Michele Ramos, top cybersecurity, with a woman touch

After fifteen years of networking career in Sao Paulo at Embratel (now Claro), America Móvil’s telecom giant, Michele left her native Brazil in 2017 to settle in Quebec. Polyglot (she speaks three languages and is interested in three others), curious and passionate, Michele is on assignment for NETsatori at CAE where she quickly made her way into an almost exclusively male network and cybersecurity team.

Renato Cudicio: You have been working at CAE for almost a year. You’re still one of the only women in the network and security department. How do you explain the fact that there are so few women in your profession?

Michele Ramos: It’s a start. We have to be optimistic and say that going from 0 to 1 puts us on the path to growth! The presence of a single woman is already enough to bring down male unanimity. Thanks to a single woman, we are obliged to add expressions of diversity (“Hello Gentlemen… and Madam.” 😊) or to include female models in the order of polo shirts for a team event. That’s great!

We are still at the beginning of a great and important change. We know that no change in mentality is easy to achieve and, like all minorities, we must work hard (sometimes twice) to ensure that this movement continues, even slowly. And that is why it is very important to ensure the representation of women in this sector, where we are almost absent. One possible explanation for the current situation lies in the direct environment of women, which can strongly influence their professional decisions. A girl who grows up in a motivating environment, who values her abilities and dreams, will never doubt that she is able to work in any field, whether it is predominantly male or not. But, unfortunately, there are still many toxic environments for girls where their ambitions are limited by devaluing them. For these, it is really representativeness (having someone to draw from) that can keep the last breath of a dream potentially cut off….

When we know that there are women astronauts or Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Economics, etc., we are encouraged to try to do the same and to believe that our abilities are not at all determined by our gender, in any aspect. And if I’m one of the only women right now, it’s an invitation to the next cyberladies.

As we go along, we are more and more numerous in conferences and technical events. We greet each other with a look and a smile that recognize the resilience required to be there and not to give up in difficult times. A sign of sorority that will serve as a motivation and invitation for the little ones of the future.

RC: It is said that women have a different perspective on safety issues and that, therefore, having a better gender balance in teams would increase the level of safety. What do you think of that?

MR: I totally agree. Women are known to notice the irremarkable… 😉. Attention to detail is the key in this area where a small flaw can become a major vulnerability in the security of an entire system. And because women are naturally meticulous and careful, this look can indeed make a big difference in the daily work to secure networks.

Ensuring a better gender balance, in general, is always a very good measure to ensure sound thinking and arrive at the best decisions. Thinking outside the box is the rule in cybersecurity. Either for the defense, or twice as much for the attack. And the more heterogeneous the team, the greater its ability to highlight reality.

RC: You have been working in the networking field for more than 15 years, have you noticed in your tasks that security issues are increasingly being taken into consideration?

MR: Absolutely. I worked for a long time in the configuration of the backbone of an Internet service provider and the networking department was mainly concerned with connectivity and infrastructure performance. In fact, network and security were managed by different teams, with very parallel discussions and decisions. At the time, everywhere in this field, security seemed to have a rather secondary role in my opinion…

RC: In concrete terms, how does this translate today?

MR: Now we talk about security first before we even connect the first cable. The media coverage of serious damage, the consequences of security breaches, has highlighted the importance of prioritizing cybersecurity from the very beginning of a new project. We deploy a network thinking immediately about how we will protect it. Networking and security currently work together, which makes our work more efficient and reassuring.

RC: You have just passed several security certifications with CrowdStrike, Palo Alto, Aruba in a few months and you have long had Cisco certifications. What do you see in common between all these technologies/approaches to security?

MR: Technologies are evolving at an incredible speed and are accompanied by the concern to be ever more avant-garde. This is their main common point. Cybersecurity is a battleground where technological virtuosos, who never stop creating new ways to defeat system security, and manufacturers who have understood that it is necessary to adapt each time faster in an insatiable logic of development. To ensure customer protection and trust, manufacturers are working in this race on new versions of the solution, more as partners than competitors in my opinion….

Personally, I find it very rewarding to be in contact with NETsatori’s diversified portfolio of partners because it allows us to work not just with the best products of each technology, but rather to adapt them to the particular needs of each customer. This flexibility is a win-win situation for everyone since we improve professionally at almost the same pace as new technologies are introduced; and our customers are always assured of having the best choices according to their own scenario.

RC: Last question: Your license to dive has expired two months ago. Is the water in Quebec too cold? 😊

MR: Yes, too cold!!!! 🥶 But the beauty of Quebec lies on its surface. I am always fascinated by this culture and its social organization, especially the rich and peaceful biodiversity of Montreal…

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