Back in 1997, cyber was really a pure tech domain where you were mainly focused on protecting an organisation from hacks, website defacements, IP theft, and subsequent lawsuits. Nowadays, it’s so much more exciting, for cyber isn’t just a target; it’s a weapon and attack vector. Attacks are transforming, and they’re not only capable of disruption but are now destructive and life-threatening. The stakes are so much higher, and everyone is aware – even pop artists like Taylor Swift!
Being a cybersecurity executive, Jane Frankland knows how incredibly diverse the industry is. She states, “It’s not only made up of defence (protecting) and offence (attacking), but where you’ll find both a technology and business side to it.” She further adds that the technology side is out to solve tech problems and is comprised of things like security assessments, ethical hacking, secure coding, threat intelligence, endpoint security, security architecture, encryption, fraud, and forensics. The business side is focused on human problems and where you’ll find governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), security training and awareness, incident response, privacy, law, programme management, strategy and operations.
Below are highlights of the interview:
Tell us about yourself and your story before starting your professional career.
My life changed direction when I fell pregnant straight after graduating. As a child, I wanted to be a vet, but as I was creative, I pursued art until my mid-twenties as a designer. Highlights included being nominated as a Young British Designer and selling work in New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo—to art galleries, including Christies, and fashion houses. While it may sound glamorous, my life at that point was not. In reality, I was broke and, as a single parent, could barely support my son.
So, a change had to be made. I was advised to leave my art behind and get ‘a proper job.’ I retrained and entered sales, something as an introvert I vowed I’d never do. But what I hadn’t realised was that I’d already done sales when I was banging on galleries’ doors with my portfolio, asking them to show my work. Or, when I created a mini jewellery business when I needed money to go travelling with a boyfriend in my late teens. So I began my career working my socks off for a listed company that specialised in recruitment. Being keen to serve, I rose through the ranks quickly and could do the job with ease. I was seeking a new challenge, and when an opportunity presented itself through my boyfriend, I decided to enter into a business partnership with him and build a cybersecurity consultancy. That’s when my professional career really began.
Why did you choose Cyber Security & IT Compliance industry to work in?
When I started my IT company, there were only two areas of tech that interested me—AI and cyber (or IT security as it was called then)—and since AI was still emerging in 1997, cybersecurity was a viable option. In those days, we were mostly talking about firewalls, content security, and intrusion detection systems; companies had just started using email, and most didn’t even have a website. Cybersecurity was much different than it is today. Anyway, I thought it sounded really cool, a bit like James Bond, so I suggested to my business partner that we lead our company with that.
What have you failed at and how do you overcome challenges?
I’ve failed at loads of things, and sometimes, if I’ve been too attached to the outcome, I’ve been left feeling crushed and emotionally drained. So, when the failures come, I tell myself this is how you progress, and then I set aside time to dissect what’s occurred. I’ll usually go through things with my coaches and mentors. Sometimes, even my friends and family. At the end of the day, I know that successful people are those who’ve failed many times, and that it’s best to fail as fast as you can. Failures come from testing out your assumptions, and you’re always testing as an innovative entrepreneur. Success is just the result of good judgement. Good judgement is the result of experience, and experience is often the result of bad judgement!
What are the key attributes of becoming successful tech leader?
I believe you must have integrity, a clear vision, and be able to communicate and inspire people. You need people to come with you on your journey and buy into your mission. You must be able to spot, recruit, and develop great talent, too, for your team is your greatest asset. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. You need open, honest, and clear communication to be able to stretch your team and support them in equal doses (what I call High Support-High Challenge), plus boundaries that are understood so your team feels safe. And of course, you must be resilient, courageous, strong, and self-analytical. It’s all too easy to throw yourself into your work and get out of balance at the expense of your family life.
What changes do you wish to bring in society?
I want more women to be working in male-dominated environments like cyber and tech. Women are natural change agents and guardians with unique talents, and when women are included and unleashed in business, they’ll be able to create the prosperity, the health, the innovation, and the sustainability the planet needs. I’ve spent years studying this, and I care not just because I’m a woman who wants to eliminate gender bias, but actually because I care deeply about the planet, and I know the benefits that gender diversity can bring when more women are in male-dominated industries like cyber.
In your opinion, what are the primary technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the future of security and information sector?
I’m really excited about IT leaders integrating security tools into a cooperative ecosystem using a cybersecurity mesh architecture approach. Gartner says that by 2024, organisations that adopt a cybersecurity mesh architecture will reduce the financial impact of security incidents by an average of 90%. That’s massive and hugely impactful.
What advice would you give to the next generation of tech leaders?
Build your personal brand and executive presence, as it displays who you are and what you stand for as a leader. It attracts people to you who believe in your unique message and take on things. It sends a very clear message to those you lead and want to lead, as well as to other stakeholders within your organisation, whom you’ll need to engage with and obtain buy-in from at some point. It enables you to experience greater influence, rapid career advancement and explosive growth, both personal and financial.
What are your future plans to sustain your success?
I’m writing more books. I’ve just finished a new mini book for women working in cyber, and almost finished another which is a practical guide on how to get into cyber. Both books will be part of my IN Sights series and they’re sure to help many. Companies will be able to collaborate with me and leverage off them too when recruiting. I’m also scaling The Source and building a coterie inside it for women leaders. It’s called Spring and I’m excited about this as so many women leaders in tech and cyber need supporting. We’ll be helping them steer and advance their careers and equipping them with resources, communities and meeting places for collaborations, friendships, and support. I’m tailoring this, so women will get remarkable high value.
My plans also include a foundation that can help lift women out of poverty or hard times. I’ve already enabled 335 women to benefit from my scholarships, a value of around half a million dollars and I want to do more. And, we’ll be doing more research and plugging some very large data gaps. I’ll be releasing some ground-breaking research on women shortly.