This might sound a bit strange, but being a mom enhances my view on cybersecurity. Over the past 14 years, I have worked with engineering firms to bring digital solutions to critical infrastructure sectors to market, such as Energy, Oil and Gas, and Healthcare. The transition to digital solutions is undeniable, unstoppable, and overall, a positive move. Yet, it does come with an increased risk to cybercriminals. During my work in commercializing digital solutions, I came across this challenge — how do clients transition from analog to digital in a secure way; how do we prevent cyber breaches and keep not only their operations up and running but keep their employees and customers safe?
I dove into cybersecurity and never left. I am passionate about this field. As a stepmom to a bright teenager and a cheerful first grader, I knew the importance of creating resiliency in cybersecurity. However, it wasn’t until my son was born that I took inventory of the unique position I found myself in and the long-term view that is needed to set cybersecurity elements today.
I came back to work soon after my son was born, and on a business trip, I was suffering from severe mom guilt — I left my tiny baby at home with his father, and I wasn’t there. I had left him! The beginning of the trip was very difficult. The trip wasn’t going as planned — key meetings had to be canceled last minute. “Why did I even come?” I asked myself. “I should be at home,” I kept telling myself. I had to break away for a moment during the day to collect my guilt and reframe my perspective so I could push through to the end of the day. On the second day of my trip, I joined a group of cybersecurity experts dedicated to solving the difficult challenge of keeping the nation and its critical infrastructure secure. The meeting was lively. We discussed the imminent threat, the transition infrastructure is facing, and the challenge for operators and owners to take cybersecurity countermeasures. More importantly, we discussed how to approach cybersecurity threats and sabotage. During this exchange, I listened intently to everyone’s comments, and I came to realize that we were all there to secure and safeguard the people and things we cared about. It’s not often that I find a sensitive part of engineering, but that day, I did. I had left my spouse, step-kids, and newborn on a weeklong work trip to secure their future and the critical infrastructure around them.
Because I am passionate about my work and being a positive-influence parent, my challenge has been finding the right balance between work and being a mom. Everyone has their way to balance. My balance looks like prioritization and trust.
“Do I really have to be at that meeting?” I’d love to be able to say I don’t suffer from fear of missing out. I do, and to be honest, I think most people do, especially in a field where new things are always happening. I tend to want to learn everything. The reality is that I don’t have the personal bandwidth to attend everything and be everywhere at once. While I’m still not perfect, I work very diligently on focusing my efforts at work by prioritizing the items that require my attendance, presence, and effort. In turn, I am not spent when I get to family time. I still have physical, mental, and emotional energy to offer my family.
Having a team that I can count on — at home and the office — has made a big difference. Trusting and relying on my spouse as a true partner and vice versa has given me the space to work on cybersecurity topics. Additionally, trusting my colleagues to take on topics on my behalf keeps me from micro-managing all aspects of work life.
Being a mom and a cybersecurity professional are no longer distinct sides but rather elements that support one another. Applying prioritization and having trust enables me to continue to work with my colleagues to look at the ever-evolving threat and work towards a secure critical infrastructure, not only for today but in the 20-30 years ahead, when my son is in his 20’s and 30’s and can rely on a cyber secure infrastructure.
About the Author: Carmen Garibi is the Director, Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, Risk Management & Compliance at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell, where she leads Business Development, Sales, and Marketing efforts.
Carmen works with clients in utility, oil and gas, water, transportation, government, and other markets to support them in maintaining their business, operational, and digitalization objectives by addressing the core aspect – remaining cyber vigilant.
A cybersecurity executive with more than 14 years of experience, Carmen has focused on supporting businesses in their IoT transformation and realizing operational and financial targets. Carmen holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco and is based in Houston, TX.