The realization that businesses need to take cybersecurity seriously came in after overcoming the adversities of cyber-attacks. Individuals in different industries became aware of the seriousness of the security threat that is being posed, and not just as a technological risk but as a business risk and reputational risk. Since then, these people have become torchbearers in spreading awareness about the subject in the company, sector, and the world.
One of the professionals at the vanguard of the movement is Carolina Pizarro, Director of Cybersecurity at NTT DATA Chile. Carolina began in the Marketing and Communications sector, but a cyber- attack led her to shift her focus. She became a cybersecurity communicator at a national level and led campaigns to propagate knowledge and interest in the topic for the Chilean Government. For her exceptional work in the area, she has been awarded the Top Women in Cybersecurity Award – Latin America in 2021 and 2020; and the Women Leaders Award in Chilean Cybersecurity in 2020 and 2019.
Carolina has more than two decades of managerial experience in IT, Services, and Financial companies, both in Chile and Europe. She has a strong orientation towards meeting objectives, a great ability to detect business opportunities, teamwork, and proactivity. Her specialties lie in the Management and Development of Business Strategies, Marketing and Communications, Corporate Image Changes and Brand Positioning, Business Development, Digital Transformation, and User Experience.
In an exclusive interview with CIOLook, Carolina Pizarro shares her journey into cybersecurity, the impact of her work in the sector, and the changes she is bringing about at her organization in her role.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a leader until your current position at NTT DATA. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I did not start in cybersecurity but in the commercial, communications, and marketing world, mainly linked to technology companies. While I was there, I had the possibility to advise the Ministry of Interior of Chile in the creation of the cybersecurity area. There, my role was to build a strategy of knowledge regarding this subject at a national level, both in people and in companies.
It was just in that period that there was a cyber-attack against a banking institution in the country and the issue of cybersecurity became a national priority. A presidential advisor was appointed who began to develop different actions and started drafting a legislation focused on cybersecurity. My role at that time became more relevant since I had to create awareness of the issue at a country level. In addition, I had to come up with ideas on how we were going to incorporate experiences from other countries that were more advanced than us in this matter.
It was at that time also that I had the challenge of creating the first national cybersecurity campaign for citizens called #ConcienciaDigital. After my time with the Chilean Government, I was hired by a consulting company as a director of cybersecurity, having the objective of creating strategies for organizations. I started to position the area of cybersecurity not only as an IT issue but as a cross-issue in the companies.
During my time in the consulting company, I won the awards as a leader in cybersecurity, in Chile and Latin America, for three consecutive years. In 2022, when I took the challenge of leading the Cybersecurity area in NTT DATA Chile, with the objective of continuing to create eminence in the national market and positioning services and solutions with a differentiating value in service excellence. Something that is highly relevant in the industry and for our clients.
Tell us something more about NTT DATA and its mission and vision.
At NTT DATA, we are committed to building a unique and open community of people led by shared values. We have been growing as a large network of collective talent capable of multiplying our capabilities and knowledge, responding with agility to the changing needs of our customers, and intelligently anticipating the future.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the Cyber Security industry through your expertise in the market.
One of my main achievements has been to be in charge of the first cybersecurity campaign in Chile, which allowed me to provide a vision of digital security from children to senior citizens so that they have digital awareness. I have also played a role in positioning and empowering women in the world of cybersecurity. I have mentored many women who have transitioned from other areas to cybersecurity, creating a collaborative ecosystem in this industry.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives NTT DATA.
At NTT DATA, we accompany our clients in their digital development through a wide range of strategic consulting and advisory services, cutting-edge technologies, applications, infrastructure, IT service modernization, and BPOs. We bring our broad experience in all sectors of economic activity and a great knowledge of the geographies where we are present.
Additionally, we want to continue building a unique environment of collaboration, creativity, closeness, and generosity that allows us to continue evolving together as a community and as a society and thriving in a day- by-day full of new and better possibilities.
What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?
For the cybersecurity sector, it is very important to know the client and their needs, as well as accompany them in this transformation process. Your investment will be a failed process without a strategic partner who can advise you throughout the transformational process and has the necessary knowledge and experience to implement cybersecurity measures. Today, before implementing processes and acquiring new technologies, we must create a culture of cybersecurity in people. In this education process, we accompany organizations to extract cybersecurity from the IT area and take it to the next level. As a cross goal at the organization and as a strategy for the business, cybersecurity should be seen as an investment and not as an expense.
What change would you like to bring to the Cyber Security industry if given a chance?
The most important thing is to move forward with updated laws that keep pace with cyber-attacks, but above all, to protect people and organizations. The creation of laws takes quite long periods of time. When one is finally drafted, it is already outdated. What we need in Chile is an institutional framework that is transversal to the government in office. From this point, we will be able to create a collaborative ecosystem, both public and private, that will help us to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated and advanced cyber- attacks.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the Cyber Security industry? How is NTT DATA preparing to be a part of that change?
An important issue that is already beginning to be implemented is that cybersecurity is no longer an IT issue. Still, it is beginning to be part of the strategic areas of the organization. Because we realize that if a vulnerability happens to us, it is not only monetarily damaging, but also the company’s reputation becomes at stake. This is the real responsibility of the people who represent the organization against the handling of data and confidential customer information.
Now that the importance of cybersecurity on boards is being established, the next step is to understand the exact nature of the role that the board and senior executives should play. At NTT DATA, we are focused on educating about the importance of this topic, not only from a specialist’s point of view but also from a business point of view.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for NTT DATA?
My role will be to position the company as a leader in cybersecurity in Chile and Latin America, with a business rather than IT perspective. The idea is to look at emerging technologies associated with cybersecurity. Although companies have increased investments in cybersecurity, they continue to implement obsolete methodologies and technologies to detect attacks by cybercriminals. It is clear that my role and that of our team is to proactively accompany this process of digitization and adoption of new technologies to become a permanent advisor to our clients.
What would be your advice to budding leaders who aspire to venture into the Cyber Security industry?
that is why it is important that universities recognize this need and lay the foundations to promote specializations in cybersecurity. By 2023 there will be a lack of 3.5 million professionals in this area worldwide, and in Chile, for example, the presence of women in this field only reaches 25%.
Organizations can take advantage of a much larger opportunity for cybersecurity workers if they align job requirements and plan to build cybersecurity skills internally by providing training, education, and certification support for employees who want to develop new skills.
Also, allow recent graduates or people transitioning from other careers, those with an interest and skills for cybersecurity, to learn and grow within the organization. So, retraining in the face of a shortage of professionals can be a key element. It is also critical to encourage boards of directors to have at least one member who specializes in cybersecurity and transmits the importance of cybersecurity to the entire organization.
“At NTT DATA, we are focused on educating boards and senior executives on cybersecurity, not only from a specialist’s point of view but also from a business point of view.”