Lital Asher-Dotan, VP Research & Content at Cybereason, has over a decade of experience working with Tech companies. She’s spent the last six years in cybersecurity, first at Rapid7, where she launched a new security analytics platform and later at Cybereason, where she was one of the first employees helping to build it into the global Endpoint Security leader it is today. Asher-Dotan is an Israeli Defense Forces Unit 8200 alum where she commanded a 24/7 intelligence team.
She is an active advocate for women in technology. She’s a member of the Israeli Woman2Woman organization and has recently began sharing her knowledge to empower others, specifically on the topic of gender disparity and diversity in technology and cybersecurity.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My career started with my military service in the prestigious intelligence unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, Unit 8200. This experience taught me that I can achieve anything I want to.
Early on, I was given a significant responsibility as part of a real-time war room. A few months into the job I became the night shift leader where I was responsible for everything happening off hours including reporting urgent matters to higher commanders and assuming the priorities of off-duty other soldiers . This made me realize that I was capable of prioritizing conflicting tasks, and it empowered me to make important decisions. I also learned to be focused, and mission driven. Those lessons were applied throughout my career, in all roles and all responsibilities.
Since joining Cybereason, those lessons and the ability to focus resources have been incredibly valuable. Last year, our team discovered critical ransomware vaccinations, which meant we had to publish the information quickly–to our customers and to organizations around the world. By acting quickly, Cybereason’s vaccination was published in international news outlets–not only helping global businesses and the millions of people endangered by those cyber-attacks, but also helping build global brand awareness for our company.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I have worked in a variety of organizations which has helped me see things through different lenses. I first worked at Proctor and Gamble on marketing consumer goods. In the last six years I have worked in the security industry where we sell security software to enterprises.
What I learned, is that marketing is always selling to people. Whether you are in a consumer goods business or whether you are in B2B, selling to organizations. Even when you sell to organizations, at the end of the day you are selling to people, so you need to understand the psychology and what would inspire a person or make them want a product.
In B2C, when you’re selling to consumers, it’s a little bit simpler because you’re just talking to the single consumer and have to impact him/her. Alternatively, when you’re in enterprise sales, it’s not just targeting an individual, but instead involves influencing a whole complex relationship and politics within the organization.
I love how I was able to shift from selling to individuals all over the world, to selling to individuals inside organizations and impacting more complex sales.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
In my last four years at Cybereason, our biggest challenge was ensuring success alongside the rapid growth of the company. I was hired at Cybereason when it was a very young startup just introducing its product to the market. Fast forward to today, and we have offices, teams and sales reps throughout the world — Boston, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and Sydney.
With growth and expansion, we’re faced with hiring new people, scaling up and doing things that are more repetitive and can be done by bigger teams.
We’ve had to be dynamic and agile in order to shift every few months to a scaled-up version of what we’ve previously done. Sometimes this means completely tossing the playbook and writing a new one to support rapid growth.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
First and foremost, do not be afraid to join the cybersecurity industry. I think sometimes we think “this is not for us.” Many women are coming from different backgrounds. I studied biology and then moved to consumer goods. So, even though I was in cybersecurity in my military service, I shifted a lot throughout my career. My advice to anyone who wants to join the cybersecurity field is just do it.
There are so many resources out there that you can learn from, such as YouTube videos and online courses. And of course, you can learn by doing.
There’s such a big need for talented individuals in this field that women are invited. Don’t be worried that it’s “too technical” or that you “don’t have the right background.” Anyone can learn those topics.
Take advantage of resources and great people to learn from. Listen, read, ask questions, network and build relationships with others in the industry.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Being adaptive and agile, as a career is all about change. It’s not one path that you decide on in college. The reality is that your life changes–you may get married, you may have children, you may want to put your career on hold to go back to school and then return. Things change in your personal life, as well as in the industry you may work in.
The workforce tremendously changes every day. I started my career when TV ads were hot. Social media was just in its diapers, and digital marketing barely existed. Nowadays every marketer must be thinking about having a presence in social media and digital space. You have to be able to transform, stay on your tippy toes and keep learning. Never stay complacent. Never think that you’re in one career for the rest of your life. Be ready for a non-boring life and be okay with it. Just be at ease with change.
How do you maintain a work life balance?
I don’t like to think about it like that. In my view it’s just “life.” My work is part of my life – it’s one in the same. I wear several hats: I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a volunteer, I’m a VP of Marketing, I am an advocate for women in tech. They all fit together.
I have one schedule, and I believe that if we view it like that we just need to build it into our lives. Of course it requires planning — planning with your spouse or partner or friends. Taking care of children, of pets. Your job has its own duties, so you build one schedule that fits it all together.
I don’t like to look at it as a “switch.” In reality, none of us work in a job that we switch off when we get home. Whether we like it or not we have cell phones, we have Slack channels, we have emails, we have text messages, and our minds don’t shut off what we do in the day – whether it’s marketing, teaching or medicine. In a modern career, in the year of 2018, the work is with you wherever you go. You need to find the right way to manage it with your other priorities.
For example in my life, I will plan my commute to fit my schedule. When possible, I will start my day early working from home, writing my emails, and then dropping off the kids; I try to skip the commute and come in a little bit later, so I don’t waste time in traffic. Of course it requires a lot of planning and finding a workplace that supports building this sustainable and manageable life “balance” is extremely important.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are many issues, unfortunately. Research shows that there are biases and differences in the way males and females communicate — this applies to something as simple as how both will ask for a promotion or a raise. Despite the amount of information and research available, there is not enough action.
On the positive side, we are seeing small improvements. For example, Massachusetts just declared Equal Pay and that people don’t need to disclose prior pay when being interviewed for a new job. A lot of new regulations like these will help address those biases and problems that lead to inequality.
I’d like to also call out something shared during the Obama governance. It was recognized that there was a tendency that when women bring up an idea in a meeting room, sometimes the idea is forgotten until a man comes and takes credit for it. To avoid it, there was a duty of a male in the room to repeat what the female just said, to reinforce it and say, “As she just said, one idea that we could do is to do…”. So, I think while this may seem artificial, it acknowledges some of the biases that we may see in our community. Like it or not, we need to enforce a solution to break bad habits.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
Although I have not started my own business and cannot speak from experience, I can share some thoughts. I think the main challenge for a female to start her own business, especially if she has younger children in daycare, is that it’s financially taxing in the early stages. You need to invest in building your business and at the same time pay for childcare costs.
I’d love to see financial support and/or services offered. For example, financial support or initial funding for an office rental or for equipment to start a business, or organizations that could help with marketing or sales efforts at a discounted (or free) cost.
How is mentorship made a difference in your professional/personal life?
In the early days of my career, I had a great mentor; Sophie Blum, current Vice President, Global Brand Innovation & Brand Building at P&G. At the time, she was was both my manager and my personal mentor. She was the person who taught me about work-life balance and how to view it.
She taught me three things: 1) my mindset (as described above) on planning everything as one regardless of whether its personal or work-related, 2) that you need to have a very good partner that supports you in your career, and 3) Quality and not quantity matters. Time with family has to be quality time, and not necessarily the quantity of time. When you go home, make sure you have a good dinner, good talk with your kids. When you have a family vacation, make sure it’s fun, focused time together. She called it “Full On, Full Off.”
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Like many other women aspiring to progress in their careers, I’ve read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I think it’s a must read for everyone. Even if you’re not a women in business, I assure you that you can learn from it. Her advice on overcoming bias and taking risks can be applied to anyone and everyone.
I admire what she’s shared and for what she’s created with the Lean In Institution. She identified an issue and has invested so much timing in fixing it.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Our mission at Cybereason is to share more of our company’s insights and discoveries. I am a big part of that. Our people often have cutting-edge information on cyberattacks, and it’s part of my job to share those findings with the world. In 2018, we need to do more, share more and reach more people.
Personally, I want to remember that it’s okay to make a mistake or forget something. I have children who are growing up fast, and there is always a lot to juggle. I just need to step back and be at ease with where we are and what we can realistically manage day-to-day.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting up?
1) Everybody tends to say it to entrepreneurs, but it’s true: Believe in yourself because it’s hard.
You need to be tough and not listen to those that might say “Leave it. It’s not for you. Why bother”. Disregard those that are negative.
2) As I said before, always keep adapting, keep learning. Maintain a mindset of MVP, Minimal Viable Product. Don’t invest everything you have with the first product. Start with small tasks and learn from them and change as you go, so that failure is not going to be huge. You will have incremental improvement as you progress overtime. Agile methodology, as used in software, is the best for any entrepreneur in any field. Go read a lean startup book. Having a small stepping stone towards the end goal rather than creating everything at once.
3) Last, align your entrepreneurship with everything around you. You will need support at home. You will need support from your spouse. You will need support from your kids. You need a good support system. As I said for career, you need to have a master plan for your life. If the next 12 months will be focused on starting a new business, think about what steps you need to take, what is the time you need to invest, where do you need help. Plan not only your job, but also your personal life. That’s the best way to succeed.