Statistically, women are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and there are many programs encouraging girls to study STEM careers. In spite of the stats, women have made significant contributions in these fields. My guest today is one of those women. Diana L. Burley, Ph.D. is a globally recognized cybersecurity expert and Executive Director and Chair of the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P) at George Washington University.

Growing up, Diana was always interested in technology and how it affects the behavior of people involved with it. By going into cybersecurity, she found the perfect intersection of people and technology to research. She is at the forefront of the latest research in cybersecurity and the evolution of new threats like holes in the world of the Internet of Things. Diana has always been a problem solver and shares the aha moment she discovered in Graduate school along with her no-nonsense approach to everything cybersecurity.

Show Notes:

  • [03:16] Growing up, Diana was always very interested in technology and how it shapes people and their behavior around it. Her expertise is the intersection of people and Technology. She’s now a cybersecurity expert.
  • [04:39] Being a woman in cybersecurity can be lonely. Diana thinks of it in terms of the impact that she can make.
  • [05:45] Diana suggests that young women follow their passion and be prepared for whatever field they’re going into and don’t let fear stop them.
  • [07:03] Cybersecurity is a very broad field. Whatever your path make sure you are taking courses that help you solve complex problems, develop analytical abilities, and develop communication abilities.
  • [08:21] You will need communication skills wherever you go.
  • [08:56] Relationships are key for making introductions and seeing pathways that you wouldn’t normally see.
  • [10:27] One of the things you need to think about with cybersecurity is what are the motivators for the people involved. The issues need to be looked at holistically.
  • [12:09] People, process, and technology takes a lot to get up to speed. There needs to be a constant state of vigilance because threats are always evolving.
  • [14:29] Understanding and using technology as it evolves is all about not being afraid to try things.
  • [15:22] There’s constant learning that has to take place in the cybersecurity field. If you have passion, it doesn’t feel like work.
  • [18:54] Even without reading the terms of service, you should assume that your data will be used online.
  • [19:35] You can help yourself with cyber hygiene. Use strong passwords. Use different passwords for every site and change them regularly. Don’t click on links from unexpected emails.
  • [21:24] Tools like LastPass can be very helpful.
  • [21:42] Diana runs a research institute and is developing some executive education courses for the university.
  • [23:44] When a situation looks grim, Diana looks for solutions. Once you break the problem down into pieces, you can chip away at it.
  • [25:59] One of the things that has surprised Diana is the impression that she has made on people.
  • [28:32] When Diana was working on her dissertation, she focused on the individual tasks. She was actually stunned when, after completing a task, her advisor said she was done. Anything can be completed if you break things down into small doable tasks.
  • [30:15] Diana is a researcher. Mistakes are more like options that didn’t work and can be crossed off the list.
  • [32:34] Diversity and different experiences and backgrounds help inform gut reactions. Bringing together differences of opinion and thought helps create very robust solutions.
  • [34:31] Diana is primarily a researcher. She could be working with a client to develop a strategic solution for their cybersecurity program. She could also be working with a research team for deeper analysis. She could also be giving speeches or talking to students. She also has quiet days where she can just sit and write.
  • [38:38] People can be a cybersecurity weak link. Changing behavior is very important. Another hot topic is cybersecurity and IoT devices.
  • [40:44] The best advice Diana can give is to be proactive about your security in the digital space. Be an active participant.

Links and Resources:

Diana Burley George Washington University
Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection
Answers for Modern Communicators
@dianaburley on Twitter
Diana Burley on LinkedIn



Watch the interview here.