Optiv’s Dara Gibson: Proof that career changes in cybersecurity are possible

Dara Gibson

Dara Gibson, now senior cyber insurance manager at Optiv, proves that once somebody decides they want to make a career change, as long as they are willing to work hard and has a clear sense of where they are headed, nothing can stand in their way.

Gibson has a bachelor's and master’s in education from Northern Arizona University. During her years as a teacher, Gibson always worked with technology. She had to develop curricula for all types of learners, tactile, verbal and visual learners — and do all that while leveraging technology

Her break came when she went to a networking event and talked to a company that was looking for someone to design a new cybersecurity awareness program. They hit it off and she was hired to become a corporate trainer and develop the new cybersecurity awareness program.

From there, Gibson became interested in cyber insurance and along the way took advantage of ISC2’s Certified in Cybersecurity program and now works for Optiv focused on working with clients on their cyber insurance programs.

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Gibson said before the pandemic, organizations would often view cyber controls and cyber insurance as mutually exclusive. Today, more businesses understand that each plays a different role in the risk management process and that both are necessary to build security and resilience — but there’s still a lot of confusion around how the two program elements connect.

In her role with Optiv, Gibson believes her experience in corporate training and cyber insurance lets her help clients overcome this knowledge barrier. She considers it her mission to bridge the communication gap between cyber insurance policies and cybersecurity “speak” for clients and offer recommendations on how to align security controls with insurance plans to boost their overall cybersecurity and resilience postures.

A rocky start

While Gibson has made a successful career change, her first experience in the cybersecurity industry was not the greatest. A woman she considered a mentor told Gibson that nobody would listen to her because she was an older women.

That just egged on Gibson more to succeed. Not wanting other women to have the same experience, Gibson helped found the local Phoenix chapter of Women in CyberSecurity (WiCys).

“During 2020 when the pandemic broke out I felt like I was the only cybersecurity person in Arizona,” said Gibson. “I just really needed that outreach and to talk to other females. WiCys gives women an opportunity to train either to step into cyber or move up in cyber. We focus on how to take that next step.”

Gibson pointed out that sometimes all people need is a slight tweak. She’s a good example of moving from teaching to corporate training and then into cyber insurance. But there are others.

“I mentored a pharmacy tech who had a HIPAA background and knew about all the HIPAA regulations,” said Gibson. “Today, she’s a GRC HIPAA specialist for her organization and didn’t need to quit her job or leave her organization.”

So with the right support and a positive attitude, people can make these tough career changes. It’s not easy, but it’s clear Dara Gibson didn’t let any of that stand in her way.   

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