Cybersecurity and rock climbing may seem dissimilar, but for Lisa O’Connor they’re complimentary.
“Rock climbing makes you look at the world differently, to do it well you need preparation, tenacity and focus,” says O’Connor, a managing director for Accenture Technology and a cybersecurity researcher. “It’s the same with cybersecurity. You need to prepare and surround yourself with a good team, and you have to be prepared sometimes to find a new route, a new way up.”
Over her 31-year career, O’Connor has made considerable contributions to the science of cybersecurity. Recently named to The Software Report’s Top 25 Women Leaders in Cybersecurity, she is a leader, with the full support of Accenture, on behalf of all women in a field historically dominated by her male counterparts.
“It’s an honor to be recognized among a very distinguished group of women across the cybersecurity industry,” she said. “We’re all focused on protecting our companies, clients, ecosystems, countries and citizens from adversaries—and keeping our way of life and businesses safe. I am very proud of Accenture’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Accenture has committed to achieving a gender-balanced workforce by 2020. Last year it promoted a record percentage of women to managing director (30 percent) while growing its female headcount to 160,000 worldwide. Women also now make up 30 percent of the company’s Global Management Committee, 29 percent of its executives and 40 percent of the external members of its board of directors.
In her role as Global Security R&D Lead for Accenture Labs, O’Connor says there’s never a day when there isn’t a new challenge or problem to solve. She and her team of cybersecurity experts dig in on the big challenges, bringing applied research to change the future of security.
“We pick the difficult cyber challenges because they bring us the opportunity to apply new thinking and techniques,” she said. “Our real reward comes when we co-innovate with our clients. They join us in the research journey—through proofs of concept in the field—and together we refine and improve research outcomes and transform their cyber defenses. And in the words of Omar Abbosh (author and group chief executive of Accenture's Communications, Media & Technology operating group), ‘Innovation is the only way to protect ourselves from future disruption.’ ”
Leading from the front of the class
As an electrical engineering student at Lehigh University, O’Connor was one of only nine women (5 percent) in her graduating class. Mindful of how far women have come (and still have to go) to reach equality in cybersecurity and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers, she leads Accenture’s cyber community relationship with the Executive Women’s Forum. She is also a participant in the forum’s Lift mentoring program, which serves aspiring leaders across industries.
In addition to rock climbing and championing women in STEM, she is an avid gardener, conservationist and advocate for fundraising and scientific research involving the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.
Read Lisa’s careers blog on closing the gender gap in cybersecurity.