Women in Cybersecurity Keynote: Bobbie Stempfley Shares Invaluable Career Advice

Speaking at Infosecurity Magazine’s Women in Cybersecurity networking breakfast event at RSA Conference in San Francisco, Bobbie Stempfley (see bio below) took the audience on a journey through her career, detailing her triumphs, challenges and perhaps most notably, her failures.

Her objective was to give the audience advice to aid them on their own career paths. Her advice broke down as follows:

You Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bobbie was hired as an intern with a department of the army and was tasked with shredding documents, but she took it upon herself to read the reports, ask the right questions and plant herself in the job she wanted. “They gave me the access – I just needed to take it,” she said.

Bloom Where You Are Planted, but Recognize When it’s Toxic (and Get Out)

Bobbie learned to recognize when the environment or the role she was in became toxic to her and she is an advocate of getting out when that is the case. “As soon as I identified that, I went on to find my next adventure,” she said.

Recognize When You Are Pot-Bound

There have been times in Bobbie’s career when she realized she had stopped learning and thus needed to do something new.

Test Your Limits and Keep Going

This is the advice that Bobbie once read on a chocolate wrapper, and now has framed on her office wall. Throughout her career, she has always made sure to test her own limits and said: “In one role, I was in way over my head and totally screwed up. They brought someone in over me, which bothered me, but in hindsight, they were right to do that.”

Always Pay Attention

Bobbie was made redundant whilst at the Department of Defense and admitted she should have seen it coming. “So pay attention, and be vigilant,” she warned.

Don’t Avoid Change

Bobbie quoted Walt Disney: “The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.” She said she likes to aim for 90% ‘doing’ and 10% ‘talking.’

Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, Bobbie said, but only make them once and only make different mistakes than the ones other people have made. Bobbie considered this to be potentially the best advice she has. It came from her dad and she said she lives by it.

Your Platform is More than Your Job

Bobbie admitted that her job is a huge part of her platform, but was adamant that it’s not her entire platform.

Nobody Gives You Power, You Already Have Power

“No-one gives you power. You already have it inside you, so use it every day.”

Bio: Bobbie Stempfley

Roberta (Bobbie) G Stempfley joined the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute as director of the SEI’s CERT Division in June 2017. Stempfley previously served as director of cyber-strategy implementation at MITRE Corp. and as acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary, Office of Cyber Security and Communications, Department of Homeland Security. In addition to her work at DHS, Stempfley previously worked in the DoD as CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency and as chief of the DoD Computer Emergency Response Team, which she established.

Stempfley received her bachelor’s degree in engineering mathematics from the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in computer science from James Madison University. A recipient of many awards, she was recognized by CyberScoop as among the Top Women in Cybersecurity, by Federal Computer Week in the Fed 100 and by Information Week as one of the Top 50 Government CIOs.

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