Interviewing Stephanie Hagopian — Finding Your Place in Cybersecurity

As Women's History Month has come to a close, we would like to take a moment to recognize another remarkable female leader in our partner community. Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Stephanie Hagopian, Vice President of Physical and Cybersecurity Solutions at CDW Corporation.

When asked about her journey to executive leadership, Stephanie shared that transitioning from a technical role to sales was pivotal in her career. As a sales specialist at IBM, covering Wall Street, she encountered a "forge ahead into the fire and figure it out" mentality. This primed her for startup culture, where she spent most of her career before joining CDW.

"My startup journey fast-tracked me to executive leadership. Small companies
are high-pressure, but they can give you amazing opportunities to take on
leadership roles without any prior experience. [...]

A startup CEO took a chance on me to become his first salesperson. His trust
gave me the opportunity to learn many of the fundamentals that are essential
to running a business, and my success allowed me to begin leading a small
sales team while I was there."

As a leader, Stephanie lets her actions, not her words, do the talking. She employs a hands-on leadership strategy with her team, demonstrating by example and keeping communication open, transparent and honest.

"I strive to stay very engaged in the field. I prioritize time in front of clients
and partners. If I'm not experiencing what my team experiences firsthand,
then I don't think I'm capable of truly understanding
what I must do as a leader to make things better."

Forge Ahead Into the Fire — Tips for Succeeding in Cybersecurity

With two decades of experience in the cybersecurity industry, Stephanie has witnessed the significant transformation of the workforce. She has observed how women continue to forge their own paths to success. Stephanie noted that the industry is slowly changing, becoming more inclusive and creating better working environments that recruit, inspire and empower women from all backgrounds. But, these advancements didn't happen overnight – we have those who came before us to thank for the great strides made to encourage diverse perspectives in the workplace.

"I would not have ever had the opportunity to do the job I have today if it
wasn't for the hard work and tenacity of the intrepid, courageous, and tireless
people (not just women!), who paved their way through history to get us to
where we are today."

March is an excellent reminder that we can each push the needle forward on gender equality in the workforce. As women, we face unique challenges in our careers that require a different approach to succeed. Stephanie has flourished in the face of these obstacles and has learned invaluable lessons that she shares here to help other women succeed in the industry. She shares three pieces of advice with us.

Confidence Is Key to Long-Term Success

As women in tech, we need to cultivate confidence, trusting that our abilities will enable us to succeed. Opportunities are waiting to be found, and we must remain confident in our right to be in the room and in control of the career we are building.

"My recommendation to all women pursuing a career in technology is to have
confidence and faith in your strengths – someone told Betty White she wasn't
photogenic, and she got a cover story in People Magazine at the age of 99.
Don't let the naysayers bring you down."

Leverage Financial Aid Available to Women Pursuing STEM Careers

There are increasing scholarships and programs to expand women's access to higher education opportunities in STEM. Stephanie urged that more women look into these options as they are an excellent strategy to narrow the gender gap and increase advancement prospects. Stephanie has even taken the initiative to start her own scholarship because she wants "...more women to feel empowered to pursue a career in cybersecurity."

Mentorship Is Key to Success

Good mentoring is vital to helping women flourish professionally. Mentors can help us identify and nurture our strengths, earn promotions, make contacts, build social capital and advance up the leadership ladder. Throughout her career, Stephanie has benefited from excellent mentors, from working with one of the first female CISOs to driving CDW's business with a female CEO and COO. She emphasizes the importance of finding a mentor who will support and encourage your advancement.

"When you do get that entry-level job, find a mentor. Male or female.
A champion. Someone who will support you and encourage your development
and maturity in your role, who will help you learn, and expose you to more
parts of the business and other influencers in your business."

CDW and Palo Alto Networks — A Partnership Driving Customer Outcomes

For many years, Palo Alto Networks and CDW have worked together to become trusted advisors and mentors for our mutual customers, enabling them to achieve their desired business outcomes and priorities. "We align completely on our strategy and go-to-market and create a more valuable output for our mutual customers as a result," she notes. "We really work together to be better, which benefits everyone."

Looking ahead, Stephanie envisions this partnership continuing to drive significant value for our customers.

"Palo Alto Networks innovation in the security and risk space, coupled with
our commitment at CDW to wrap those solutions with the right processes and
program structures, ensures we are helping our customers also proactively
prevent threats, in addition to detecting and responding to those threats in
real time."

As Palo Alto Networks continues to evolve and innovate its platform with advanced features (i.e., orchestration, automation, integration, reporting and artificial intelligence), CDW will continue to expand its capacity to offer these solutions to our customers. This will further strengthen our ability to provide cutting-edge, integrated solutions that meet our customers' evolving needs and deliver exceptional value.

Check our other "Women In Tech" profiles and meet other inspiring women who are propelling the tech business forward.