Women in IT Security, Power players

Deborah Golden: shattering walls of unexpected silos

In addition to her role at Deloitte, Deborah Golden trains guard dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation.

Deborah Golden hates single-minded careers in cybersecurity. It’s why she’s stayed in the same job for 24 years. 

Within the walls of Deloitte, where she is the U.S. cybersecurity and strategic risk lead, Golden has seen an industry where people emphasized domain-specific experience turn into one where people emphasize the strategic advantage of broad capabilities spanning disparate corners of the industry. A multitude of experiences, not a devout focus on a single field, she says, will propel forward the workforce of the future.  

The end result: Problems that once were solved in silos will be approached from a diverse range of directions, using tactics learned in unexpected places. 

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“People in one competitive landscape used to only be interested in that one competitive landscape,” she said. “If you were in automotive you cared about what was going on in automotive. If you were in financial services you cared about financial services.”  

“Now, the financial services industry is more curious about the intelligence industry, and the automotive industry is more interested in what is going on in defense, looking at something like autonomous vehicles. As we go forward the intersections will be critical.”  

It isn’t just that people need to be prepared with skills from more than one silo, said Golden. They have to be prepared to shatter the walls of unexpected silos on the fly. 

Golden says that she lucked into a broad skillset. Not knowing the area of security she specifically wanted to focus on, but willing to take on any project, she found herself moving through wildly different projects. In time, she was able to leverage the totality of experience into any project. In the future, she thinks it will be less of an accident that young pros don’t focus on a specific knowledge base.  

Through her roles on two Virginia Tech advisory boards – Business Information Technology and Masters in Information Technology – and through other involvement with schools, Golden meets a lot of students. They are equipped with the intellectual curiosity to try multiple focuses out rather than be limited to a specific silo, she said. 

Just as practitioners may be better at solving future problems by emphasizing breadth rather than domain-specific knowledge, jobs of the future may be better at retention by emphasizing the breadth of experiences they might provide.  

“By having more cross-domain opportunities, maybe you stay in a place longer,” she says. “One of the reasons I’ve stayed at Deloitte as long as I have is the amount of opportunities I’ve had here.” 

But, she says, companies trying to tactically deploy new types of thinking shouldn’t just be looking for employees with less siloed skillsets.  

“It’s not just depth of experience but diversity of people,” she said. “ It's very important to me to make sure that we are achieving that approach, and the only way to face the complexity of cyber challenges is with more diverse thinking to the table.” 

Joe Uchill

Joe is a senior reporter at SC Weekly, focused on policy issues. He previously covered cybersecurity for Axios, The Hill and the Christian Science Monitor’s short-lived Passcode website.

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