In this second edition of Slone Partners’ new interview series on executive and workplace diversity, we’re delighted to present an exclusive interview with Christine Vanderpool. As the CISO of Florida Crystals, the world’s largest sugarcane refiner and collection of retail sugar brands, Christine leads a team that protects the company from technology breaches across the company, throughout supply and distribution chain. Prior, she was the Deputy CISO and Executive Director of Cyber Risk at Kaiser Permanente. Earlier in her career, Christine spent 13 years at global brewer Molson Coors, rising from Application Security Manager to Chief Information Security Officer.
Most impressively, Christine was named 2019 Woman Cybersecurity Leader of the Year, made the list of 2020 Global Technology Executives Who Matter, and is a Palm Beach Tech Association Board Member. To read Christine’s insights into the cybersecurity industry, visit Security Current, a forum for leading IT security executives. Christine serves as an Advisory Board Member for Slone Partners’ company, Wolf Hill Group, a cybersecurity focused recruitment firm.
Slone Partners’ Diversity Interview Series seeks to add rich insight into executives who are shaping modern workforces and workplaces.
Slone Partners: Though you’re an Advisory Board Member at Wolf Hill Group, a Slone Partners company specializing in cybersecurity executive search, many of our life sciences readers may not understand the roles and responsibilities typified on the cybersecurity career job ladder. Using your Molson Coors trajectory as an example, could you provide some insight into what each role entails?
Christine Vanderpool: I got my start specializing in SAP Security (Application Security) and quickly moved into SAP Controls which focused on governance, risk, and compliance. As my role evolved with Molson Coors, my responsibilities grew to take on not only GRC-related activities but also more strategic planning. That encompassed thinking about how to improve a security program in its entirety, including determining what tools and technologies were needed to achieve positive outcomes. This led to a greater technical understanding of security which resulted in my appointment as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Molson Coors.
As deputy CISO of Kaiser Permanente, I oversaw the System and Operational Controls (SOC), Threat Intelligence, Security Data Acquisition, and Incident Response along with other leadership activities. As CISO for Florida Crystals, I have had the opportunity to build an entire cybersecurity program and team from the ground up, utilizing new and innovative ways of approaching the task of securing an environment.
Slone Partners: In this Diversity Series, we’re highlighting that diversity equates to organizational strength, and company workforces which mirror the makeup and complexities of their clients and communities are modern in every sense. Though diversity includes age, race, identity and other factors, what is it about the #WomenInCyber movement that’s particularly important to you?
Christine Vanderpool: Women have a unique perspective and way of looking at the world. This is vital in the world of cyber. Some things are very black and white or very linear, but many parts of what we do require analytical and intuitive thinking. I am not saying men cannot think analytically or intuitively; however, studies have shown women tend to have stronger capabilities in this area. Overall, I believe there is great value in having a strong cross section of all different types of diversity so as to draw from multiple points of view when thinking through a situation. Plus, it is important to break down the stereotype that women cannot be technical, as this is far from true.
Slone Partners: Inteligenca named you 2019 Woman Cybersecurity Leader of the Year. The organization states, “It’s important for women to be recognized as much as it’s important for women to develop a community of peers who share common experiences. We must elevate and highlight those that already contribute to the greater good of us all.” As a woman, how important is it to have this network and what does this award mean to you?
Christine Vanderpool: This award meant so much to me because I was nominated by my peers and subsequently selected to receive the award by a vote of my peers. It speaks volumes when you are recognized by those who know what you do best because they do it too. As for the network that Inteligenca provides and promotes, I cannot even begin to express how amazing and valuable that network is. It is such a diverse network consisting of both men and women, all of whom are extremely supportive of one another.
Slone Partners: Women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce. What factors do you think contribute to this imbalance in genders, and how can women help fill the cybersecurity skills gap?
Christine Vanderpool: I think a major reason for the gender imbalance is a misunderstanding of what cybersecurity is and all the various roles that the field encompasses. I believe there is a misconception of the guy in the hoodie in his basement who likes playing video games all day and is a hacker by night who ends up in cybersecurity, and this could not be any further from the truth. Also, as I stated earlier, women are often not perceived as having the technical knowledge, so we need to work to extinguish these stereotypes and misconceptions.
Slone Partners: As CISO for Florida Crystals, tell us about your approach to mentorship and team building – hiring decisions, managing your team, collaborating with vendors, people development, etc. – and how you champion women.
Christine Vanderpool: I try to mentor as many people as I can; however, I have to see that they have an interest and really own their own career development. I think it is important to empower your team. I give them stretch goals, support them as needed, and remind them that failing is okay and then using any issues that arise as a teachable moment. I try to champion women by chairing a women’s technology group, by speaking at technology events for women, and as mentioned earlier, by networking and speaking with up-and-coming women who work in the industry.
Slone Partners: You author content for Security Current, a website for cybersecurity executives that features insights, peer-driven research, analysis, and advice. How did you connect with founder Aimee Rhodes, and how does a forum like this contribute to your life professionally and personally?
Christine Vanderpool: Many years ago, Aimee reached out and asked if I would be interested in writing content. I LOVE writing and was very excited to do this. It has given me the opportunity to improve my communication skills especially that of taking a technical message or concept and transforming it into a compelling and understandable piece of content. Personally, I have gained an amazing friend in Aimee over the years.
Slone Partners: What makes you personally happy?
Christine Vanderpool: The number one thing is my family. I would not be where I am today without the tremendous support of my husband and son. Overall in life, I think the ability to always laugh will make you happy.
To view Christine’s recent participation in the informative webinar Cyber Security: Good Data Hygiene 101 in Life Sciences – a collaboration between Slone Partners, Wolf Hill Group and JLabs, a Johnson & Johnson Innovation – click here, where the webinar appears in the right-hand sidebar.