Executives Unpacked Episode 33: Do It Afraid with Lynn Dohm

This post was written by: John Clifton

Our latest featured executive on the Executives Unpacked podcast was Lynn Dohm, an Executive Director of Women In CyberSecurity. She joined us to talk about her experiences of working in the cybersecurity sector, including the people challenges that are facing the industry, as well as topics such as gender diversity and leadership. Here are the highlights of the conversation: 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your career?

Accepting the process and knowing that sometimes you’re speeding up the process, and sometimes, you have to slow down and take a step back. You can only be as good as your willingness to listen. I have been extremely mindful of knowing that there’s an ebb and flow to leadership. Navigation is one of my biggest lessons because being a type A personality, I’m always solutions-focused and action-orientated. We want to move things forward. Our role as leaders is to mobilise our community initiatives and efforts and make an impact in the workforce, but sometimes you need to kick back and listen. That’s a leadership moment itself. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to accept the process and not be rigid-minded or have preconceived ideas of what should be happening right now because sometimes, you just have to lean in.

What do you wish you’d been told earlier in your career?

I wish I were told that even if a space or conversation is uncomfortable, to dive in anyway. One of the things that really transformed my career was when someone that’s very dear to me said, ‘Do it afraid’. That’s what I say to so many people, because you have to step into the space of ‘I don’t know what’s happening here in my career, and I don’t know what this is going to be, but I’m brave enough to step into this space and let my voice be heard’. Accepting that uncomfortable situation is the best way to move on from it. 

What is the best bit of career advice you have been given?

What’s helped me is that if I’m able to have a speaking engagement, whether it’s on a podcast, workshop, or keynote presentation, if I’m able to inspire or empower someone, then that’s a job well done. Sometimes we take on this responsibility of changing it all at once, which seems like an unachievable task, but if you narrow it down to someone believing in you, trusting yourself, and being authentic and genuine, if you’re making an impact in one person’s life, you are moving the movement forward in a very positive way. That’s how I step into each and every day.

What sort of things keep you awake at night?

The critical workforce shortage and the demands on the actual workforce itself. There’s so much data out there, and studies that show that already even existing cybersecurity teams are short-staffed. Reducing the high burnout rate is really critical. There’s lots of work that needs to be done in this space, and our nonprofit is working towards that, as are many others, but this can’t be slow-moving anymore. There has to be a multi-organisation approach of everyone taking responsibility and investment in building up the workforce, which isn’t happening now. These challenges are only going to get bigger. 

Can you identify a single thread throughout your career that’s led to your success?

When I reflect back, I took no career move for granted. I was always extremely grateful to be in the place I was, and my connections were always really important to me. It’s interesting to me how our paths cross again. Individuals who mentored me 15 years ago will be invited to present with me. The individuals who helped me launch into my career and believed in me so many years ago are now my peers and colleagues, and we’re working together in this space. Even as that has happened to me, it’s happened to others that have been impacted by me. They’ve received scholarships to come to the business conferences and it has changed their lives and advanced their careers. I never burned any bridges when I moved into a different career, I brought all the people from my past role with me. I built a community.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to somebody that’s entering the industry?

Change is going to happen. Accept that things are always going to evolve, and you’ll always be problem-solving. There are always going to be new challenges. Reduce any barriers that you might have on yourself with a rigid mind, and continue to have that curiosity that brought you into cybersecurity to begin with. Be more open and fluid. Knowing the challenges of being in the cybersecurity workforce and changing with them is really important.

To hear more from Lynn, tune into Episode 33 of Executives Unpacked here

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