Women in IT Security, Power players

Aflac’s Tera Ladner: Building teams and relationships

Tera Ladner

Getting a hold of Tera Ladner can be difficult. Aflac’s global practice lead and vice president of information risk management and governance is an avid traveler for work and leisure.

At the time of this interview, Ladner was at a conference and said she expected to be traveling for work for most of the next 10 weeks. But what was also illuminating at the conference: attendance was about 150 people and Ladner said there were probably 15 women overall.

“It’s absolutely noticeable and continues to be noticeable,” she said. “Did it change my trajectory or my desire to be in this field? Absolutely not.”

Cybersecurity is a field where you must have top talent in your ranks when it’s your responsibility to protect the information of an organization, she said.

“Threat actors continue to change their approach, they continue to bring different weapons to the table,” said Ladner. “And there's no room for ‘fake it till you make it.’ … I've never felt like I was here for any other reason than my merits and the hard work I've put into my career.”

Click here for full coverage of the 2023 Women in IT Security.

Ladner’s background is in information governance, and the amount of data a company has to deal with is sometimes overwhelming. Companies don’t know what to keep and for how long, and what is the best way to store it. 

Another aspect of information governance is meeting investigative regulatory litigation needs, which led her to earn a law degree from the Georgia State University College of Law. 

Ladner is one of SC Media’s 2023 Women in IT Security Power Players. Under her leadership, Ladner’s Aflac Information Risk Management and Governance team validates security controls under a consistent standardized methodology to ensure the controls are properly evidenced for internal and external assessments, which helps drive efficiencies in those reviews, wrote Tim Callahan, Aflac’s global chief information security officer, in Ladner’s nomination.

She is an active participant in a number of industry-aligned groups such as the Evanta CISO community and the Executive Women’s Forum, and is a member of the National Technology Security Council’s policy council. Along with Aflac’s CIO, Shelia Anderson, Ladner co-sponsors the company’s Women in Technology group and is involved in Columbus State University’s Cybersecurity Nexus program.

Ladner said it was her hope to see more women in the cybersecurity field, where there is plenty of room for more diversity in general due to the overwhelming talent shortage. 

“If you are someone who is willing to put in the hard work, and you can work in a fast paced field where you're always curious and you want to continuously learn, I do think that there's room for success in this field.”

Ladner said part of her leadership philosophy is to surround herself with smart people and build relationships.

“If I'm the smartest person in the room, I don't have the right team around me,” she said.

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