“Be An Expert” When Breaking Into A Male-Dominated Field

An interview with Sarah Isaacs, CEO, Conventus

Sarah IsaacsToday few women work in technology. Even fewer are CEO’s. As the CEO of Conventus, a national information security and consulting firm that protects companies from security attacks and data breaches, Sarah Isaacs is both.

Before co-founding Conventus in 2006, Isaacs spent several years as a Technical Manager for Symantec, where she consulted on the implementation of antivirus and client security products for numerous corporate and government organizations. As a technical manager, she provided guidance and opportunities for professional development to a number of traveling and on-site consultants.

A recognized expert in antivirus theory and technology, Isaacs has written several articles for SC Magazine, a publication for IT security professionals, and has spoken at Universities on malware and the prevention of malicious code.

Because technology is such a male-dominated field, I was curious to learn about her journey.

Over the course of your career, what was your biggest professional challenge?

Conventus’ value proposition is “quality counts.”  In an industry that requires rapid solutions, no margin of error, high powered experts working with diverse clients, highly individualized technology skills as well as highly refined people skills, and unrelenting adherence to client satisfaction, there is the challenge of recruiting, retaining and rewarding excellent employees.

There’s a lot of talk today about balancing our professional and personal lives, what was your greatest personal challenge?

It took a long time to gain perspective on the delicate balance of making a living and making a life. I think I am better at it today, but it’s often difficult to detach at the end of the day — because I truly enjoy (and am proud of) the work that we’re delivering to our clients.

My personal life is filled with family and friends who are not associated with technology in any way. Our personal interests and activities are a refreshing contrast. Of course, the addition of a new baby last year also forced me to prioritize where I was spending my time, and optimize my working hours. I want to experience her development and happiness firsthand, and that constitutes a great deal of balance in my life.

As you look back, what was your greatest success?

The clients we’re working with are asking us to develop some pretty cool technologies in their environments around security analytics. Hearing that our solution is a “game changer” has been great affirmation we’re filling a gap.

What was your biggest surprise in business?

Running a business is a lot more than just finding clients that are willing to pay for your product and expertise. The “business” part of running a business is hard, hard work.

What advice do you have for women trying to break in and then work in a “male dominated” field?

I have three simple ideas for women. First, be an expert. Know your field and know it well. Second, it’s not enough to just “get by” in any field these days. Competition is tough all around, and those that rise to the top do a good job of not only marketing their corporate brand, but also their personal brand. It’s important to remember that you are your best promoter.

Third, network, network, and network. Surround yourself with people —men and women— smarter than you, and from whom you can learn the most.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Let go of your expectations! It definitely doesn’t turn out how you thought — and you will love it.

 

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.

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