Ismaelle Vixsama: advocating for women, non-binary individuals and people of color in tech
Last time, we spoke to Alexandria Heston, a UX and interaction designer at Magic Leap Studios. In this installment, we’re featuring Ismaelle Vixsama, an information security governance and strategy professional.
Ismaelle holds a Master of Science in cybersecurity, she’s a certified information security manager and she’s familiar with a wide variety of compliance specialties including ISO 27001, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GBLA) and the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). In addition, she is experienced in developing, implementing and managing security governance programs across financial services, government and cyber research industries.
In an effort to learn more about Ismaelle, her advocacy work and her career, we asked her a few questions.
Trulioo: Your foray into security was somewhat unplanned. Can you share your journey?
Ismaelle: I stumbled into information security back in 2012. My first job out of college was at a financial services firm and the job I was doing was unsatisfying. I knew at the time this wasn’t the right fit for me. About six months into the job, it was time to go.
I polished my resume and put it onto Monster. Within two weeks, I was contacted by a recruiter for a phone screening for a contract position at a large international bank. The recruiter was looking for someone that had my background — they wanted someone green, with internships in fields such as internal audit or compliance. The next interview was with the certified chief information security officer (CISO), unbeknownst to me. I was very energetic in my interview and expressed that I was willing to learn anything that was being taught. I was hired that same week. From there, I was quickly acclimated to the team. I was able to shadow the senior information security officers (ISOs), learn on the job and work on interesting projects. Within nine months, I was offered a full-time role assessing internal controls within the same department.
Trulioo: In your opinion, what were the top three incidents in cybersecurity last year?
Ismaelle: Facebook in my opinion is probably the incident that had the most impact – hackers were able compromise 30 million users. Google+ was the second most significant breach in 2018. This one was noteworthy due to the way the breach notification was handled. More than 50 million users had their data exposed and the company did not disclose this information. Lastly, the Marriot breach was the third most important breach of the year, affecting the records of up to 500 million customers.
Trulioo: Can you offer some advice to someone pursuing a career in cybersecurity?
Ismaelle: I think when finding your path in cyber, the most important things to consider are knowing what interests you and what your skills are. Once you have those identified, do some research on positions that could fit. Look at the required skills, certs and competencies. Create a self-study plan. I also recommend finding mentors that are in the desired role, attending meet-ups and conferences, and watching YouTube videos.
Trulioo: What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing women within cybersecurity?
Ismaelle: The number of women in cybersecurity represents 11 percent of the industry. For women of color it is even less. The challenge isn’t that there aren’t women with the proper skills but companies aren’t doing enough to attract, train and maintain these women. There should also be an effort to recruit women that are already in tech or that have a computer science background. This is the best method to find skilled women.
Finally, here’s a quick-fire fast five round:
My Eureka moment was …
When I realized no matter how much you know in security, there is always still so much more to learn.
My go-to-app is …
I like to google things and have the Google Search app on my phone.
I like to decompress by …
Watching anime and listening to meditation music.
If I didn’t work in cybersecurity, I would be …
Working as a financial manager.
The biggest risk I ever took was …
Moving across the country to a new city and state over 3,000 miles away from my family.
To learn more about Ismaelle and keep up to date with what’s she doing, follow her on Twitter. 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. Check out our previous posts here and stay tuned for the next installment!