“WiCyS has shown me that there are women who uplift other women. In a world where some see competition, WiCyS embodies collaboration and support. It’s not just about breaking barriers; it’s about paving the way for others, amplifying voices and creating a community where every woman thrives. Let them say no, but let us keep saying yes to each other’s success.”

—Deborah Barnes


In the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity, Deborah’s story is a shining example of resilience, determination and the power of seizing opportunities. Deborah Barnes is a trailblazer in the cybersecurity field whose journey exemplifies the transformative potential of career changes and underscores the invaluable support network Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) offers to aspiring professionals.


Deborah’s venture into cybersecurity was driven by a desire for intellectual growth and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Armed with two degrees in exercise science, her path took an unexpected turn following the birth of her first child, as she longed for a fresh challenge. Despite initial apprehensions about her lack of background in computer science, Deborah boldly ventured into the world of cybersecurity. Her determination to pursue a master’s degree in the field marked the commencement of a fulfilling journey.


As Deborah recounts her journey, one can’t help but marvel at her tenacity and resourcefulness. She recalls relentlessly reaching out to professors and recruiters, seeking internships and ultimately landing a full-time position at Forsythe Technologies—an achievement underscored by her willingness to “let them say no.” This phrase, coined by her friend and mentor Mike Zachman from Zebra Technologies, encapsulates the pervasive gender gap in the job application process and reflects a stark reality. While men often apply for jobs when meeting just 60% of qualifications, women tend to hold back unless they meet 100%. However, Deborah’s story challenges this narrative by demonstrating that courage, self-belief and a fearless “what do I have to lose?” attitude can open doors to unforeseen opportunities.


After completing her master’s degree and accumulating two years of invaluable experience at Forsythe Technologies, Deborah sought fresh challenges and found herself drawn to a Threat and Vulnerability Management role at Grainger. Despite not meeting all the job requirements, she embraced the opportunity, asking herself once again, “what do I have to lose?” Her drive and persistence paid off as she secured the role at Grainger, where she flourished. Deborah quickly earned the respect of her manager and colleagues, with her manager even hailing her as one of the go-to security employees.


After several years of success at Grainger, Deborah caught the attention of others. She was presented an opportunity by a leader who not only “chose her” but was committed to seeing her further achieve and shine. Therefore, she accepted a position at Cradlepoint in the business enterprise wireless division as a Senior attack surface management analyst and was eventually promoted to Principal vulnerability engineer. Beyond her own success, she actively advocated for the inclusion of women in the field, persuading her manager, Ken Quigley, to recruit another WiCyS member. At present, Deborah has started a new role at Zebra Technologies as a Principal information security engineer on the TVM team.


WiCyS emerged as a pivotal force in Deborah’s career trajectory, offering a supportive community where women champion each other, lift each other up and empower each other to succeed. Recollecting her time at the 2023 WiCyS conference, Deborah fondly remembers a chance meeting with a fellow attendee sporting a WiCyS t-shirt at the airport—a serendipitous encounter that ultimately resulted in the recruitment of a WiCyS student as a full-time employee in her company. This anecdote encapsulates the essence of WiCyS: fostering mentorship, collaboration and inclusivity within the cybersecurity landscape.


For Deborah, WiCyS epitomizes the spirit of uplifting others—a refreshing departure from environments where women often feel marginalized or threatened. Buoyed by her positive experiences with WiCyS, Deborah is committed to paying it forward, advocating for women’s voices to be heard and amplifying their contributions in male-dominated spaces.


In her role at Cradlepoint, Deborah’s journey came even more full circle as she leveraged her platform to uplift her women colleagues, encouraging them to showcase their work and embrace visibility. By challenging traditional notions of qualifications and advocating for a culture of support and mentorship, Deborah embodies the life-cycle of WiCyS, paving the way for future generations of women in cybersecurity.


Deborah’s narrative serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring cybersecurity professionals, particularly women transitioning from a different career path. Her story underscores the transformative power of seizing opportunities, embracing uncertainty and fostering inclusive communities where women uplift each other. As we celebrate Deborah Barnes’ cyber journey, let us also recognize the vital role of community support in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within the cybersecurity landscape. Together, we can follow Deborah’s lead, empowering women to shatter glass ceilings, defy expectations and leave an indelible mark on the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity.