Butterflies, music and cybersecurity
July 20, 2021
July 20, 2021
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Can a mystery butterfly inspire a patent in cloud computing?
Our Catherine Gulsvig Wood, Associate Director, Tech Product and Offering Development, has proven that it can.
Lepidopterist, classical pianist and cybersecurity professional—these are just a few hats worn by Catherine. How do these roles overlap and make her better at everything she does? Catherine tells her story.
Music was a part of my life from a very early age. So, when I decided to major in music performance from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin, U.S., it didn’t come as a surprise to anybody.
While doing assignments in music theory that were mostly mathematical, I figured out that computers could do the job much quicker. And so, I taught myself programming, which led to the discovery of another love: computing.
I got my first job hacking into a student records system at my university. There was no looking back after that. Since then, I’ve played many roles within IT—technical writing, programming, testing, architecture, user interface design and product management. Security is a consideration in each of these roles, especially in testing.
In my current role at Accenture, I oversee cloud security offerings for clients as they use the cloud. I focus on the business challenges and risks associated with working in the cloud, and how Accenture can help mitigate these risks.
My passion for music continues to inspire me in my career in cybersecurity. And my love for butterflies opened my mind to not only the beauty of nature, but also to the incredible power of intricate design. Tracking, studying and identifying butterflies is all about detecting patterns in their designs and noting exceptions to those patterns.
While some butterflies mimic patterns of another species to survive and ward off predators, there are others that morph into something so unique that it’s difficult to label them. Surprisingly, they do just fine, or even better out in the wild. This got me thinking about the significance of inclusion and diversity, and the role it plays in stimulating innovation.
In my work with cloud technology, we collaborate with a global team of people in India, the U.K., the U.S. and Mexico. The cultural differences are vast. But we’ve organized ourselves into an efficient collective, and the applications we create are more richly textured.
If you think about it, the same is true for a choir of sopranos, altos, tenors, and baritones, or an orchestra of strings, reeds, brass and percussion. The sound produced is richer, more interesting and inspiring, precisely because it’s made up of different voices.
In our cybersecurity practice, we are always in search of people with diverse backgrounds, including those who are “neurodiverse”—for example, on the autism spectrum—as we know that drives innovation and competitive advantage.
In fact, I highly recommend the new book from Simon Baron-Cohen, “The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention,” which clearly lays out why neurodiversity is so valuable.
One of the misconceptions about working in cybersecurity is that you need to conduct every conversation in purely technical terms. I constantly challenge that notion using the power of storytelling and narrative while talking to clients. It helps engage them much more than when they’re simply looking at code.
An ideal candidate for a role in security is someone with creativity, excellent verbal and written communication skills, some direct experience with cybersecurity (no matter how small or trivial it may seem) and, most importantly, a willingness to learn.
My experience working at Accenture has given me many opportunities to discuss my perspectives with broad audiences. The reactions have been so positive that I’ve written a memoir on my career in IT, tentatively titled “Bach, Butterflies and Booleans.” I hope it will help draw people from more creative disciplines into IT, especially into security, where we desperately need imaginative thinkers to anticipate the next realm of attack vectors.
Value your own inherent diversity. Be inspired and inspire innovation.
Explore a career in cybersecurity with us.
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