Sponsors, champions, and mentors are some of the most important factors for underrepresented groups to gain access to security leadership positions, said Jameeka Green Aaron. But there continues to be a pipeline problem with regards to diversity.
“I see the world a little differently,” said Green Aaron. “One of the ways that we can create better companies is diversity of thought. And you can't get diversity of thought, if you don't have diverse people at the table. I've seen what happens when we do get diverse minds in the room.”
“I understand uniquely what's happening. There are statistics around it, but also, it's my own journey as well,” she continued. “It is incredibly important that even if I'm not the first at something I do, that I'm not the last.”
Green Aaron spent the first 15 years of her career working with many organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Urban Technology Center, and others, offering mentoring. These groups need time, money, and talent to support younger generations of tech leaders.
As she continued to mentor, she felt there was more she could do for these underrepresented groups and shifted to mentoring college students in their first or second years of schooling. In the tech and security worlds, it’s important to address those challenges early on and support those interested in the field when they’re just starting out.
“Representation is so much more important than we realize,” said Green Aaron. “And it’s not just about what you can give to the organization. It’s about those young people being able to see the world as it truly is, and it’s a truly diverse and beautiful space. And it’s important that they recognize they’re part of it.”
“Once they understand that they are part of it, they’ll continue to pursue their dreams. And it will, it will create innovation for all of us,” she added.
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Throughout her career, Green Aaron notes that it was people who believed in her talent and provided needed mentoring that enabled her to take risks and secure critical positions with a number of leading companies, including Nike, Hurley, Lockheed Martin, and her current position as chief information security officer of Auth0.
But it was her first position with the U.S. Navy building the first network on the USS Rushmore that took her from a deep interest in tech to leveraging technology to impact humanity as a whole. She took the position at the encouragement of a recruiter who recognized her talent and ability for the tech field.
The network and email system enabled naval officers and sailors to communicate with family members every day. It proved critical during 9/11. Green Aaron was onboard the USS Rushmore during the terrorist attack, and the network connectivity became their lifeline.
“I think jobs where there's an impact on people, or there's this kind of giant leap in terms of who we are as people: those are the jobs that really stick with me,” said Green Aaron. Although she has found great success in the field, she notes that she wasn’t very good at it in the beginning. Still, she persisted and found her way, continuing to issue the charge to other women: stick with it.
“We have to continue to issue the charge that this work is not easy. But don’t give up,” she continued. “There are tons of ways to find your way in this industry. And we need more women here, more women of color. We need more diversity of thought leadership. That starts at the beginning. And we need more of that.”