Tina Thorstenson on Remote-First Work and Disrupting a Male-Dominated Field
Meet Tina Thorstenson, Arizona State University’s former deputy CIO and CISO, and one of CrowdStrike’s recent hires in their newly created Public Sector Industry Unit as senior director of public sector industry solutions and strategy. Just what exactly does Tina’s role entail and why did she decide to make a change? Our latest installment of 5 Questions, explores what drew Tina to CrowdStrike and what she hopes to bring to the organization.
Q: What does your new role at CrowdStrike involve?
My job involves strategy and solutions and is part of the public sector industry business unit that CrowdStrike just launched. The intent was to bring in C-suite folks from the industry, such as myself, who have the experience or have walked a mile in the role of chief security officer. In my case, I was the Deputy CIO and CISO of Arizona State University.
In my new role, I serve as a liaison between CrowdStrike and our customer’s operational teams from the CIO to their leaders and technology staff. I bring to the conversation decades of experience running tools and technology in large and complex environments and I know what these organizations are up against. As a former CrowdStrike customer, I can vouch for CrowdStrike products. I can tell prospective customers, “Many things are hard to implement. A lot of tools are challenging, many require years of training and months’ worth of effort. This is not one of them. If you choose to partner with CrowdStrike, it will be a game-changer for you — one less headache so that you can focus on other things.”
I wish I could remember who told me to take a look at CrowdStrike, because I would definitely pay them back in huge dividends now.
Q: What’s one thing that’s new or different about working at CrowdStrike?
One unique thing about CrowdStrike is that the company is built for people to be remote. That’s something that I love — we can have teams of people protecting organizations literally from anywhere on the globe. It doesn’t really matter that you can’t reach out and touch somebody or walk to the next cube and say hello. It’s really about finding the right people, the very best talent, to do this important work.
I came from a culture that was very much the opposite. I was expected to show up in an office or to be on-site and meet with people in person. There’s no expectation like that in the CrowdStrike world for most of our teams. In that way, the physical element of exactly where you are compared to the person you’re needing to speak with or the team you’re trying to work with, really doesn’t matter because the technology works. This organization was designed to be remote-first and support asynchronous work.
Also, one of the reasons I chose CrowdStrike was not only because of the strategic nature of where this company is headed, but also because diversity, equity and inclusion seem to be something that is important to this team. We have a ways to go, as do most tech companies, but we’re focused on improvement in this area. I’m quite familiar with being the only woman in the room when having an executive conversation or almost any security conversation for that matter. I like that CrowdStrike has been very welcoming.
Q: What has your experience of working as a woman in a very male-dominated field been like?
I grew up thinking I could do anything. My mom retired from the National Security Agency (NSA), so I think security may be in my blood. I grew up with a mindset that I’ve found wasn’t common, although it didn’t feel that way to me at the time.
In coming to CrowdStrike, and in all the conversations I’ve had along the way to being hired, I didn’t pick up on any subtext about how you’re expected to act. I’ve found that the company embraces a culture of diversity because we need to bring people from all experiences and walks of life and backgrounds to solve some of these really challenging problems.
Q: What advice do you give to women who want to get involved in the cybersecurity industry?
I get this question a lot. In fact, I recently spoke with several women looking to get into cybersecurity or to come and work for CrowdStrike, specifically. Women find me on LinkedIn or get referred through a friend of a friend. I listen to their stories because the advice I offer is very focused on where they’re headed. But the first thing I tell them is that you don’t have to be deeply technical to play a part in solving cybersecurity challenges. It’s great if you are, but it’s not a requirement. There’s this idea that you need to be an engineer to work in cyber, but that’s not true. We need sales reps and product teams and people who are great at marketing. You can be passionate about security and work in a capacity other than engineering.
The second part is that I encourage them to stand up for who they are. If this is a passion of theirs, then there’s plenty of room for them in this industry. In fact, the cyber community is seeking people with diverse backgrounds. All people should be welcomed into the community. I don’t pretend that every environment is a perfect one, but I do think the sky’s the limit. If you want to do it, you can and here’s how.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
I love the water and water sports. I’ve spent many hours behind a boat on a wakeboard and have recently taken up kayaking.
I also love organizing photo books so that they tell a story, which I think is similar to what I do in my professional life. I help people make connections or come up with ways to protect their organizations. I also adopted six kids that were older and wanted them to know the stories leading up to their adoption and beyond. I love putting together those photo books so we can take a trip down memory lane once in a while.
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