When it comes to raising the bar on diversity in cybersecurity, Sivan Rauscher is pushing boundaries. As Co-Founder and CEO of SAM Seamless Network, she is not only working to solve a critical challenge in cybersecurity, but also building a growing and diverse organization, with an executive team including 60% female leaders.
Sivan began her career as a Captain in Unit 8200 in Israel, but always knew she wanted to start a company after she got out of the service. In 2016, she founded SAM, a company now covering over half a billion devices globally as the leading provider of cloud-native security, visibility and threat intelligence services for unmanaged networks and connected devices.
While technology is important, Sivan credits much of her success to her incredible team of 80+ individuals around the globe. In addition to serving as an example of her team, she is also building a reputation as a strong advocate and coach for women in cybersecurity, as well as increasing diversity across the board. “I’m setting this example so [my team and the industry] can have the confidence to hire women,” she said.
NightDragon sat down with Sivan to discuss her journey as a female founder in a predominantly male-dominated industry and how organizations can win when prioritizing diversity.
YOU’VE HAD INCREDIBLE SUCCESS. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED LAUNCHING SAM AS A FEMALE FOUNDER?
The main thing is that many women – myself included at one point – are afraid. We are afraid to look ridiculous and say something that isn’t correct. I was in that position for many years, but I took that wariness and I flipped it and used it as an advantage. I put it on the table and acknowledged that the people I am hiring are smarter than me – they are supposed to be! I asked them to educate me. I told them: “You have to be smarter than me because I’m hiring you. If I’m the most intelligent person in the room, then it’s game over.”
You also always have to look for your advantages. One advantage we have is that we’re more memorable. Investors aren’t seeing a lot of women, so it’s easier to get in front and they remember us better. That said, it’s still not an easy task. You have to impress with your unique technology and leadership, as well as find the right investors with the right portfolio. I found Dave DeWalt, who is very pro-women, who cares and is passionate about technology and the market, and who has envisioned things.
WHAT VALUE DO YOU THINK DIVERSITY ADDS TO YOUR TEAM?
My role as CEO is to pull together the best team with the right experience to do the job, not to do it all myself. With that in mind, a key focus of my role has been to build an incredible, diverse team, including currently 60% women in my management. However, I didn’t hire them just because they are women, I hired them because they are the best. I also focus on enabling managers and individuals throughout the company to learn through training and experience and have the opportunity to grow and be better. I would rather have a motivated person who can learn on the job. A person that started as a developer is now a team lead and moving to product. As a result, retention has remained extraordinarily high and growing.
I have immense faith and trust in my team. I aim to set an example for other women through my management, especially when it comes to diversity and courage. I’m setting this example so they can have the confidence to hire women and not be afraid to speak their minds or sound ridiculous, because men often say ridiculous things and we’re okay with that. Many people are interested in what women have to say and what we’re doing, so we need to grab their attention and share our thoughts with those around us. That’s the only way we get better.
THERE REMAINS A SIGNIFICANT DIVERSITY GAP IN CYBERSECURITY. WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU RUN INTO AS YOU’VE INITIATED EFFORTS TO BUILD MORE DIVERSITY INTO THE INDUSTRY?
It’s all about the adjustments! Schools around the world have a growing base of undergraduate women in computer science. I think women have the right to do what they want and encouraging them to do so provides benefits on an educational, professional, and corporate scale. Women should be encouraged to apply to everything that excites them. There’s still room for us to be better in this area, such as getting more involved in developing technical skill sets and colleges, fostering interest at an early age or encouraging women to participate through scholarships and other programs.
Then, we should do better about encouraging women to stay in this industry. Some of this comes down to fostering an inclusive culture, but it also might mean tailoring our hiring processes to better identify the talent that is out there, instead of trying to fit it into a traditional box. For instance, one CTO I admire recently changed how they test engineers they are looking to hire and altered the environment where they conduct these tests. As a result, they now have 70% women engineers – all of which are incredibly capable and adding wonderful value to the organization. If we make these small changes, we can make a big difference.
WHAT WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT CAN YOU GIVE WOMEN TO OVERCOME SELF-DOUBT IN THE INDUSTRY?
Typically, when facing something that looks large and intimidating, starting small is key. Take your time conquering your fears and insecurities – it is a process. Whether you’re applying for college or conjuring an answer to a need, there are so many steps in life that we tend to face with fear because we don’t want to hear no. I apply small steps in everything I do, which has encouraged me in my day-to-day activities, both in and outside the office. The thoughts of self-doubt can take a while to conquer, but the destination to confidence and the will for betterment is enough to motivate me toward that goal.