Archana Ramamoorthy: Building Products That Change the World for the Better
In our last installment of the Women in Tech series, we chatted with Sarah Squire, a technical architect at Ping Identity. This time around, we’re introducing you to Archana Ramamoorthy, director of product management at Workday. On a day-to-day basis, Archana’s main focus is to drive the product strategy and roadmap for identity, authentication and access management.
An esteemed scholar, Archana holds a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from the SRM Institute of Science and Technology.
Curious to learn more about Archana, we asked her a series of questions covering everything from her involvement with Women in Identity (WiD), to why you should never throw away your boarding pass, as well as what she perceives to be the biggest challenge facing women in the identity industry.
Trulioo: How did you find yourself landing a career in identity?
Archana: I certainly wasn’t planning my entry into this field. My very first project in identity was at Deutsche Bank where I helped to build the entitlements system for Deutsche’s commercial mortgage-backed securities division. Understanding the complexities of user identity, distribution of assets based on the permissioning model, and eventually revoking access during internal transfers or garden leave was just fascinating. I first worked on the software development side of the house and then started involving myself more on the uptake side. This helped me better understand customer needs and their use cases and I started understanding the real-world scenarios better.
I began to appreciate the complexity and unexplored potential of identity management in both commercial and enterprise applications. I believe that in a world dominated by players like Amazon – who dictate social norms and expectation patterns for users like you and me – it is critical to nail down identity management.
I haven’t looked back since and have been involving myself in different parts of identity management.
Trulioo: What aspect of identity do you think is most important and when you think about the future of identity, what do you see?
Archana: That’s an interesting question. As an identity and security professional, I would say that the ability to abstract identities and the attributes associated with them is perhaps the best way to guarantee user protection. Bridging islands of identities together to create a cohesive user experience across platforms and apps is where the demand is.
Why should I show my license to the bartender when all they want to know is if I’m over 21? Why should I give someone the last four digits of my social security number (SSN), my phone number or my address when all they want to know is if I hold an account with the bank? Even though we talk about privacy, our current world is not equipped to actually protect our identity attributes. How many times have you thrown away your boarding pass after your flight? Did you know that your boarding pass could give away your airline account information, your future trips and could give someone access to your entire account? Not to mention that you have also given away your name and frequent flier number.
Protecting data for people is in the hands of Identity professionals like us and I think that’s where the future lies. Consumer and enterprise companies should start working together to standardize identities and take the pledge to safeguard user Identities. This is one of those industries and areas where using standards and letting the professionals build systems is the right way to go.
Recently, I visited an airport lounge at SFO with a friend. He is a long time member but forgot his membership card. The lounge manager casually asked him for his name, phone number, address, and FULL SSN. Is it really worth giving out your social for a meal that you already pre-paid for with your membership fee? Companies need to be responsible for protecting their customers' identities.
Trulioo: Can you tell me more about your involvement with WiD? How long have you been a part of the leadership team? What is the overarching goal of WiD?
Archana: I joined WiD last year at Identiverse – the goal of WiD is to provide a platform for women in the industry to seek mentorship opportunities, discuss common problems they are facing, make themselves available for speaking opportunities, and build connections with experts in the field.
Ultimately, we want to be able to inspire confidence and create a sense of community in our industry.
Right now, I believe this area is underrepresented and it’s very difficult for women to become aware of the various opportunities that are available. Instilling a sense of community can help to change this and make it possible for us to help each other.
Trulioo: What is the biggest challenge that women are currently facing within the identity industry?
Archana: Identity and security have always been male-dominated fields. The lack of sponsorship and diversity leads to like-minded people being recruited and placed in top positions within companies. This isn’t surprising given the numbers and trends in the industry: women only earn 28 percent of computer science degrees and only hold 25 percent of computing jobs. What is even more disturbing is that the representation of women in the cybersecurity workforce remains stagnant at 11 percent.
I would say that the biggest challenge that women currently face surrounds a lack of leadership – we have no female role models to look up to and instead, we see that women have to fight harder to get representation. It can be intimidating to walk into a room full of men and talk about identity and security. A coach once told me that as a man, you are judged for your confidence and potential to take up a new job but as a woman, you are expected to perform that job before being given the recognition and responsibility. Breaking down those barriers for women in fields like identity and security is very important.
Slowly, this is all changing – largely due to conscious choices by companies to not just embrace diversity for the sake of numbers, but because a diverse room brings forth diverse opinions and ideas. Forums like WiD are helping women like me seek advice and in turn, help other women in the industry. It helps us understand the extent of underrepresentation and the role we have to play as women in this space. Last but not the least, companies like Trulioo are really doing their part by showcasing women talent and what we bring to the table.
Trulioo: The work you’re doing is focused around building a roadmap for identity and security authentication – can you tell us more?
Archana: I lead product management for various areas of identity and access management, including identity, authentication, authorization and platform security. We build authentication features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), policy-based access, and elevated authentication, and support industry standard protocols like SAML, OpenID Connect, SCIM, and other WebAuthn standards.
My team helps create and build industry standard security features that are adopted by all Workday customers.
I work with the engineers and architects on my team to create a core vision and strategy for the product lines. My team then works on crafting a roadmap for each one of these areas based on market needs, customer demand, and industry standards that are popular. I work with customers, prospects, sales, pre-sales, and marketing to stay up-to-date with expectations and build the next generation of products and functionality that keep our data safe.
Trulioo: Do you have a personal mission? If so, what is it?
Archana: My vision is to build products that change the world for the better. The digital age requires strong foundations and principles to be put in place to safeguard valuable online assets. I would like to be part of this change that will impact millions of users around the world. I’m able to participate today by helping keep data safe for thousands of Workday users. The fact that everyone needs a secure, trackable online identity that can be used across applications means that this area is young. As a product manager, that tells me that we have a lot of work to do and I’m excited to be part of this growing area.
I would also like to give back to aspiring young women who would like to excel in male-dominated fields like identity and security. My goal this year is to be able to find different forums inside and outside Workday to help share my experience and expertise to help women join and thrive in the Security space. Workday hosted their first Women in Security meetup this year and we would like to do more in this space in the future.
Trulioo: And, lastly, if you gave a Ted Talk about identity, what would the title be?
Archana: Given how distributed and fragmented the world of digital Identity is at the moment, I would love to do a talk titled ‘There is only one me’. When each individual can uniquely identify themselves in real life, why aren’t we able to establish a common principle to do the same in the transactional world?
To learn more about Archana and keep up to date with what’s she doing, follow her on LinkedIn.
If there’s a female trailblazer that you’d like to see featured in our Women in Tech blog series, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org