We continue our articles focusing on the themes of National Cyber Security Awareness Month with the first of a series of articles spotlighting some of the women who work at Imperva. I spoke to Michal Pal, automation group manager for the Incapsula product line and got to know about what makes her tick.
JM: Tell us how you got into cybersecurity.
MP: I got my B.Sc. in computer science and worked for a couple of years at Orbograph, a software company that built a solution using image recognition technology for banks. After eight years I wanted to make a change and move to a different field, but at the time I didn’t know yet what field I should look into. What I did know is that I wanted to work for a small startup company with cutting-age technology! Incapsula had the mix of cloud and security and looked like an area that was a challenge. The company was small at the time and seemed the right place for me.
JM: What do you love about your job?
MP: The agility of this field and the innovation that cybersecurity offers is what excites me. There are technology and business changes all the time and we need to lead and anticipate, be creative and innovative to find the right solution. I also really like the team that works with me. We all share the same passion for this field. We enrich each other, find great ideas to implement and work toward the same goal – and have fun.
I also love how the company has grown. As I mentioned, I joined Incapsula when it was very small. At the time, there was no automation in R&D. We had to build everything from scratch. It was very challenging – and stressful.
It was not just about coming to a new company, but a cloud company that released updates every week. We had to find solutions and keep up with everything while learning the product. It was good that I wanted to learn because I had to learn quickly by reading, trying things and working together with the rest of the team who were doing the same thing.
JM: What do you find to be the most challenging?
MP: On one side, I would say it’s being able to lead the top technology. And on the other side, the biggest challenge is to grow our service to protect larger customers and larger enterprises and make sure we keep and improve our reliability. In cybersecurity when threats evolve on a daily basis, I must lead and use the latest technology and methods. It requires me to take the information we have and put it into the product.
JM: Tell us who was one of your biggest mentors and why.
MP: One of my biggest mentors is my mother who showed and taught me that there is nothing I can’t do, and the fact that I am a woman only makes me stronger.
My mother’s influence in showing me how with self-esteem and confidence you can do anything is very helpful in my job. In cybersecurity the situation is always changing. There are new things and challenges every day, some of which are very hard. The way you have to think to overcome the challenge is important. When you work in cybersecurity you’ll need to have the attitude that here is a new challenge that needs to be fixed. Ask yourself, “How can I build the tools to handle our new process?”
For example, I’ve done many things over the years. Some things have succeeded and some have failed. The idea is to try again and not give up. By knowing how to look after myself, I’m able to never give up.
JM: How has the cybersecurity industry changed over the course of your career?
MP: It’s changed a lot since I started. The attacks are much, much bigger — and more sophisticated. The tools we used needed to evolve and change in order to simulate these huge and sophisticated attacks.
JM: Which coding languages do you work in?
JM: What advice would you give to someone entering the cybersecurity field today?
MP: Everybody is talking about cybersecurity these days. But the advice I would give someone interested in entering the field would be to read and understand what interests you. It’s a large field, and you should ask yourself if you have anything to contribute. Is this the way you’d like your daily work to look like? The situation changes all the time and you’ll be reinventing your work often.
There are lots of companies that deal with each area in security differently. Is it cloud or on-prem that interests you? What kind of technologies are they using? Investigate the companies you are interested in to see if you like how they work. Do you like change? Do you like structure – this is not always the case in a cybersecurity job. Engineers need to think fast and creatively.
You have to be able to be okay with the constant changes to enjoy your work.
JM: Last question! Tell us what do you like to do in your spare time when you are not thinking of how to solve a security problem.
MP: I love spending time with my children.
I’m into sports – extreme sports. I also like to scuba dive and have been diving for 10 years all around Asia and near home. Other than that, hanging out on the beach and enjoying good food are my favorite past times.
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