Q&A: Sarah Armstrong-Smith

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Sarah Armstrong-Smith loves her job. She loves working for Microsoft (in fact, she considers this tenure her “proudest achievement”), and she loves her three (gorgeous) dogs: Hugo, Maisey and Henry. When she considers what she loves most about her job, it’s an easy answer: “getting to the heart of what matters, applying technology and supporting organizations to work securely and go on to do great things."... 

What’s your dream project? 

I’ve always found it most rewarding working with those who use technology to deliver social good. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and it really showed me the art of the possible. At the time, they were researching the potential of robotics to support people suffering from loneliness. It demonstrated the value that security provides in helping people to trust technology that supports social good.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

What’s frustrating is the amount of success cyber-criminals see with the same old tried and tested phishing attacks and password sprays, particularly when foundational security hygiene measures can protect against these.

What’s your biggest professional regret?

Looking back, a lack of self-belief certainly held me back in my early career. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I see now that I had a lot of the skills and capabilities to deliver at a higher level. Unfortunately, I too often held myself back or didn’t apply for that next role. So now, “be fearless” has become the new security motto for my team!

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

To be my true authentic self and not change to fit in somewhere. There was a point in my career when I found myself in an organization where I wasn’t a good fit. I remember arguing with an executive who would insist on maintaining the status quo in how she worked. I had a supportive coach at the time who told me, “you’re a peacock, not a penguin,” and trying to force myself to fit in with a huddle of arctic birds was never going to work. I needed to find somewhere that allowed me to bring my full self to work. Since sticking to this, I’ve found infinitely more satisfaction in my work, and I’ve become more productive too.

Quick-fire Q&A:

  • How to create the best team? Diversity of background, thought and personality.
  • What’s your job about in one sentence? Empowering organizations to explore the art of the possible when it comes to cybersecurity and resilience.
  • What one thing would you change about the industry? We need to stop victim-blaming.
  • Who do you admire? Lisa Forte and Jenny Radcliffe. They both bring security to life in such an engaging way with their storytelling.
  • Guilty secret? Serial killer documentaries!

Bio: Sarah Armstrong-Smith is chief security advisor in Microsoft’s cybersecurity solutions area. Sarah is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and has been recognized as one of the most influential and inspiring women in UK Tech.

Follow Sarah: @SarahASmith75

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