Candy Alexander is used to being the only woman in a crowd. Her long and incredibly impressive career in computer security began with a 20-year stint at Compaq/Digital Equipment Corporation, rolled through Symantec Corp, a stint as an independent security consultant, plenty of time working in health care data security, and now she works at VerSprite Security. She has also served as director of the International Information Systems Security Association; and president of the New Hampshire motorcycle advocacy group. She’s seen every transition and computer crisis there is, and her relaxed, wise way of looking at issues is a calming force in any group. Here’s her views on gender and the technology industry.
When I’m asked about working in a male-dominated field, I confess that I don’t look at it that way. My approach in anything I do is non-gender based, whether it is work-related or for fun. Some would call me naive, and say that here is a gender gap in regards to compensation; maybe so. But that could also be said of race, religion or … fill in the blank. It’s going to happen. I just don’t worry too much about it.
I think it is more important to put my focus on doing what I can do. Not as a woman, but as a person. I approach life based on my knowledge and my passion. I treat people as I would like to be treated. With respect. Respect is the foundation.
Taking to heart something I was told when I was a little girl, I can do anything I set out to do. And, I have. Why put unnecessary limits on yourself?
I have worked in the field of cybersecurity for over 25 years. Many times myself and my dear friend were the only women in IT for a large high tech company – and most certainly at the security events/conferences. At the first conference I attended (there were two to choose from – CSI and NIST), my friend and I had choose to use the buddy system. She had gone to the refreshment table to get us both a soft drink. As she had them in hand – a military general took them out of her hand and said thank you. After that, the two of us vowed that we would not go unnoticed. We would give respect, but we would also ensure we earned it from our counterparts. Lesson learned: We both looked at this experience as a bump in the road leading to what we wanted in our careers. We overcame that experience; not because of “feminism”, but because it was seen as an obstacle. An individual that had no clue and was unaware of the possibilities or situations around him acted ignorantly. One bump in the road that my friend and I both overcame.
Without having the barriers of thinking as a female, I have also been able to follow my passion as a motorcyclist. I have enjoyed the freedom of riding my own motorcycle for 15 years or so. I have followed that passion to the point of becoming the first women president of the motorcycle advocacy group in my home state. By using my approach to life, I have been accepted and respected by all motorcyclists — the good, the bad and the ugly as they say. They respect me and I respect their lifestyle choices. All gained by not being limited by my gender, but by who I am.
Another lesson learned: Treat everyone the same. Regardless of who they are. With Respect and Honor. With this approach, I have met some pretty amazing people from all walks of life and position.
Far too often, we put too much into the “gender-gap” thing. I realize there just might be one, but it’s like a spoiled child. The more attention you give it, the worse it gets.