Career Notes 3.5.23
Ep 139 | 3.5.23

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: Thriving in the chaos. [Cyber governance]


Gabriela Smith-Sherman: Hi, my name is Gabriela Smith-Sherman, and I am the Director of the Governance Risk and Compliance Department at MindPoint Group.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I come from an all Army family. My parents met and married in the Army and it's a total family tradition. So when I was a little girl, all I knew I wanted to do was join the Army, which I did grow up to do. Um, I joined right out of high school. That was like my goal and my desire. I didn't actually pick a specific job, um, with that idea other than I was gonna be a soldier.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I joined my senior year, so I was still in a high school. I hung out about a, a month or so, and then I went straight into basic training. With going to basic training, they have what they call kind of like the summer surge. So there's a ton of soldiers all waiting for their basic training to actually start. When I got there, maybe a week or two into actual basic training, 9/11 happened, so I didn't have the opportunity to see anything happen in real time cuz we're out like on a land nav course and it definitely changed what I thought my path for, uh, my military experience was going to be like.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: So I actually joined the signal core, um, which is basically communications. So for me, I, I kind of looked at it as, as more of an exciting opportunity to go somewhere cool. I probably, maybe was a little naive, but I think it was a, a safe perspective to kind of go into things, not worrying about what happens, because when you panic, that's when people make mistakes. As long as you rely on your training, you have trust in your fellow soldiers and you, you understand your job, you know, you're typically gonna be safe and, and be able to make the right decisions. Um, and so I think that kind of created the opportunity for me to be one of those people that, um, thrive in in chaos believe it or not, I love the crazy.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I think my time in the service was amazing. My first duty station, um, was in Germany in a small town called Darmstadt. I had the opportunity to spend like a lovely year there before actual deployment. You really kind of develop a, a different sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, uh, because you have to have a lot of trust and reliance on the business process, right? Everything there is a rhythm and a rhyme and madness, everything has a purpose. You kind of have to learn to trust the process and be successful and, and trust your counterparts. I think that type of experience, um, creates and cultivates a lot of opportunities to be successful in non-traditional ways.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: It's one of the hardest things ever. I know so many people that transition out of the military and they struggle in the civilian side and end up going back because you have kind of grown up in that structure where you have the rhyme, the reason and, and the rules that you follow. Then when you come into civilian life, it's kind of like the wild, wild west, right? Because you're so used to that frigid structure. For me, I think what made my transition easy is I got offered a position, um, as a fed civilian working for the Department of the Army. So I still got to work with soldiers every day. My first job was being an assignment manager and essentially what they do is you get a job specialty and you're responsible for assigning people to go to their next duty station and keeping them kind of full strength and looking at their human resourcing and staffing and, and being able to, um, forecast where people are, are going from a, uh, deployment standpoint. Kind of seeing a bigger picture and understanding a bigger strategy. 

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I worked on, uh, a, a bunch of federal programs, uh, as a government civilian. Um, and now being here on the contract side, I have so many different customers and, uh, different environments that I work with. While a lot of the challenges that I face are very similar in nature, right, the requirements are the same. We're all trying to a, achieve very similar missions. The way that people tackle the problems are different and that gives me the opportunity to, to see and experience things in, in a different environment with different people and learn something new every day. I like the fact that I get to touch so many different programs and make things a little bit more effective and efficient. But specifically my role here at MindPoint, I oversee both our federal and commercial practices and I really enjoy that because I get to kind of straddle both federal and, and civilian entities in bringing it all back to cybersecurity policy, um, and being able to, to be a good advisor.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I think I'm like a little bit of a, an organized mess. The thing that I love the most is working with people, and I think that's also the most difficult aspect of the job, right? The policy, the requirements, they're the same, but dealing with different people, different personalities who have different interpretations and understanding of, um, technical requirements, it takes a lot to be able to understand, um, where they're coming from. What is the vision for the organization that you're trying to, um, support and being able to, to give good guidance on, on implementation strategies. I wanna make it a happy experience and I want people to feel comfortable, to be able to tell me anything and everything, and know that no matter what, I will be there to be supportive both professionally and personally.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: Being able to kind of take a step back, understand the problem, being able to, to listen to a person's pain point, um, under stress and pressure and proposing solutions is like something that I enjoy doing. I like that, that little bit of a challenge. I think my military experience has prepared me, uh, to be in those kind of chaotic positions and be very calm about the approach. And it's probably the only time I'm, I'm super calm about things is when it is chaotic and, and overwhelming. I'm a little bit of a risk taker. I love to see women in IT, women in cyber. You know, stepping out and, and bringing that different type of perspective and different type of experiences. 

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: One of my, um, kind of biggest fears, uh, walking into cyber was that I wasn't technical enough. I was always nervous about not being technical enough and, you know, being a woman and, and starting, um, my career in cyber in a non-traditional path. I didn't necessarily have the, the formal education. I would say that a lot of people kind of value as my honesty and transparency about what I know and what I don't know, but being a hard worker and being passionate carries you so much further than a lot of people would think.

Gabriela Smith-Sherman: I hope that, um, people think that I was impactful and it doesn't necessarily have to be in the, I I left like an amazing cyber legacy, but I, I touched people in the work that I do and that I made a mark, um, and made a lasting impression and that people will remember me for my contributions and my dedication to the work that we do.