The honourees: Canada’s Top Women in Cybersecurity

On July 26, 20 women were honoured at the IT World Canada Top Women in Cybersecurity celebration, Surpassing Expectations. The event hosted a group of women who excel in the various cybersecurity disciplines.

Join us in congratulating the 2023 Top Women in Cybersecurity.

Kirsten Turnbull

Kirsten Turnbull is a senior technical specialist at Microsoft Canada. She has had a remarkable journey in the field of cybersecurity, driven by her determination and resilience. Throughout a challenging year filled with unknowns, Kirsten’s leadership skills helped her and her team navigate a new way of working by embracing hybrid models.

Her emphasis on visibility as a cornerstone of successful security programs has been invaluable. Kirsten believes all devices on a network, even mundane ones like a coffee maker, need comprehensive protection. Beyond her technical prowess, Kirsten’s commitment to mentoring and fostering diversity in cybersecurity stands out, as she encourages women and young girls to recognize their place in the field.

Tracey Nyholt

Tracey Nyholt, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of TechJutsu, an identity and access-management company, has made significant strides in the cybersecurity field. Her biggest accomplishment was incorporating a U.S. entity in Delaware, allowing her award-winning Color Verify SaaS product to enter the U.S. market. However, she faced challenges with the U.S. banking system, even requiring a physical visit to open a bank account and get a credit card.

A defining moment in Tracey’s career came when she developed the Color Verify product to extend second-factor authentication to call centers, enhancing security for online banking. Her unconventional path into cybersecurity, transitioning from an English Literature degree to financial planning, and then teaching herself about computers, inspires others to pursue this rewarding career.

Tracey also serves on the board of Women in Communications and Technology, supporting mentorship programs for women starting their careers.

Melanie Anderson

Melanie Anderson, the executive director of cryptographic security and systems development at the Canadian Center for Cybersecurity, has had remarkable accomplishments in her career.

Throughout her cybersecurity journey, one highlight was playing a crucial role in protecting Canadian organizations against data attacks. She emphasizes the collaborative efforts needed to understand and counter cyber threats.

Melanie is preparing for post-quantum cryptography, developing next-generation cryptographic algorithms to defend against quantum computers’ potential threats. She encourages women professionals in cybersecurity to be bold, embrace opportunities, and take advantage of the supportive network of women in the field.

Jo-Ann Smith

Jo-Ann Smith is the chief information security officer and privacy officer at Longview Systems, an IT solutions company. Over the past year, she led her team through an extensive threat landscape assessment, resulting in a comprehensive multi-year plan.

Jo-Ann’s approach is to break down complex challenges into manageable tasks, emphasizing strategic resource utilization over solely relying on financial investment. Her leadership focuses on increasing their security level with a business-oriented mindset, ensuring Longview Systems stays ahead in the cyber world. Beyond her organization, Jo-Ann shares her knowledge and experience to empower others in the field, promoting thought leadership and development.

Andrea Stapley

Andrea Stapley is the chief information security officer at trading company Oanda. After joining the organization last year, she has been dedicated to building a mature security program, collaborating with teams to address outstanding issues and top priorities.

Andrea emphasizes the importance of going back to basics in cybersecurity, focusing on employee education and awareness to protect data in organizations.

Beyond her work at Oanda, Andrea is involved in shaping cybersecurity programs for colleges and universities. She collaborated with Seneca College to create a certificate program, providing relevant cyber knowledge to students and helping to address the cyber skill shortage.

Dinah Davis

Dinah Davis is an entrepreneur in residence and board member at the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst; her journey has been marked by determination and growth. At Arctic Wolf, she played a pivotal role in scaling their engineering team from 15 to over 500 members, contributing to the company’s success in cybersecurity and software development.

Currently a startup advisor, Dinah is involved with the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, showing her passion for diverse and impactful initiatives. She emphasizes the importance of women finding support in shared challenges. Through her expertise, Dinah provides advice to organizations and individuals.

Juliana Zaremba

Juliana Zaremba is the strategic partnerships and product director at Difenda, a security solutions company. Her dedication to forging strategic partnerships and advancing data awareness has resulted in remarkable accomplishments. Notably, Juliana oversees Difenda’s global relationship with Microsoft.

She emphasizes the importance of data awareness in the face of rising AI threats and advocates for cybersecurity consciousness for individuals and organizations.

Beyond her professional achievements, Juliana serves as an advocate for women in cybersecurity, encouraging others to get involved and share their experiences. With her inspiring journey and unwavering commitment, Juliana Zaremba continues to make a profound impact in the cybersecurity field, driving innovation and empowering others to follow suit.

Elaine Hum

Elaine Hum, the director of cybersecurity partnerships at Scotiabank in Toronto, is dedicated to addressing the cybersecurity talent shortage. She has successfully built a diverse talent pipeline through strategic partnerships with academic and non-academic institutions, fulfilling immediate and long-term talent needs.

Elaine also volunteers as a mentor, inspiring others to pursue diverse pathways in the field. As a woman in cybersecurity, she advocates for work-life balance, encouraging women to prioritize self-care. With her commitment to talent development, mentoring, and promoting work-life balance, Elaine Hum significantly contributes to the growth and security of the cybersecurity industry.

Noemi Chanda

Noemi Chanda is a partner at Deloitte in cyber risk, specializing in data protection and privacy. Based in Toronto, she faces challenges in the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity, particularly with the pace of regulatory changes and the increasing use of data and AI. Despite these challenges, she finds the space exciting and achieves innovative accomplishments by being creative and collaborating with organizations.

Her research at the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab in Seattle shaped her approach to addressing privacy and cybersecurity in emerging technologies. Noemi said her career is fulfilling due to the opportunity to be creative and work with diverse teams. She believes that cybersecurity’s importance is growing as a foundation for organizations and governments.

Adwoa Adu

Adwoa Adu, security coordinator for the federal government of Canada, has been actively involved in addressing cybersecurity challenges while working with cyber talent within the government. Despite coming from an education and international development background, Adwoa found her place in IT security, discovering the world of cyber diplomacy and advocacy, which resonated deeply with her values.

Beyond her government role, Adwoa is the driving force behind She Leads Cyber-Diplomacy, empowering women in IT security and fostering digital inclusion worldwide. Through mentorship, sponsorship, and collaboration with organizations in West Africa and Asia, Adwoa creates a supportive community in the digital sphere, emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity field.

Looking to the future, Adwoa is excited about the potential for Canadian women to make significant contributions to cybersecurity, showcasing the dynamic talent that can drive meaningful change.

Major Jessica F. Bélanger

Major Jessica F. Bélanger, a division commander at the Royal Military College of Canada, has made significant contributions to the world of cybersecurity. 

One of her accomplishments was observing the growth of the cyber domain within Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), as the team expanded from five to more than 30 members. Additionally, she faced the challenge of defining cyber preparation, a new concept for the CAF, and explaining it to non-technical stakeholders effectively.

As an experienced cybersecurity professional, Major Bélanger emphasizes the importance of having a strong cybersecurity culture within organizations. She encourages organizations to develop a cybersecurity-oriented culture enabled at every level.

With her diverse background in the military and academic pursuits in cybersecurity, Major Bélanger serves as a valuable mentor to future officers. She encourages others to dare to try new things and seek opportunities outside their comfort zones.

Dr. Crystal Chukwuemeka

Dr. Crystal Chukwuemeka is a managing security consultant at IBM Canada. Her role involves leading the delivery of cybersecurity services within IBM’s consulting team to ensure high levels of security for clients. One significant challenge was incorporating security into the development process across dispersed teams.

Dr. Chukwuemeka’s journey had a defining moment when transitioning from on-prem security to global cybersecurity, which shaped her career trajectory and success. She is passionate about mentoring and encouraging youth and women to pursue careers in cybersecurity and IT. Her advice is to pick something you’re passionate about, build depth in that area, be an avid learner, and intentionally grow both vertically and laterally in your career.

Gunes Karabulut-Kurt

Gunes Karabulut-Kurt, an associate professor at Polytechnique, Montréal, has made significant contributions to the field of cybersecurity through her expertise in space communication systems. She has tackled challenges in defining expected architectures and identifying security issues in space communication, from stratospheric platforms to satellite mega constellations and beyond.

Beyond her research, Gunes actively contributes to the standardization of space system cybersecurity. Leading the P2349 Space System Cybersecurity working group, she brings together industry partners, academics, and government agencies to define requirements and create a roadmap for the future.

Laura Everston

Laura Everston, head of strategic business development in cybersecurity at RBC in Toronto, Ontario, has had a dedicated year guiding her team and community towards a cybersecurity-focused future. Notable accomplishments include securing the talent pipeline for Canada through the launch of the CyberStart program, an online gamified learning curriculum for high school students. The overwhelming response from students and educators in Ontario, B.C., and Alberta underscores the program’s success.

Laura’s passion for making a difference extends beyond her professional achievements, evident in her pride in launching “Unplugged” at RBC. This program fosters mindfulness and mental health awareness, vital in the high-stress environment of cybersecurity. Additionally, Laura actively empowers women in the industry, aiming to further diversify the security workforce.

Marites Gerra

Marites Gerra, the manager of IT Security at the National Microbiology Lab, has made outstanding contributions to the cybersecurity field. She successfully balanced security, convenience, and safety for employees, considering the increased dependency on devices and security concerns during travel.

A significant moment in Marites’ career came when she faced gender bias at a security event, which motivated her to improve gender balance and perception in the male-dominated field. This recognition confirms her belief in belonging to the cybersecurity domain.

Louise Dandonneau

Louise Dandonneau, vice president of cybersecurity operations at Scotiabank in Toronto, is a prominent figure in the cybersecurity field, navigating the challenges and advocating for diversity within cybersecurity teams.

Amidst the complexities of cybersecurity this year, one of the biggest hurdles Louise has faced is managing third-party engagements, particularly in response to incidents and breaches. Her background in technology operations proved pivotal in seamlessly transitioning into cybersecurity, allowing her to excel in incident response and problem management.

Louise envisions an exciting future in cybersecurity with the growing prominence of artificial intelligence. Leveraging AI for better communication with the business and improved presentations promises significant benefits for cyber professionals.

Jennifer Vlasiu

Jennifer Vlasiu, a doctor of engineering in cyberlytics candidate at George Washington University in Washington, DC, is a distinguished expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Her contributions have been instrumental in the development and implementation of sophisticated AI models that we benefit from today.

Jennifer’s approach to cybersecurity centers around effective task mitigation and threat intelligence. With a focus on attribution and intent, she navigates cybersecurity challenges, distinguishing between unintended consequences and malicious actions by bad actors. Her expertise in large language models has significantly influenced the landscape of AI.

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Jennifer is committed to making cybersecurity accessible and less intimidating for everyone. As an advocate for women in the field, she hopes to inspire others to pursue fulfilling careers in cybersecurity while encouraging foundational cybersecurity literacy for all individuals.

Daisy Vora

Daisy Vora, partner in cyber risk at Deloitte, Toronto, has shown exceptional dedication to her team, successfully retaining valuable cybersecurity talent in a highly competitive industry. Despite market fluctuations and challenges, Daisy’s leadership has helped her team navigate uncertainties and maintain high-quality service delivery.

Beyond her professional achievements, Daisy has made an impact in addressing cybersecurity challenges in the public sector and higher education. She has played a pivotal role in creating a cost-effective, shared cyber monitoring environment for smaller organizations, enabling them to benefit from essential services.

As a role model for aspiring women in technology and cybersecurity, Daisy emphasizes the importance of self-belief, open-mindedness, and continuous learning. Acknowledging the ever-changing tech and cyber world, she encourages aspiring professionals to stay adaptable and embrace growth opportunities.

Lisa Tetrault

Lisa Tetrault is the vice president of global security operations at Arctic Wolf. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, Lisa has made significant strides in expanding the company’s presence into international markets, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. Under her leadership, the 24/7 SOC team experienced rapid growth and success in Canadian, European, and South African regions.

Throughout her career, Lisa has faced various challenges, including navigating the threat landscape and the economic pressures that impact customer staffing needs. However, she successfully overcame these challenges with the support of a strong partner ecosystem and Arctic Wolf’s cutting-edge research capabilities.

Lisa’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends beyond Canadian borders. She is keen on learning from U.S. counterparts, particularly in exploring the military skills bridge program and transitioning military veterans into the cybersecurity space.

Karen Kabel

Karen Kabel, the associate dean of creative arts and applied computer education at Red River College, is a dedicated professional in the cybersecurity field. She aligns curricula with industry requirements and adapts strategies to stay ahead of the constantly changing cybersecurity landscape. Karen’s expertise extends beyond the classroom, where she shares insights with organizations and fosters a culture of cybersecurity education.

With a career spanning Canada and Europe, Karen has provided essential security services to multiple companies. She believes that learning about cybersecurity education can start as early as kindergarten and continue throughout a lifetime, and volunteers her time to train and mentor individuals in the field. As a woman in cybersecurity, Karen advocates for more female representation, highlighting their multitasking abilities and stress-handling skills.

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Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr is a recent journalism graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University. She loves writing about all things data, travel, tech, lifestyle and subculture. You can reach out to Breanna via [email protected].

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