Lynda Grindstaff, Vice President of Content Operations and Assessment at McAfee
is a popular and highly rated industry speaker at engineering and professional development conferences nationwide that repeatedly draws large crowds. Since she has over two decades of management and technical experience, Lynda has proven experience building and managing software engineering organizations as well as growing technical leaders.
Deck 7: Please tell us a bit about how you first became interested in cybersecurity. When and how did you decide this was the path for you?
LYNDA GRINDSTAFF: Cybersecurity actually came to me through a friend… My degree is in computer science, and I spent over two decades at Intel Corporation. I held a myriad of jobs ranging from programming, system validation, technical marketing, business development, strategic planning to cybersecurity. In 2014, I transferred into what was known at the time as the Intel Security Group on the suggestion of a friend. I have enjoyed the cybersecurity field so much that I left Intel in 2017 for the McAfee spin out and haven’t looked back.
The cybersecurity field is very exciting as we’re looking for solutions to get ahead of the bad guys while protecting our customers at the same time. It is always changing and there is no shortage of activities!
"The cybersecurity field is very exciting as we’re looking for solutions to get ahead of the bad guys while protecting our customers at the same time."
D7: What role does content operations play at McAfee?
LG: “Content” in this context has to do with enabling McAfee products identify malware faster and accurately for our customers, and content operations is the heart of McAfee. If you use the analogy of a body, my team is the heart and our products are the arms and legs. We all need to work together to function and one cannot exist without the other. You can see a person’s arms and legs just as you can see our products. You can’t see their heart, but you know it’s there. That is the same as our backend functions. You can’t see them outright, but you know they are there. We share a common backend across our products to allow them to access the same information on whether something is behaving maliciously or not. My team is responsible for the operations of that backend infrastructure and creating content to stop new malware. It is important for our customers that we identify and stop malicious behavior in their environments quickly and accurately.
D7: How do you ensure customer safety from the latest cyber threats?
LG: We have security researchers inside our organization who are staying on top of the latest threats, and we have machine learning models inside of our products that look for particular behaviors to identify the threats quickly. We’re also in touch with the cyber security research community at large to make sure we’re protecting our customers from the latest cyber threats.
"At McAfee we provide our products and solutions to ensure that when employees are utilizing the cloud that they’re doing so in a secure manner, that doesn’t slow them down or create any obstacles for them."
D7: You’re the VP of Content Operations at McAfee, and also a mother. Young women are often concerned about moving ahead with careers because they think they have to sacrifice family to be successful. What are your thoughts?
LG: I won’t lie as there are sacrifices working mothers make, but I would change the words to say “choices” we make. There are only so many hours in the day, and we all make conscious choices about how we spend those hours. That is true for anyone – male/female, parent or not. As a working parent, you accept the choices that you won’t be at every event of your children’s, you will eat take out more often than you like, and your house may be a mess. You will also need ask friends and family to help you, and in return you help other working parents out. It definitely takes a village to juggle everything!
Yes there are many times I was not able to volunteer in my kids’ classroom because of work or I couldn’t chaperone a field trip or be there for the first and last day of school (yes that happened about three years ago and my daughter continues to remind me every first and last day of school that I missed both one year due to work travel despite being there many other days!). My career may have also progressed slower than it could have if I didn’t have a family, but I accepted the choice I made because having both a family and a career were important to me. There were times my career took a back seat to family situations and vice versa. You have to figure out what works best for you and leverage your support network.
On the flip side because I have a career, I have chosen to show my children what life is like in other countries and introduce them to colleagues from all over the world. We enjoy traveling as a family and giving back in the community. I also am proud to show my children and their friends an example of a strong working female executive. Life is not easy for anyone, and it’s important to support each other to help society be successful as we each choose our own life’s journey.
D7: What are your career experiences that contributed to your growth as a leader? What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
LG: The early and mid-career experiences that contributed to my growth as a leader have been mainly outside of my direct jobs. I have been active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) since college and that gave me a safe place to practice and grow leadership skills. I highly recommend contributing to volunteer organizations to help hone your skills. During my career, I have won three national awards from SWE which provided credibility to my skills and abilities. If you can have recognition outside of your organization, I highly recommend it.
As I grew in my career, I began to be more purposeful in my job positions. Early on I took a new role because I was bored in the current role and the new one sounded more exciting. While I gained a great deal in breadth of experiences, I wasn’t very purposeful in my journey. It was not until the mid-career timeframe that I decided to be much more purposeful in my journey to become an executive and take on roles and projects that would contribute to my goal as well as keeping me challenged.
I feel barriers exist for everyone and some people have higher hurdles than others. I feel as a society we need to overcome our biases to see everyone as equal and capable no matter what. For women, we deal with this almost every day. I’ve encountered men who didn’t want to give me a leadership role because they thought I would quit after the birth of my first child. What’s ironic is that man retired early in his career, and I’m still here after having two children! I had another man tell me at the mid-career time, I would never be a VP because I had a working spouse and children (clearly he was proven wrong!).
A third example is when my Director at the time, told me I wasn’t being promoted to a Director level despite getting four outstanding ratings in five years because it was “hard to be a Director”, and since I had a working spouse, it would be even harder for me to be successful. This gentleman has a stay at home wife and is still a Director level to this day! To me, the biggest challenge I’ve encountered in my career is dealing with biases. We need to put our judgements and assumptions aside. Treat each person equally and let each person succeed or fail on their own merits.
"There are only so many hours in the day, and we all make conscious choices about how we spend those hours."
D7: You’ve worked with the Society of Women Engineers and middle and high school STEM teachers to increase the public’s awareness of engineering as a profession for women. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
LG: First off, don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Engineering is a very broad field where you can make a difference. You can match almost every passion with engineering. For instance if you love shoes, you can work at a company to improve the design of shoes to make athletes perform better, you can create shoes for people with disabilities, or you can write software for a shoe app to name a few examples.
Many students equate engineering careers to men because that is what they see today. In general, there are about 20% women graduating with engineering degrees in US. As that number continues to grow, we will see more and more women who are making an impact on the engineering industry every day. If you are interested in STEM related fields, the possibilities are endless!
D7: We constantly hear about the cloud and how it’s changing the way employees and organizations work. What are some important things that McAfee is doing to ensure its customers are able to take advantage of cloud technology?
LG: Cloud computing has absolutely changed the way employees and businesses get their work done. It’s transformed our workplaces into a more collaborative and efficient environment. While these aspects of cloud computing are undoubtedly positive there also comes the need for us to ensure that the cloud is secure. And at McAfee we provide our products and solutions to ensure that when employees are utilizing the cloud that they’re doing so in a secure manner, that doesn’t slow them down or create any obstacles for them.
We recently announced the availability of a first of its kind, a cloud native platform that has been engineered to protect enterprise data and defend against threats at the device and in the cloud. It’s called Unified cloud edge and it’s going to bring together the capabilities of our McAfee MVISION Cloud – CASB, our McAfee Web Gateway and our McAfee data loss Prevention or DLP offerings. And they’re all going to be embedded in our MVISION ePO orchestrator platform which will enable a borderless IT environment. It’s going to make things much easier for our security analysts as well as our IT administrators to be able to seamlessly bring things together and provide them security inside the cloud.
D7: What is your favorite quote?
LG: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou