Denise Stemen, CrowdStrike Director of Customer Crisis Strategy and Response, on Bringing Inclusivity to Life
How a retired FBI agent and her daughter improved visibility for female agents
May 13, 2022People and Culture Team People & Culture Uncategorized
If you’re a CrowdStrike client or partner working with Denise Stemen, our new Director of Customer Crisis Strategy and Response, know that you’re in good hands. After 22 years in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — plus 10 years before that teaching in public schools — Denise knows how to bring calm and order to challenging, high-stakes situations.
In this interview, we sit down with Denise to learn more about her FBI career, her recent recognition from the Bureau and how her public service is an asset to CrowdStrike clients all over the world.
Q. Let’s start with a basic question. What is your role at CrowdStrike and what was your journey here?
I joined CrowdStrike in December 2021 after 22 years in the FBI. I worked as a cyber investigator in the field and then at headquarters in the cyber division organizing our international and domestic coordinated response to e-Commerce crimes and terrorism. My final stop was in the Miami Division as the Deputy Special Agent in Charge running all operations in South Florida from Fort Pierce to Key West as well as the extraterritorial responsibility in Central and South America.
My role at CrowdStrike is similar to what I did in the FBI. I’m the team leader and an incident commander. In my role, when a customer-related or widespread cyber incident happens, I first work with our internal teams and our InfoSec to get a baseline of what’s happening, the potential impact and where we stand as a company. I then confirm that the CrowdStrike Falcon®® platform is providing detections to our customers.
Next, we look at customers that could be affected and quickly organize a response from all facets — customer success, engineering/ProdSec, Technical Analysis, Falcon Complete™, incident response, OverWatch™, Intel, legal/compliance — pulling that information as quickly as possible and getting it to the customer. I work with these functional team leads, VPs and the communications team to get a coordinated message out quickly.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the history you and your daughter made with the FBI?
Sure. Our story relates to the FBI’s G-Man logo. The G-Man wears a suit and fedora and carries a Tommy gun. The Bureau adopted him as its mascot years ago and made a lapel pin. His image is everywhere you look, including in the FBI’s Agents Association and the FBI Retired Agents Association.
I’ve worn the G-Man pin proudly for 22 years — my entire career. At the same time, I also complained that it did not represent female agents. Since 1972, women have been allowed to be in the Bureau. But, 50 years later, we were still not represented anywhere, as demonstrated by that pin.
Last year, I was going to the funerals for two agents who worked for me in Miami who were killed in the line of duty: Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. I got dressed for Dan’s funeral and put on the pin. But for Laura’s funeral, I had no pin that looked like her. Nothing that symbolized the sacrifice she made. I was upset. My daughter and family were with me when I took the pin off, tossed it into my jewelry box and said, “What more does she have to do to be seen?” My daughter saw that and said, “Mom, we’ll just make one.”
That was in February 2021. We didn’t have another discussion about it after that day. I had my retirement party that same year in December. At the party, my daughter gave a speech, and on my lapel she pinned — a G-Woman wearing a suit, not a skirt. This detail is important because women were called “skirts” in the Bureau as a derogatory term. My daughter made sure the woman was in a dress suit.
Q. That’s a wonderful story. Did others want a G-Woman pin too?
It just so happened that I retired on the cusp of the FBI’s 50-year anniversary of women being allowed to be agents. Because I’ve been in the Bureau so long, my daughter also called a couple of employees who worked at the local FBI Miami Resident Agent (RA) store. She asked if they would sponsor having the pin made in bulk and sell it at the store. For that initial order, they had to buy 200 pins. The day they pinned it on me at my retirement party, two hours later, all 200 were sold out. It then went national to the FBI Headquarters store, which enabled other stores to order and carry the pin.
After I retired, I got an email from the FBI’s Human Resources team asking if they could write a story about my daughter, the pin and my career as part of the 50-year celebration. I obliged because it’s not often that a light is shone on women in a career dominated by men.
Q. How does it feel to be recognized in that way?
It is an honor. But the credit goes to my daughter. I served and did my job. I want to be a good mentor for women in law enforcement and women in leadership, period. But I would not have been at that ceremony if it wasn’t for my daughter making the pin. So, really, they invited her and I was just her escort!
Q. Are there things you did in raising your daughter that you think helped inspire this kind of action on her part?
I worked long hours and wasn’t home a lot. My daughter once set an alarm on my phone that would go off at 7 p.m. reminding me to come home. I was very dedicated to my career. I obviously love my children, but they saw my work ethic and my passion.
My daughter is only 17, but how she took initiative to make that pin showed me that sometimes adults make life more difficult than we need to. I was frustrated by a lack of representation but she saw a way to solve that and she followed through. It never dawned on me to make the pin. It showed me that it’s easy to complain, but if you act, you can drive change.
Are you ready to drive change with Denise and her team? Browse our job listings today to learn more about the exciting opportunities available at CrowdStrike.