What is WiCyS?

WiCyS is the only non-profit membership organization with national reach that is dedicated to bringing together women in cybersecurity from academia, research and industry to share knowledge, experience, networking and mentoring. The initiative was created through an NSF grant (Award #1303441) by Dr. Ambareen Siraj at Tennessee Tech University six years ago, and has grown into a wonderful alliance among academia, government and industry. 

How Companies Benefit from Engagement with WiCyS

Companies need to have access to a pipeline of qualified candidates for cybersecurity jobs - both senior-level and students in the field who can join through apprenticeships and internships. It also makes perfect sense to hire women into these jobs, because it’s been proven that workforce diversity improves productivity and also enhances external perceptions. Promoting women into senior, thought leadership positions also adds tremendous value to companies’ positioning with stakeholders and customers.

We also seek funding for the organization’s mission in the form of Strategic Partners. WiCyS' founding partners are Facebook, Cisco and Palo Alto Networks. The Board of Directors has representation from senior level cybersecurity experts from Facebook, Cisco, Tennessee Tech University, University of Texas Dallas, Naval Postgraduate School, CERT, George Washington University, Lockheed Martin and Palo Alto Networks.

How Women Benefit from Participation in WiCyS

WiCyS offers mentoring, learning, networking and career development to women at all stages of their cybersecurity careers, Whether you are a student just considering a career in cybersecurity or an experienced leader in the cybersecurity workforce, WiCyS provides tangible benefits and a supportive community. Be sure to join as a WiCyS member and start receiving benefits immediately.

What is the WiCyS Conference?

Each year, WiCyS holds an annual conference with local host college partners. The WiCyS Conference is an excellent opportunity for companies to connect with women students and candidates to recruit them into the field! 50% of our attendees are students looking for employment who have been accepted through the scholarship program that sponsorships help to support. In addition to students, the other 50% is made up of experienced leaders, professionals in the cybersecurity field who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others and mentor those interested in cyber careers. There are many ways to participate in WiCyS - as volunteers, speakers, sponsors and supporters. 

Because of the enormous gap between available talent and cybersecurity jobs (by some accounts it’s 300,000 by the year 2020), the mission of Women in CyberSecurity makes so much sense – to broaden participation in cyber by recruiting, retaining and advancing women in the field of cybersecurity, and improve on the very low 11% statistic of women in cybersecurity jobs. 

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Dr. Ambareen Siraj

WiCyS Founder & Board Member

Director, Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center, Tennessee Tech University

Dr. Siraj, Professor of Computer Science at Tennessee Tech, teaches security courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She has focused her research on the vast areas surrounding cybersecurity, including security in cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things, situation assessment in network security, security education and workforce development.

As the founding director of Tennessee Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC), Dr. Siraj is the leader on several National Science Foundation and National Security Agency grants involving cybersecurity, and is the founder of the national Women in CyberSecurity conference, an initiative to recruit, retain and advance women in the cybersecurity industry.

Dr. Siraj’s effort to educate students and enhance the cybersecurity field of study goes beyond classes, research and outreach projects, workshops and conferences. She has authored or co-authored more than 40 journal and conference articles while taking an active part in promoting cybersecurity training throughout the nation. She is also a frequent speaker in various cybersecurity conferences nationwide. Dr. Siraj is recipient of the ­Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education Exceptional Leadership in Education Award in 2018.


WiCyS Board of Governors

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Dr. Janell Straach

Chair of the Board


Dr. Janell Straach has a diverse background including academic and industry experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science in CS degree from Angelo State University, a Master of Computer Science degree from Texas A&M University, an MBA from The University of Dallas and a Masters and PhD from UT Dallas.  Her PhD research was in intelligent systems and recent work has focused on CyberSecurity.  Prior to her current assignment with Rice University, she was a member of the faculty at UT Dallas in Richardson, TX.  Before her academic assignments, she worked in industry for IBM and a large electric/gas utility organization. She has taught at the college, university and corporate level.  Janell’s passion is recruiting and retaining females into technology careers.  

Video Link: Janell Straach - Meet the Prof


Dr. Costis Toregas


Director, Cyber Security and Privacy Research Institute, George Washington University

Costis Toregas is the Associate Director of the Cyber Security and Privacy Research Institute at The George Washington University, where he manages and conducts research projects in cybersecurity. His research interests include workforce development, the role of insurance in cyber risk management, and exploring a fuller utilization of Community Colleges in the cybersecurity work force strategies.  He is a Senior Advisor & Director, Scholarship for Service (SFS) Four-Year to the National CyberWatch Center. He is a respected consultant to national governments and intergovernmental organizations, and a much sought-after speaker on the impact of technology in government and society. Dr. Toregas has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Environmental Systems Engineering from Cornell University.

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Dr. Dawn M. Beyer

Senior Fellow, Lockheed Martin Space

Dr. Dawn Beyer is a Lockheed Martin (LM) Senior Fellow. She has over 29 years of experience covering information technology security, information assurance, security engineering, cybersecurity, systems engineering, military intelligence and operations, risk assessments, strategy, and policy development and execution. She provides consultation to research and development, proposal, program, and operations and maintenance teams. She also provides guidance, direction, leadership, training, and mentoring to Engineers.

Dr. Beyer is a cyber leader in LM and Industry. She provides leadership with the visibility into cyber strategy, workforce talent, technology, capabilities, risks, policy, and opportunities. At LM, Dr. Beyer is the LM Cyber Fellows Action Team Chair. She also engages in industry exchanges and Co-chairs the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Cybersecurity Division and is a member of the INCOSE Systems Security Engineering (SSE) Working Group, and a LM Representative to the NDIA SSE Committee. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

Dr. Beyer is a retired Air Force Intelligence Officer with 24 years of service and has performed additional responsibilities as an Information Systems Security Manager, Computer Systems Security Officer, Communications Security Manager, Operations Security Manager, and Emissions Security Manager.

Dr. Beyer earned her Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. in Information Systems. Her Dissertation and Thesis  centers around Cyber and Information Warfare. She maintains the following certifications:

Project Management Institute’s Program Management Professional (PMP)®, (ISC) 2 ’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)® and Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)®, and ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)®.

WiCyS Board Member, Dawn Beyer, from Lockheed Martin - Lockheed Launches New Weapons Cybersecurity Strategy

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Dr. Cynthia Irvine

Director, Center for Information Systems Security Studies and Research, Naval Post Graduate School

Cynthia Irvine is a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the Naval Postgraduate School, where she is the Director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Cyber Operations. She served as the founding Chair of the Cyber Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School. 

Her research has focused on developmental security as applied to trustworthy systems, and on cyber operations. Through curriculum development, educational tools, teaching, and professional activities, Dr. Irvine has worked to enhance cybersecurity education. The author of over technical 200 papers, she has supervised the research of over 140 Masters and PhD students. 

She has served as Chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Security and Privacy. A recipient of the Naval Information Assurance Award, Dr. Irvine was inducted into the Cyber Security Hall of Fame in 2015. 

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Prajakta Jagdale


Prajakta Jagdale (PJ) manages the Red Team program at Palo Alto Networks and is focused on ensuring the security of the company’s infrastructure. Her red teaming success can be attributed to the 7+ years as an application security researcher at Hewlett-Packard. During this period, her research on vulnerabilities in web technologies like JAVA, SQL, Flash, HTML5 and others contributed towards a software product designed to mimic a human hacker.  Then as a product security architect at Intuit, she spent her time identifying and demonstrating, to architects and engineers, the exploitable security flaws in designs of complex, large-scale network and software infrastructures responsible for delivering the financial, accounting and tax preparation services.

Over the years, Prajakta has had the opportunity to present her work at several security conferences including Black Hat Federal, RSA Europe, Shmoocon, InfoSec World and others.

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Jay Koehler

Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement Manager, Security & Trust Organization, Cisco

Jay Koehler is a Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement Manager in the Security & Trust Organization, where she is responsible for workforce planning. Over her 18 years at Cisco Jay has worn several different hats – from software engineer, to software engineer manager, to program management.

Jay’s passion for people, diversity, and helping others propelled her into her current position in workforce planning, creating and defining the role from the ground up.  Jay leads S&TO in how the organization recruits and develops talent, aspiring to to ultimately create a more diverse and innovative pool of cybersecurity professionals.


Allison Miller

Vice President of Global Enterprise Cyber Security Office UnitedHealth Group/OptuM

Allison Miller serves as the Vice President of UnitedHealth Group’s Global Enterprise Information Security Office. Allison has accountability for the Enterprise Information Security Officers for the Group, Security Incident Response/Technical Investigations, Security Policy and Global Cyber Regulatory Programs. In her existing role, Allison has developed a global security framework for the enterprise with a focus towards patient safety, security of clinical operations and a global cyber crisis response plan.

Prior to her role with the Global Enterprise Information Security Office, Allison served as the Director of National Healthcare Compliance for UnitedHealthcare, Chief Privacy Officer for OptumHealth and Deputy Privacy Officer, National Privacy Director for UnitedHealthcare.

In addition to Privacy and Security, Allison has over 20 years of experience in health information systems and crisis management. During her tenure at UnitedHealth Group, Allison developed systems to identify the gaps in care and predict health outcomes for individuals with chronic conditions. Allison is a volunteer EMT and First Responder in the State of Louisiana serving residents during Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac. Most recently, Allison had the privilege of serving Refugees in Greece providing healthcare support to the clinics on the frontlines.

Allison’s undergraduate (BA) studies were in Political Science and Sociology; she has completed Executive Education & Management post-college at Wharton, Kellogg Executive Education and MIT Sloan. She was part of the cohort that authored and attained the ISC2 Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Professional Certification and holds her HCISSP, in addition to holding certifications from GIAC, ISACA, HCCS and other technology areas of focus beyond security.

Allison continues to volunteer her time across organizations to help raise the level awareness regarding emerging cyber security landscape and the threats they present to patient care globally.

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Michele Schochet

Director, Security, Facebook

Michele Schochet leads teams responsible for the building of tools that protect Facebook’s corporate information assets and enable the secure growth of the Facebook community and company by empowering the workforce to move fast, securely and at scale. In her words “Maintaining the technical connection with the engineers on my teams while being able to see the big picture and how we enable growth and scalability has continued to be a key focus for me throughout my career. One of my biggest challenges has been striking the work life balance as I raise my son who is now 13 years old and far more intelligent and charismatic than I ever could be. That said, maintaining this balance has enabled me to contribute positively in both spaces and I bring this philosophy to the teams that I work on and with. At the end of the day, we come from a place of good intent and diversity of thought leadership in the workplace is a core tenet that I embrace as Facebook grows and I’m a piece of that!”

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Dr. Greg Shannon

Chief Scientist, CERT® Division, Software Engineering Institute (SEI), Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Greg Shannon is a computer scientist with diverse experience and a leading expert in science, technology, and policy for cybersecurity. He recently served in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy as the Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Strategy and has testified before Congress on cybersecurity, science for security, critical infrastructure, resilience, and cyber threats. He served as the first Chair of IEEE’s Cybersecurity Initiative and the General Chair for the 2015 IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy.

Dr. Shannon received a BS in Computer Science from Iowa State University with minors in Mathematics, Economics, and Statistics. He earned his MS and PhD in Computer Sciences at Purdue University, with a fellowship from the Packard Foundation.


Taly Walsh

Emeritus Executive Director

WiCyS 2019 Annual Conference Committees