Top Women in Cyber Security Celebration 2021: Honouree roundup

With files from Samira Balsara

On July 28, people from all over Canada joined IT World Canada online to celebrate the top women in Canadian cybersecurity as identified by their peers.

The second annual Top Women in Cybersecurity celebration told the stories of 20 cybersecurity trailblazers who have carved out careers in all facets of the public and private sector.

In addition to welcoming Canada’s next 20 Top Women in Cybersecurity, the 90-minute virtual event included a panel discussion wherein senior cybersecurity leaders shared personal stories of how they came into the field and the journey that led them into leadership roles; a fireside chat; and an opportunity for conversation in the break-out room.

The event is created annually by ITWC in partnership with WISECRA. This year’s sponsors included Okta, VMWare, Aptum, Proofpoint, Watserv, Optiv and Trend Micro. Supporters included the CIO Association of Canada, Willis College, the University of Guelph and Women in Cybersecurity (Ontario affiliate.)

2021 Honourees

  • Andrea Gorog, Vice President, Fusion, CIBC
  • Andrea Knoblauch, Technical Solutions Architect, Security, Softchoice
  • Anne Genge, CEO – Director of Privacy & Cybersecurity Education, Alexio
  • Cara Wolf, CEO, Ammolite Analytx
  • Cat Coode, Data Privacy Consultant, Founder, Binary Tattoo
  • Catherine Mendonsa, CISO, Director of Information Systems Security & Enterprise Architecture, Finning
  • Claudette McGowan, VP, Global Executive Officer, Protect Fusion & Cyber Experience, TD
  • Dima Alhadidi, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor
  • Eman Hammad, Cybersecurity Academic & Professional
  • Hadis Karimipour, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph
  • Heather Ricciuto, Academic & Talent Outreach Program Manager, IBM Security
  • Jennifer Williams, Senior Director, Information Security with Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP)
  • Jennifer Fernick, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Research, NCC Group
  • Kimberley St. Pierre, Director of Strategic Accounts with Tanium
  • Margo Seltzer, Canada 150 Research Chair in Computer Systems and the Cheriton Family Chair in Computer Science, University of British Columbia
  • Melissa Carvalho, Vice President RBC Global Cyber Security – Identity and Access Management
  • Monika Tamber, Director of Security Governance at Payments Canada
  • Nancy Gariché, Senior Cybersecurity Analyst, Government of Canada
  • Rima Aristocrat, CEO, Willis College
  • Victoria Granova, Founder, CyberToronto

Andrea Gorog, Vice President, Fusion, CIBC

Our honour roll this year begins in the Canadian banking sector. The banking and financial services sector has been a prime target for cybercriminals over the last five years, and banks and financial institutions are working hard to contain the numerous attacks against them. In general, cyberattacks in this sector have tripled over the past five years and the average cost of containment has increased by 40 per cent, according to a report from Accenture

Andrea Gorog, Vice President of CIBC Fusion, the group responsible for protecting the bank and its clients by holistically combating financial crime threats, is known for leading by example among those who have had the privilege of working for her. An inspirational leader in the cybersecurity space, Gorog previously led the creation and success of TD’s Fusion Centre. Building on her earlier successful career as a foreign service officer, she brought the right leadership and focus to this multi-year multi-million dollar project by hiring skilled individuals from across the industry while also managing the day-to-day ongoing risks posed by cyber threats. Gorog also led TD’s offshore cybersecurity operations in Israel as well as in Singapore (including establishing Singapore as a sunset site). She is now building on her successes and further expanding CIBC’s Fusion capabilities.

Andrea Knoblauch, Technical Solutions Architect, Security, Softchoice

Our next honouree, Andrea Knoblauch, Technical Solutions Architect, Security at Softchoice, is extremely passionate about cybersecurity and her job, where many lean on her for her expertise. Held in high regard at Softchoice, Knoblauch is a major contributor to the ongoing growth and development of her company’s cybersecurity practice.

A talented leader, Knoblauch is helping pave the way for future female talent in cybersecurity – an industry that is in desperate need of more talent. She is known as someone who goes above and beyond to help her peers so they can realize success in cybersecurity. Knoblauch is also a thought-leader in the cloud security space, another segment that is short on talent. She has written a book, “Deconstructing Cloud” (published in 2013), and has contributed to several white papers. She is a member of the Cloud Security Alliance, has spoken at industry events, and teaches monthly classes through the Toronto Board of Trade. Knoblauch holds a Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) and has over 25 resales technical certifications from over 10 vendors.   

Anne Genge, CEO – Director of Privacy & Cybersecurity Education, Alexio

Our next honoree was no stranger to the roller coaster ride that was 2020. The CEO and co-founder of Alexio Corporation, a cyberrisk prevention software and training company for healthcare practices and other SMBs, Anne Genge is an expert when it comes to helping small businesses understand how to secure and protect their data. One of the hardest lessons to learn, she says, is that “criminals aren’t just hacking systems, they’re hacking your employees”.

Winner of Most Innovative Women in Cybersecurity, Cutting Edge Cybersecurity (CyberDefense Magazine global awards 2020), Genge has been a key part of solving cybersecurity problems for healthcare practices by bringing automation to the process of ensuring security is running on the systems, and also by using automation as part of training and in continuous training. An innovator in the cybersecurity training space, she has created an in-house training certification stream for small business owners, so they have incentive-based, targeted solutions to keep their staff aware and defend their practice/business. 

Cara Wolf, CEO, Ammolite Analytx

Cara Wolf, CEO of the Canadian cybersecurity consulting and analytics firm Ammolite Analytx, is well versed in the importance of cybersecurity training and awareness. Wolf has consulted for over 300 businesses, including several Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial start-ups. 

A SHEInnovator with UN Women, and a business and technology mentor with Technovation, Wolf is a recognized thought leader, published author, and frequently speaks on panels on the impact that AI technology creation and adoption have on business profitability and risk reduction. 

She is also on the Cybersecurity Committee of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association and is a Founding Member and Director of the International Association of the Virtual Chief Information Security Officers. Wolf was recently awarded TECTERRA’s inaugural Woman of Impact award. She was also honoured with the STEM Trailblazer Woman of Inspiration Award and was nominated for Women in IT Excellence awards and RBC Entrepreneur of the Year 2020.

Cat Coode, Data Privacy Consultant, Founder, Binary Tattoo

Cat Coode is a consultant and professional speaker in the area of data privacy, with an emphasis on getting companies to meet global privacy regulation compliance standards and ensure cybersecurity hygiene.

Coode is an engineer with two decades of experience in software design and architecture. Having spent much of her career in senior management, she has a deep understanding of the way teams develop and build software from the ground up. Eight years ago Coode launched her own company, Binary Tattoo, with the mission to educate individuals to better understand and control their online identities and protect their data. In addition to cybersecurity education, Coode advocates for digital privacy and regulation literacy.

A professional speaker on privacy and cybersecurity, Coode has spoken at a multitude of international conferences. She was chair of the board for the Canadian Women in Cyber conference in March 2021. Additionally, Coode is on the Standards Council of Canada for both GDPR and Data Privacy.

Catherine Mendonsa, CISO, Director of Information Systems Security & Enterprise Architecture, Finning

Our next honouree is a cybersecurity professional with more than two decades of experience establishing start-up security management systems, and high-performance teams. She has demonstrated progressive leadership, with extensive experience in IT, information security, and privacy. 

Catherine Mendonsa, CISO, Director of Information Systems Security & Enterprise Architecture for the world’s largest Caterpillar dealer, Finning, has a proven track record of supporting business objectives through secure data-driven strategic and technical direction. She has extensive experience in many areas of security, including advanced risk management, incident response, and cybersecurity programs, spanning many industries including municipal government, environmental waste management, law enforcement, energy regulators, oil & gas, critical infrastructure, a law firm, and now Finning.  

Mendonsa also sits as a Board member of the CIO Association of Canada (Calgary Chapter), and the National CISO Board. Throughout her career Mendonsa has volunteered or participated in many security-focused endeavours. These include five years as a voting member and vice-chair of the RCMP CPIC IT Sub-Committee, two years co-chairing the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Cyber Security Working Group, being CPS IT Security lead for the 2002 G8 Summit held in Calgary, and involvement in early development of the Calgary Security Professionals Information Exchange (SPIE) Not-For-Profit.  

Claudette McGowan, VP, Global Executive Officer, Protect Fusion & Cyber Experience, TD

Our next honouree has been an inspirational leader in technology for years, most recently in cybersecurity. 

Claudette McGowan is the Global Executive Officer, Cybersecurity at TD Bank and this year, she launched Cyber Suite (C Suite), a new cybersecurity program and podcast designed to elevate cyber literacy and awareness around cybersecurity for everyday people.

An award-winning, globally-focused information technology leader, McGowan was recognized by Toronto Life as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Torontonians in 2019 and 2020. In addition, Women’s Executive Network recognized her as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, AdWeek Magazine heralded her as a Toronto Brand Star, and the Digital Finance Institute honoured her as one of the Top 50 Canadian Women in FinTech. 

McGowan is also the winner of the 2021 Harry Jerome Technology Award and the chair of CILAR (Coalition of Innovative Leaders Against Racism) which is a diverse group of senior leaders from different organizations working together to create pathways for BIPOC communities and to help end systemic racism within the innovation economy.  In 2019, McGowan interviewed Michelle Obama at the Elevate Tech Festival. She has also been selected as one of the members of Justin Trudeau’s women-only task force that will develop an action plan to address issues of gender inequality, especially in the wake of the pandemic. 

Dima Alhadidi, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor

Our next honouree, Dima Alhadidi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Windsor. Alhadidi has multiple refereed research articles published in top-tier conferences and journals, as well as a book on “Aspect-Oriented Security Hardening of UML Design Models” (Springer, 2015).  

Dr. Alhadidi received her PhD from Concordia University and was the Engineering and Computer Science Convocation Valedictorian in 2010. Her PhD work involved security evaluation and hardening of open-source software funded by the Department of National Defense, Bell Canada, the DND/NSERC Research Partnership Program, and Concordia University. She is the winner of the Doctoral Thesis Completion Award (2009). As a post-doc, Alhadidi worked on model-based engineering of secure software and systems funded by NSERC, Ericsson Canada, Prompt Quebec, and Concordia University. She received the NSERC Discovery grant and early-career researcher supplement to conduct research on privacy-preserving machine learning techniques. 

Eman Hammad, Cybersecurity Academic & Professional

Eman Hammad is a cybersecurity academic and professional. She has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto. She often speaks at panels and conferences to talk about security in emerging technology and technical infrastructure systems. Hammad is also a leader in 5G, industrial, and IoT security.

She has published over 45 peer-reviewed journal articles. Some of Hammad’s research has received merit awards such as the Best Paper Award and Best Poster Award. She is a senior IEEE member and an active volunteer. Currently, Hammad is serving as the Chair of the Toronto ComSoc Chapter. In addition, she is an advocate for diversity in the STEM fields.

Hadis Karimipour, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph

Hadis Karimipour is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph. She got her PhD from the University of Alberta, where she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II scholarship. Karimipour researches the applications of AI in the cybersecurity of critical infrastructures. She has published two books and over 80 articles which have received over 1110 citations as of April 2021. 

Karimipour has had a leadership role as the chair of IEEE Women in Engineering. She has organized professional development activities to advocate and promote women in cybersecurity. Karimipour was co-founder of startup company GriffiniX which was recognized by NextAi, one of the most competitive accelerators in Canada. 

Heather Ricciuto, Academic & Talent Outreach Program Manager, IBM Security

Our next honouree is a leader and role model with 30 years of experience in the technology sector and a passion for getting young women and girls interested in cybersecurity.

Heather Ricciuto is the Academic and Talent Outreach Program manager at IBM Security. She has led IBM’s Women in Security Excelling (WISE) Business Resource group for three years, with a focus on mentoring and educating youth. 

In 2016, she co-founded CyberDay4Girls, a program that focuses on educating middle and high school girls about career opportunities in cybersecurity and the importance of it. Ricciuto was awarded the 2021 Ally of the Year award for IBM CyberDay4Girls. In March of this year, she was presented with the 2021 IBM Canada Judy Huber Women in Technology Leadership Award for her impact on women in technology.  

Jennifer Williams, Senior Director, Information Security with Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP)

Jennifer Williams is the senior director of Information Security with HOOPP. She has almost 20 years of experience with health institutions and has made significant contributions to the cybersecurity field in Ontario, focusing on building a cybersecurity mindset in Ontario’s healthcare sector.  

In the past year, with COVID-19 taxing the healthcare system, Williams has been responsible for securing the pensions of healthcare frontline workers from cyberattacks. Williams has spoken on cybersecurity panels such as the “Establishing Trust in Telemedicine” panel hosted by the Canadian Women in Cybersecurity. She also participates in cyber intelligence sharing communities, and is part of the human rights organization Making HERStory, which focuses on equality, diversity, and inclusion. 

Jennifer Fernick, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Research, NCC Group

Jennifer Fernick is the Senior Vice President and Global Head of Research at cybersecurity consulting firm NCC Group, which serves over 15,000 clients. Fernick is an expert in post-quantum cryptography, privacy-preserving data mining, and adversarial machine learning. 

Under Fernick’s leadership, NCC’s research has been reported in news publications such as The New York Times, Wired, Forbes, TechCrunch, and The Washington Post. Before NCC, she spent two years as the director of Information Security at Scotiabank. At Scotiabank, she led teams that developed and operated customer protection and cryptographic infrastructure which protected tens of billions of Canadian dollars in daily transactions.

Kimberley St. Pierre, Director of Strategic Accounts with Tanium

Our next honouree is a mentor to women who want to get into the cybersecurity space and women who are interested in a career shift into the security industry.

Director of Strategic Accounts at the cybersecurity and systems management company Tanium, Kimberly St. Pierre is dedicated to helping young women develop an interest in the field of cybersecurity and see its potential. She is a member of Global SheLeadsTech, an ISACA initiative to increase the participation and impact of women in technology leadership and workforce roles. She is also a part of the One In Tech Foundation, an ISACA foundation that seeks to create a healthy digital world that is safe, secure, and accessible for all.

Margo Seltzer, Canada 150 Research Chair in Computer Systems and the Cheriton Family Chair in Computer Science

Margo Seltzer is the Canada 150 Research Chair in Computer Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She has numerous academic honours, being a recipient of the SIGMOD Systems Award and the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award. Her research focuses on the intersection of computer storage, security, and reliability. She is also the Cheriton Family Chair in Computer Science at UBC.

As an expert and leader in privacy and security, Seltzer is one of 11 scientists serving on Canada’s COVID-19 Exposure Notification App Advisory Council. She is also a teacher who focuses on educating students about computer security, privacy, and how these complex systems work, and has done a lot of work in recruiting security faculty members to come to Canada and UBC. 

Melissa Carvalho, Vice President, RBC Global Cyber Security – Identity and Access Management

Our next honouree has spent 20 years in the cybersecurity industry and has helped mentor many women in leadership opportunities.

Melissa Carvalho is the Vice President, RBC Global Cyber Security and a leader in Identity and Access Management. She is in charge of managing an organization of over 200 people specializing in cybersecurity. 

Before the pandemic, Carvalho shared her work around the world, attending cybersecurity events in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv. She is also the Canadian ambassador for Women in Identity, a non-profit that focuses on equality in the workforce.

Monika Tamber, Director of Security Governance at Payments Canada

Monika Tamber is the director of security governance at Payments Canada. She has over 15 years of engineering experience in the semiconductor and telecommunications industries. Her cybersecurity journey began five years ago, and since then, she has acquired her CISSP, CISM and CCSP certifications.

She has been recognized by the CISO of Bank of Montreal (BMO) with a spotlight award for her work and the contribution that she made to the Security of Payments and SWIFT Customer Security Control Framework. She is one of the few female senior architects in the Canadian payments field who are responsible for the security of the country’s digital payment infrastructure. 

In 2020, Tamber mentored seven women and spoke at many conferences and schools, sharing her journey and spotlighting career opportunities in the cybersecurity space. She is an active member of BMO’s Women in Tech, Women’s Alliance Network, and Junior Achievement’s Economics for Success programs.

Nancy Gariché, Senior Cybersecurity Analyst, Government of Canada

Our next honouree has been described as a mentor in the IT security community, lauded for her talent, drive, and leadership skills.

Nancy Gariché is a senior IT security analyst for the Government of Canada. She began her journey in the cybersecurity industry in 2009 when she began working as a security analyst.

She currently leads her federal Department’s Security Assessment and Authorization Program, and is the founder of BDB Skills, a community that helps cybersecurity professionals and enthusiasts obtain the skills and certifications required to kickstart or level up their career.

Rima Aristocrat, CEO, Willis College

Rima Aristocrat is the Chair of Willis College, an institution with a focus on training adults to enter the workforce in the different tech-related fields. Aristocrat is also the President of TeKnoWave, a National Aboriginal IT Training Initiative, the first of its kind in Canada.

Aristocrat is the founder of Willis Women in Technology and the only Canadian on Microsoft’s Education Advisory Council. She has received national and international recognition for her contributions to post-secondary education. Aristocrat was recognized in the 2018-2019 Global Startup Observatory Cyber Hall of Fame Canada. She also received the 2020 Women in Cybersecurity Global Award. Aristocrat has been an influence for women in technology and continues to help tackle pressing issues in society. 

Victoria Granova, Founder, CyberToronto

Rounding off this impressive list of honourees is Victoria Granova, who is often described as a “titan in cybersecurity” as she continues to work at paving the way for young women and professionals in the field. 

Granova is senior information security consultant for CIBC. She is also the founder of CyberToronto, a community organization that connects cybersecurity experts across the industry. Granova has collected many accolades, including being named to The Canadian Security Top 10 Under 40. She was recently nominated as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

Granova wrote the CISSP exam from (ISC)2 and joined the organization’s Toronto chapter in 2019, becoming a board member. She is now the current chapter president. In March, she became an instructor at York University, where she teaches cybersecurity courses. She has recently been accepted as a PhD student at Ryerson University, where she will specialize in management and cybersecurity. 


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Pragya Sehgal
Pragya Sehgal
Born and raised in the capital city of India - Delhi - bounded by the river Yamuna on the west, Pragya has climbed the Himalayas, and survived medical professional stream in high school without becoming a patient or a doctor. Pragya now makes her home in Canada with her husband - a digital/online marketing fanatic who also loves to prepare delicious meals for her. When she isn’t working or writing around tech, she’s probably watching art films on Netflix, or wondering whether she should cut her hair short or not. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 647.695.3494.

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