“Actively chase your dreams!”
In honor of Women’s History Month, GreyCastle Security is highlighting some of the women in leadership positions at the organization. We are very proud to have amazing women in leadership positions here, and all the women at GreyCastle Security make valuable contributions every day.
Today we’re featuring an interview with Christina D’Antonio, Cybersecurity Services Manager. Christina has had an impressive climb from intern to manager, and she’s been instrumental in developing some of our current product offerings.
Christina manages the largest team at GreyCastle Security. She’s an expert with soft skills and empathetic management, but she still knows how to get into the nitty-gritty with her technical skills. Like many women in STEM, Christina has faced naysayers and challenges to her capabilities, but between her competence, her confidence, and her allies here at the company, she’s succeeded in paving her own way, and she’s seen a lot of progress in the attitudes women face in IT.
To young women who want to get into STEM, Christina’s advice is to find what you want to do and chase those dreams. She took some time between her Associates and Bachelors, and while she found that work rewarding, she wonders if she could be even further in her career if she had pursued her degree sooner. If you don’t yet know what you want, dabble! Whether through formal school or self-directed learning, Christina suggests finding an avenue to steer yourself towards a goal – actively chase your dreams.
What do you do here at GreyCastle Security?
I am one of the Cybersecurity Services Managers. I manage a team of 13 professionals who deliver nontechnical governance, risk, and compliance services.
What was the experience like working your way up from Intern to Services Manager?
It was challenging but awesome. I came in at a unique time in GreyCastle Security’s progression – we had established ourselves in certain services, but there was still a lot left to do from a development perspective, so I got to get a little taste for everything. I helped with some Incident Response services. I worked on some of the core services that GreyCastle Security offers, like Risk Assessment, before spearheading the development of our current suite of products, including governance, risk, and compliance.
What was cool was that as long as you were driven, and as long as you showed that willingness to learn and to face challenges head-on, you could see the reward. I came in and interned, and I was guaranteed a full-time position as long as I could graduate. In August, a year before graduating, I knew that I was going to work for GreyCastle Security full-time, which was absolutely amazing.
I came in as an Associate, and I spent almost two years as an Associate before leveling up to a Specialist. I then got a professional certification, and I was able to step into lead roles for some of the services we were offering before moving into content development. I worked on building a data classification service, building a NIST-based policy suite, and finessing the risk assessment services – doing all those different things, all while progressing my knowledge and expertise in the areas I was delivering, so I could play a more specific role. I wasn’t necessarily sitting at the keyboard typing, but actually taking the reins, drilling down and asking questions of clients. I wanted to hear their pain points and tie them back to our services, and I was able to continue my progression that way.
It felt fast-paced to me, which is awesome. I think the way that I carried myself during that progression from Intern to Senior Specialist really showed the business and my boss what I was capable of from a management and leadership perspective, though I didn’t yet have direct reports. You do exhibit certain leadership qualities, like being able to lead services and lead your clients to the solution they’re looking for. I was offered a Team Lead position managing a few folks at that time, and we ended up absorbing a second team. At one point, I had 19 of the 30 direct reports at GreyCastle Security, but I’m back down to 13 – here I am in management!
Do you find you’re using more of your technical STEM skills these days, or more people management skills, working with clients and direct reports?
It’s actually both – because we’re still a growing company, I’m still pretty heavily involved in some development pieces, which allows me to keep my skillset sharp. I still keep current with industry trends and regulations to keep current with our products and how they adapt. I’m not necessarily out on the front lines every day like the team is, solving those more strategic client problems, but being so close to it actually helps me better manage and lead the team. Not only can I talk the talk, I can walk the walk, so when they come to me with questions, concerns, or issues, I can relate because I’ve done what they’ve done and can help better guide them through the pain points they may be feeling.
What are some particular challenges you’ve faced as a woman in STEM, specifically in IT and Cybersecurity?
It’s definitely gotten better by a landslide. There isn’t as much of that stigma of “well, you’re a woman, and you can’t do it,” but there are times when you feel that. There have been times before in a situation where the body language, tone, and demeanor of the male counterpart make you feel that way – makes you feel like you’re inferior or incompetent. What was interesting for me was having other people see that. I’m fortunate that GreyCastle Security has always been very supportive of me; every single person that I’ve worked with in the organization has been very supportive. Even in those very few occasions where that did occur, I can stand up as a tall, proud woman who knows her stuff, but I also get the backing of people who recognize what’s happening and stepping in – not necessarily overstepping like “she can’t do it,” but building up that confidence.
Do you have any advice for women managing teams in male-dominated industries?
Do it! Absolutely do it. Don’t be afraid of anything. You can do anything you put your mind to. Women can excel not only in technical knowledge and expertise but in soft skills as well. We can be nurturing and caring. There are times where it’s easier for me to relate to something or someone or to deescalate a situation because I’ve got a different set of soft skills that some men in this industry don’t have: a bull in a china closet doesn’t necessarily work all the time. Not that I’m never a bull in a china closet, but I know how to navigate those situations, ultimately. My soft skills are what prevail.
What advice would you give your younger self, in college or high school, about getting into the IT world?
Don’t wait. I took a break after I started in forensic science. What I wanted to do didn’t really set well with my stomach, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I took a pause, and I worked full-time. I managed a nursing home, which was some of the best work – getting to be the light in these people’s eyes, because they don’t really get to see folks – but there was a lag between when I finished my Associates and when I went back for my Bachelors. I could have been in this a long time ago and potentially been further along in my career now.
Don’t wait: know what you want to do. But if you don’t know what to do, dabble. I came to GreyCastle Security with a very specific degree in Digital Forensics, but I don’t do that; with a few small exceptions, that’s not my focus. I took a different track, in governance and risk, before moving into management. It’s okay not to know; just do what you need to do to figure it out, whether that’s schooling, online learning, or certification. There’s a lot of avenues out there that can help you steer to where you want to go if you’re not sure. Chase your dreams. Actively chase your dreams.