year since it began in 2012, but due to COVID-19, their 2020 in-person conference was canceled. Siraj, executive director Lynn Dohm, and the rest of the WiCyS team worked hard to transition to a virtual conference.
The virtual conference turned out to be a success. Thanks to the conference being virtual a lot more people were able to attend. Siraj says the only bad part of the conference being virtual was that no one could hug each other.
The organization always aims to have half of attendees be students. They do this by paying for students to attend the conference.
“I was fortunate to find a mentor in the field, who was my research advisor for my Ph.D. I took a class with him when I was in graduate school, and I just loved the subject matter. And I ended up working as a graduate research assistant in security. He grew in me the love for information security,” Siraj said about how she started working in cybersecurity.
Siraj wants to continue to be a mentor for women in cybersecurity.
“Don’t think of yourself as a woman in cybersecurity but think of yourself as a professional in cybersecurity who happens to be a woman. The gender comes later … You come first,” Siraj said when asked what advice she had for young women in cybersecurity.
The next Women in Cybersecurity conference is scheduled to be in-person on Sep. 8-10.