From promotion to protection.
By By Bat El Azerad, CEO and Co-founder of novoShield
Nov 30, 2022

An introduction to this article appeared in the monthly Creating Connections newsletter put together by the women of The CyberWire. This is a guest-written article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, not necessarily the CyberWire, Inc.

From promotion to protection.

How I moved from a career in marketing to become a cybersecurity CEO.

Most of us at one point or another have probably considered making a career change. Either due to the desire for a more purposeful day-to-day, a chance to explore an industry that we are passionate about, or to feel like we’re contributing to solving a vital societal issue. For me, it was a combination of all these reasons alongside casting an eye to the future and seeing the upwards trajectory of cybersecurity. After almost two decades in senior marketing roles, I decided to dedicate the next stage of my life to spearheading the development of cutting-edge cybersecurity technology for mobile phones. I’m extremely proud of our product and what I personally have achieved. I operate in a versatile and exciting ecosystem, one which has made me realize both the fortunes and hazards on the path. Cybersecurity is an area we should all be more cognizant of in our roles, whatever they may be. 

Hackers helped pivot my career.

If you’ve had an account sabotaged by a hacker, accidentally downloaded malware onto your computers, or received any kind of spam content, you should have a qualified interest in defending against future attacks. Cyber threats are increasing, hackers are becoming more sophisticated and quality security mechanisms and the skills required to build and manage them are in short supply. In my previous line of work, the marketing projects I facilitated required the collation and interrogation of vast amounts of consumer data to gain insights and inform campaigns. It is this data, our digital DNA, which if ambushed by the wrong kind of people can jeopardize our personal information, unlock doors to our privacy and sink businesses. The correlation between understanding how to manipulate data and how to protect it wasn’t such a stretch. I saw networks or systems compromised time and time again and became incensed at our collective impotence to respond. This began a journey into researching the biggest gaps where the most damage is caused and surprisingly, I found scarce cyber products for consumers – the industry was geared more toward enterprise and large-scale operations. Moreover, our personal mobiles are one of if not the most vulnerable to breaches, and I’ve become devoted to working towards solutions that can anticipate and shield against the increasing level of threats.

Businesses are driven by failures.

The start-up world is overflowing with entrepreneurs driven by failures - in a previous lifetime their interactions in a role left them wondering how to resolve inefficiencies, make a product more sustainable or finetune improvements in certain elements of a supply chain. Addressing these ‘failings’ can lead to wholesale revolutions across sectors. I am no different. I saw a burgeoning industry that didn’t seem to cater to one particular modality. I was inspired by a failure and assured by the projected success of cybersecurity. The continued metamorphosis of cybersecurity is sadly hinged on the parallel evolution of threats. The constant need to be ahead of your adversary makes this a cat and mouse craft, keeping those of us in charge of designing digital counter-measures always on our guard.

Recent McKinsey data shows damage from cyberattacks will reach up to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025—a 300% increase from 2015 levels, while organizations spent around $150 billion in 2021 on cybersecurity. According to IBM, data breaches cost companies an average of $3.62 million — a figure which easily equates to small businesses having the lights turned off. Hackers will not retreat, if anything they’re poised to accelerate their assaults, and I felt I could contribute to the efforts in defending consumers from the proliferation of cybercrime.

Coding’s human impact.

Cybersecurity isn’t just programming and digital forensics, you need strong problem-solving skills, project management abilities, and a penchant for assessing and mitigating risks. It is a space open to those willing to learn and especially those who intend on refining their technical repertoire. As phishing attacks become more intelligent, I am constantly trying to adjust the counter-threat software to match it - while also ensuring we provide an affordable and standout product for the market. It can be a tough balance. Principally though, alongside the academic challenge, I am most motivated by creating products that allow people to protect themselves – so rather than fixating on profits, I wanted to make sure the culture of our company revolves around producing solutions that result in direct human impact. I think this is very important to anyone contemplating the transition into the industry, especially for those with a similar background to mine. The broader disciplines which intersect with cyber can feel impersonal and mechanical, but when you think of the lives you are helping to secure, the hackers stopped in their tracks, and the personal information out of harm’s way, it brings home how a simple set of coding instructions can carry tremendous weight in the real world and adds a sense of fulfilment to our work. 

Innovation and opportunities.

Cybersecurity is a skillset in low supply and high demand, and despite difficulties the broader tech workforce is facing, this particular sector within the tech ecosystem is growing and is always primed for a supply of new recruits. This coupled with a lack of preparedness for and awareness of the entry points through which hackers emerge into our lives unannounced, make it fertile ground for innovation and opportunities. Sure, a technical background helps to carve a seamless passage into cybersecurity, but the softer skills – those which can be cultivated in any industry – are equally necessary and highly regarded. Navigating a road from promoting products to protecting consumers has been in equal parts intellectually engaging as it has been personally gratifying, and my learning curve isn’t over. Anyone flirting with the idea of embarking on a similar exploration into cybersecurity will be welcomed by a sector with an unenviable task ahead, but with the commendable audacity to succeed.