This week I'm pleased to share my interview with Sharon Goldberg, the cofounder and CEO of BastionZero. She is also a computer science professor at Boston University. Check out our video below, and listen to the full audio interview.
After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto, Sharon started her career as a telecom engineer at a power company building communications systems for its different power stations. After a few months, she was bored so she applied and got accepted to grad school at Princeton University, where she joined a team using lasers to encrypt communications. She took a course in cryptography and got hooked, moving more into computer science and internet security, earning her PhD in applied cryptography and network security.
At the end of her PhD, she says she took the typical route of becoming a professor. Once she had tenure, she had more freedom to work on what she wanted, and realized she wanted to build something that people could use, instead of just doing the research and publishing a paper, and moving on to other research.
So she started BastionZero to help organizations better manage remote access. It's built around the concept of cryptography, and it was something she worked on along with her cofounder, Ethan Heilman, for the past decade.
"There's an opportunity to change the way the market actually does remote access...to not have a single route of trust that controls the access but to have multiple routes of trust that control the access...So if there is a compromise, the security of your system doesn't fall apart."
While leading her company, Sharon continues to teach cybersecurity. "When you teach, you can't just stand there and teach stale stuff. When you teach, you teach on a broad set of topics...When you talk to students and see how they are absorbing the material, it's an incredible privilege."
She says she's seen progress with women in tech and cybersecurity. She recalls how when she started out, in the early 2000s, women in tech had to prove themselves and were often underestimated. "You always sort of assumed that no one was going to take you seriously and you were just going to show them...a lot of women who got through that era had that kind of attitude. I'll just show you, you're underestimating me. Then you go off and do something really hard...I think women who are starting out now are more surprised when they aren't taken seriously, which is progress."
Her advice: if someone underestimates you, don't take it seriously, it's their problem. Build a strong network and support system; find people who you click with and who understand your problem area to help you deal with any issues with fear or inadequacy when you start something new.
She also says things happen fast in this industry. She uses social media as a tool to connect with people and learn from how much information is shared in the cybersecurity community.
Check out Sharon's company BastionZero to learn more. If you're heading to RSA in a few weeks, you can root for her in the Innovation Sandbox competition where BastionZero is a finalist! You can also follow her on twitter.
Please visit ESG's Women in Cybersecurity page, where you can also find a link to the full audio interview with Sharon, view past episodes, and join us to hear more inspiring stories in future shows.