Today is International Women’s Day and the organization UN Women and the United Nations are celebrating it under the theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” Fortinet takes this call to action very seriously and is committed to advancing gender equality in cybersecurity. We’re doing this in part by creating more opportunities for women in the industry through our corporate social responsibility efforts and Training Institute by increasing access to cyber training and professional development opportunities for women and underserved populations.
On this day dedicated to women, we want to spotlight two of our female employees: Pratyusha Paul Chowdhury, Senior Principal Engineer at Fortinet, and Maria Jose Albarran, Channel Account Director. Pratyusha and Maria spoke about their background, the opportunities they’ve had within Fortinet to advance in their careers, and what knowledge they would impart to other women.
Pratyusha: I have over 17 years of experience in Research & Development for different departments in networking and security. I started my career as a QA Engineer at a networking company, which helped me gain extensive experience in different standards of wireless networking. Through this role, I was able to transition my knowledge of Fortinet technologies and was enabled to get experience in secure-driven networking domains and Fortinet. In addition to gaining in-depth, hands-on experience in these domains, I also got to work on leading and managing new products from the concept phase to customer support. I have always been motivated by continued learning and the ability to take on different challenges.
Maria: I studied electronics and communications engineering and started working in the technology industry 21 years ago in computer security. I started as a project engineer, doing installations and architecture configurations. Throughout my career in cybersecurity, I have had several different positions and have gone through various areas, including engineering, and channel sales and now I am developing as a channel director. I have loved having the opportunity to work in different areas because I feel that my experience is very diverse, and given this, I am able to have more meaningful conversations with customers and understand their pain points and needs.
Pratyusha: When Meru Network was acquired by Fortinet, I got an opportunity to understand the various cybersecurity product portfolios. Having had a successful career in wireless networking, I took the transition as a learning opportunity to understand how networking products are closely integrated with security. The ever-emerging new technologies, and products and how seamlessly they are integrated with the Fortinet comprehensive platform interested me from the beginning.
Maria: When I first came to Fortinet, there were only five people based in Mexico, and now there are more than 200. At first, it was a challenge, but I felt that I had a promising future by choosing this path. And to my pleasure, it absolutely was. After many interviews, I was hired as one of two sales engineers in Mexico, and there my life changed. It was the best decision I could have made for myself. In February of 2023, I celebrated my 12-year anniversary with Fortinet, and I feel fortunate for the growth opportunities and roles I’ve been able to hold at this company.
Pratyusha: As a woman professional, I always felt I was able to overcome any challenges to ensure I got the work done. Being passionate about my work, taking new challenges and meeting them, staying focused by understanding the problems in depth, and solving the same with help of teams are a few things that are key to my success.
Maria: It is a great satisfaction to be a woman working in an industry that is mostly dominated by men. One thing that I have taken away is that continued learning is important, and it’s important to try to be learning from everyone around you. There is always someone who can teach you something.
One of my greatest achievements has been creating a high-performance team comprised of truly important people at Fortinet. I feel that the work I am doing every day is making a positive impact and creating necessary change for customers and our industry at large, as well as for my team. I feel that when I deliver knowledge at a conference, or as a coach, I am helping grow the people of tomorrow and the future of cybersecurity professionals.
Pratyusha: Being mentored always helped me to grow in my career path. Having mentors has been very valuable personally and in my career growth. It has provided me guidance, motivation to set goals, and of course emotional support to persevere in the face of challenges.
Maria: Training is important in any industry, but it is especially important in cybersecurity considering that technology is always changing. When it comes to supporting women, I believe that the encouragement, support, and empowerment of other women is the greatest help in ensuring the retainment of women in cyber.
Pratyusha: Women bring different perspectives and expertise to the work culture. Women can support each other in the work environment by providing a platform and opportunity for learning and growth. Identifying and mentoring women is another way to enable and encourage their advancement in the workplace.
Pratyusha: As cybersecurity is a global threat that impacts everyone, providing the right solution is key. A career in this industry has multiple different opportunities and growth. So if you are looking for a reliable career with an excellent opportunity for growth, cybersecurity is the best place to be.
Maria: Above all things, always raise your hand and don't be afraid to grow. Although it may be intimidating to be a minority in the industry, more and more women are breaking into cybersecurity and it's important that we band together to support one another.
Learn more about Fortinet’s Women in Technology conference in the US, bringing together women in cyber as a way to further advance women in their careers.
Find out more about how Fortinet's Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs—including the NSE Certification program, Academic Partner program, and Education Outreach program—are helping to solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.