Cisco’s Alison Stahl On Paving Her Own Way In Cybersecurity

In an episode of Channel Women in Security, Alison Stahl of Cisco shares why cybersecurity discussions need to be at the C-suite level, more about her personal journey and more.

Alison Stahl, director of Americas security channel and acceleration at Cisco, says she is a big believer in women supporting other women. In fact, she spent her high school and college years attending all-girl schools.

Even though the percentage of women in the cybersecurity industry has grown from 11 percent to 25 percent since she entered the field five years ago, she says much more still needs to be done.

In an episode of Channel Women in Security, Stahl shares why cybersecurity discussions need to be at the C-suite level, her personal journey and how resiliency is key to help other women in the cybersecurity industry.

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Here’s a look at some of Stahl’s interview with CRNtv:

What’s the biggest trend that you see right now leading into 2023?

We’re seeing that there’s more attacks. The attacks are more sophisticated, they’re more personalized, and it’s not going away. So, those of us in cybersecurity have a duty to ensure that we’re keeping society safe, and taking care of those issues that we see coming up.

If we aren’t talking about cybersecurity with our customers and with our partner community, the reality is, someone else probably is. We have an opportunity to elevate our conversations, make us board relevant, and take us into the C-suite once we’re talking about cybersecurity.

How did you end up in the cybersecurity space?

Truth be told, I went for a job that I did not get. And I think it’s often in those times that you realize how resilient you are. I had always had a bit of an interest in cybersecurity, so I decided to take a chance.

I always told myself, ‘If I’m not being challenged, I’m probably in the wrong space.’ I took a chance to move into cyber really because I got a little bit knocked on my butt, and that’s OK. I brushed myself off and then ended up being able to create that leadership opportunity and opportunity to lead leaders in my current job.

Oftentimes, we hear a lot of women that won’t apply for the job because they don’t check every single box. What advice do you have for women that may think, ‘Oh, maybe that’s not the right job for me?’

I’m a big believer in playing to your strengths. So, despite the fact that I didn’t know cybersecurity when I moved over, outside of a generalist IT role, I didn’t let that stop me because I knew I could learn it. I offered so much else to the opportunity, a different perspective, diversity. I didn’t have any challenges or any concerns about being able to learn and dive into the cybersecurity aspect of the actual job.

You mentioned that resilience to move on even after you got that no. What helped you push through?

I knew what my end goal was. I knew that I wanted to be a leader and in the partner community at Cisco, so when I was told no, I said, ‘OK, it’s just not that tree that I need to climb anymore. But let me go try over here.’ There was nothing that was going to get in my way of getting to that end goal even if I was told ‘no’, a couple of times along the way.

What advice do you have for a woman who may be unsure about cybersecurity?

I kind of go back to a saying that really resonates with me, which is, ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ And so, who isn’t looking for an opportunity to level up. I think as women, we always look to do a little bit more, work a little bit faster. I know failure is often a bad word, but it’s really not because you can learn so many lessons from being told no -- and then getting up and trying again.