Together we’re courageous

Women make significant contributions to the financial services sector and shouldn’t shy away from stereotypical thinking about technical and ICT fields and roles.

18 April 2021

It’s a good thing that her original calling to be a medical doctor lasted a week for Old Mutual’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Kerissa Varma. This extraordinary woman has truly made her mark during her career in cyber security and risk and she remains the only woman holding a Group CISO position in South Africa’s banking and insurance sector. “There are so many brilliant, extremely capable women in Cybersecurity in South Africa. The lack of female CISO’s describes our levels of confidence and how, as women, we’re not putting our hands up to take on these roles because we underestimate what we are capable of.”

Varma believes it’s vital for leaders to be approachable and to encourage people to be brave in addressing issues. Even when we deem something a failure, there’s the opportunity to learn; the ability to look at failure as a stepping stone to success is an important dynamic in a team. “I am blessed to have an amazing team who realise that I am genuine in my approach,” continues Varma. “I help them to rethink “failure” and “success” as the labels we give to ourselves and the things we do. I believe the old adage that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing right is slightly flawed. In Cybersecurity perfection is hard to achieve as attacks continuously change but continuous improvement is what we strive for.

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