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article imageQ&A: Sagit Manor on being a female CEO in cybersecurity Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 14, 2019 in Business
Sagit Manor of Nyotron is quite different from most CEOs in the cyber sector, her story of how a woman came to run a major cybersecurity operation provides inspiration for many thinking about entering STEM occupations.
Sagit Manor has served in the Israeli army for four years as a lieutenant, in charge of assessing and interviewing candidates for the IDF's elite units. She then joined Nyotron as CFO because of her background and skills in finance, but just five weeks later was promoted to CEO.
Nyotron is looming to end 2020 under her lead with substantial revenue and customer growth. For these reasons, and combining looking after her children as well, her story will be of interest to Digital Journal readers.
Digital Journal: Are more women starting to occupy the top positions in business?
Sagit Manor: Nyotron has not conducted any research relevant to this question, but there are signs that they answer is a qualified “yes.” For example, Fortune magazine’s editors report their 2019 “Most Powerful Women in Business” list is “comprised of more CEOs, more promotions, and more competition than ever. It includes ten newcomers—most of them chief executives. In fact, there were so many qualified candidates that even a few of the record 36 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 didn’t make the cut.”
But Fortune adds “that’s not to say that equality has arrived in the business world. Finance is one of the most represented industries on this year’s list (with three execs from JPMorgan Chase alone), but the sector has yet to see a woman at the head of a major U.S. bank. And despite the rise of CEOs like Flex’s Revathi Advaithi and AMD’s Lisa Su, women of color remain depressingly rare in the highest of corner offices.”
Research firm Catalyst reports that in 2019, 29% of senior management roles are held by women, the highest number ever on record. 87% of global businesses have at least one woman in a senior management role in 2019. Yet, those numbers are tempered by this statement: “in the United States, women were nearly half (46.9%) of the labor force, but only slightly over a third (40.0%) of managers in 2018.
Catalyst’s research echoes Fortune’s when it comes to minority representation in management positions:
Latinas: 6.2%
Black women: 3.8%
Asian women: 2.4%
DJ: How about the cyber-tech sector?
Manor: For years I’ve seen media articles reference a stat from a 2013 Frost and Sullivan report which states that women make up 11 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce. Forrester Research also cited in its 2018 report on the security industry’s on-going skilled labor shortage.
However, it appears our industry is making progress, albeit still too slowly. Research from Cybersecurity Ventures late last year predicts that women will represent more than 20 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce by the end of 2019. Note: that figure includes women working with security vendors, security service providers, small-to mid-sized enterprises, and security startups. If the data is focused specifically on core security architecture and operations, including detection, threat hunting, forensics and incident response, Forrester analyst Stephanie Balaouras says the number remains at about 11%.
Yes, the majority of the C-suites in the security industry, are occupied by men. But I’m proud to count myself among the women like Trend Micro’s Co-founder and CEO Eva Chen, and adAPT President and CEO Kirsten Bay who are growing the ranks of female C-level executives across the security and broader tech sector.
DJ: What are the main obstacles that women face?
Manor: A few years ago while I was at another company, I was invited to participate in a womens’ empowerment session. One of the presenters spoke about what she viewed as the biggest differences in work mindsets between men and women. She made the point that men typically like to network more than women do.
Women tend to be more task driven, and therefore end up skipping networking opportunities. I realized that described my mindset - and that needed to change if I was going to succeed in advancing my career. The very next day I called my previous boss that for months had been trying to schedule a coffee with me and set a meeting. Since then, I make time for networking, and it has become a key component to how I conduct business.
The second difference and the most important one was how women, as opposed to men, will not apply for a job unless they feel they are 100% qualified. With men, 40% qualification is enough. Because what’s the worst case scenario? They’ll be rejected? Fine with them! Well, not so easy with women. I’ll admit that applied to me.
When the Nyotron Chairman of the Board asked me if I’m willing to take the CEO role on, my initial reaction in my head was no...I’m not ready...never done it before...but then that great speaker came to my mind and I immediately said yes! Although I know I had (and still have) a lot to learn, I decided to take the chance and believed in myself that I can do it.
Most important for women is to have the confidence to do both! I love my job, even though that can make balancing my work and home lives challenging. I worked hard to get to where I am today, and long ago lost count of the days and nights spent in the office completing end-of-year reports, preparing for an IPO, finalizing an acquisition, implementing IT systems, traveling and more. There are no shortcuts, but the formula for success is simple: Hard work, dedication and loyalty will take you far. And that’s exactly what I did. I also made sure I had and still have great mentors around me to help me navigate and learn from, as well as a strong support system at home to make sure the house is well maintained when I am not there.
DJ: What has your own career path been like?
Manor: I didn’t have a specific career path in mind after I graduated from college, and in fact, I still don’t. All I knew was that I was always drawn to business, and to working with people and for companies committed to making a difference for society. My priorities have always been to follow my passions and develop relationships with my mentors. Life has taken a number of interesting twists and turns, including an unexpected relocation from Israel to the US. I trust my gut and follow its lead.
I was serving as CFO at Nyotron, my current company, and 5 weeks after I joined, I was asked by the Chairman of the Board to step into the CEO role. Trusting my gut, I said, yes. I had never run a company before, not to mention a growth stage startup in the Cyber Security industry - but I knew I could do it.
DJ: What is your current role with Nyotron?
Manor: I’m the CEO of Nyotron, a role I assumed two years ago. One of my first key initiatives was to create a new product category - Endpoint Prevention and Response (EPR). To simply describe the unique approach Nyotron’s PARANOID solution has introduced to the security market - is that we have redefined the industry’s traditional (and outdated) Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) market by providing security teams with the precise visibility into the attack and with preventing the damage - even if an attacker was successful in sneaking past the organization’s traditional security defenses.
Another key accomplishment was the formation of a strategic partnership agreement with Ingram Micro to accelerate Nyotron’s global presence and build its global channel ecosystem, resulting in a $10M investment of Ingram in us.
DJ: What advice can you offer to young women thinking of entering the technology industry?
Manor: Believe in yourself! Be bold! Take chances! Be authentic! Invest in yourself, including making time to network, find mentors, and eventually, become a mentor to others. I am fortunate to have so many great mentors and colleagues I have worked with over the years. I learned from them how to treat my team, how to stay focused, and the importance of trusting your instincts and judgement, even if you’re in the minority.
One of my mentors in particular stands out - Eliezer “Lazy” Yanay. He taught me the importance of establishing trust and connection with the people in front of you - then it’s not a hard sell, it just flows. He gave me the belief in myself that I had everything I needed to be successful and take flight. This was 15 years ago - and I realize what a gift it was to have someone give me that kind of acknowledgment so early on.
DJ: How important is to maintain a work-life balance?
Manor: It’s impossible to overstate how important it is. As a CEO I work constantly. There isn’t really a weekend or holiday off. However, I would advise others to make time for the people they love and for their hobbies. Just connect with yourself. I love running in nature. That’s my down time and where my best ideas come. I enjoy exploring new places and every month we take a long weekend off and travel.
I climb mountains or go to the beach or walk new cities. Enrich & challenge yourself with more – read books, watch movies, dance! Lastly, nothing is more rewarding than spending time with my kids.
One of the most important things I try to stick to in both work and home life in order to achieve the right balance is to be present - when you’re at work, be there 150%, when you’re at home, focus on your kids. Put away your phone or laptop. Let them feel they are being heard, listen to their stories, ask questions, make them feel important. And at work, if my kids call me, I make myself available unless I’m speaking in front of a crowd of hundreds.
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