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Profile: Arti Lalwani, Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN

Women in Tech: “Mentors are extremely important but difficult to find”

Sarah Schlothauer

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Arti Lalwani, Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Arti Lalwani, Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Arti Lalwani, Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN

Arti is the Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN. Arti brings over eight years of experience with IT Audit and Compliance. Arti joined A-LIGN in 2019 as the ISO Practice Leader, specializing in ISO 27001 audits and accreditation. Arti has added several ISO accreditations to the practice while servicing Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries.

Arti received the Women in Technology 2021 Excellence in Client Service Award. She has written and contributed to a myriad of blogs and publications on privacy and risk management.

When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?

My first tech job was learning the ins and outs of asset management: hardware and servers. Oddly, I went on to learn about individual servers then racking and stacking and was thoroughly intrigued.

When I moved on into auditing, everything clicked thanks to my asset management experience. I still find it fascinating how differently each company operates. You really do have to tailor your auditing approach based on each organization.

How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

I graduated from college with a finance degree and I joined a firm within that field right away. I thought this was going to be my life career path. Little did I know my path was going to take me in a very different direction!

Growing up in a diverse community and attending a university with an equally-diverse population, I never realized that corporate America would be so non-diverse.

My parents operated their own small business. They never knew corporate America would be tough on me as a minority female so they didn’t know how to prepare me to deal with the issues I would face.

I learned the difference almost immediately. At first, I truly thought it was just the financial industry and since I didn’t like the path I had chosen, I thought changing industries would be the best move for me. Nope! I absolutely can tell you the difficulty minorities and women face is not just because of the industry, it’s because of individuals and their mindset.

I’ve overcome a ton of obstacles and the best way I can give back now is to ensure the females on my team will never endure the same obstacles while working with me. I want to prepare them as well. If they move on and experience issues in another organization, I want them to be set up to handle it. Life is about how you handle these issues because they will always arise.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

The best support comes from mentors that understand my struggle and still push me to be the best version of myself. I’ve had a couple in my professional life and I’m extremely grateful for all of them. Mentors are extremely important but difficult to find.

Ironically, I have had some great male mentors! My previous boss here at A-LIGN, Petar Besalev has been a very positive influence for me. He pushed me to challenge myself in ways I didn’t expect and it has impacted my career path.

Did anyone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

Consistently. Any time someone feels threatened by my knowledge, they do everything in their power to discredit me, leave me out of the room and attack my confidence.

These efforts to discredit me happened so frequently that at one point I thought, “this is how it will always be,” It wasn’t until I came to A-LIGN that I learned that my previous experiences were results of truly toxic company culture and not a blueprint for how every company operates.

I’m not sure where I heard it originally, but a quote that I have found really inspiring has always helped me push through is, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” When things got really discouraging, I would say this quote to myself and press on.

I also believe that reflecting diversity in leadership teams and at educational institutions has the potential to contribute to more women pursuing a cybersecurity career path.

A day in Arti’s life

I am the Risk Management and Privacy Knowledge Leader at A-LIGN, but I have over eight years of experience in IT Audit and Compliance. I joined A-LIGN in 2019 as the ISO Practice Leader, specializing in ISO 27001 audits and accreditation.

For the past few years, I’ve managed the ISO accreditations at A-LIGN. I lead a team of twenty auditors in addition to contributing to blogs and publications on privacy and risk management.

I am in constant correspondence with my team. I make sure everyone is on track and on budget and try to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to be successful in their roles and careers.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Managing other women. It’s a small thing that many people would overlook but to me I always dreamt of the day when I would be a good enough leader to help other women navigate this industry.

For the longest time, I avoided leadership positions, because I felt like I had to constantly prove myself and I wouldn’t be able to give what it takes to uplift other peoples’ careers. I have found that I can do both.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?

First of all, women face a high barrier of entry when trying to break into the cybersecurity field. Particularly when they don’t have mentors and advocates to guide them and provide support.

Mentorship is critical for women looking to forge a career in cybersecurity. Honestly, if I tried to break into this industry as a fresh college graduate today, I don’t think I’d have nearly as much success without all the people who mentored me.

I also believe that reflecting diversity in leadership teams and at educational institutions has the potential to contribute to more women pursuing a cybersecurity career path. Representation is important!

Cybersecurity has a clear lack of diversity of representation. This is coupled with unrealistic hiring expectations, like entry level roles that require ten years of experience and outdated certifications listed as qualifications. These unnecessary obstacles prevent a lot of people (not just women) from considering a career in cybersecurity.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

I have a list of challenges women face:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Lower wages than men for the same job
  • Lack of mentors and support
  • Stigma towards women managing a career and a family
  • Women face tons of judgement on their personality, if they are too aggressive, a pushover, assertive or not “ladylike”. Constantly being labeled a “B” for voicing opinions.

Don’t give up at the first road block. Expect challenges along the road and be ready to meet them!

How would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

What motivates women versus men? Honestly, I think a lot of men, particularly in positions of power are driven by ego. On the other hand, I think women tend to be more driven by accomplishing the task at hand, without the added bottleneck of needing to control HOW it is done.

I think if more women were in STEM, things would be accomplished faster! Also, women are more willing to let empathy into their thought process and leadership style. Women tend to listen to other people better and explain themselves better, as well. This leads to more constructive teaching/training opportunities and ensures everyone gets a chance to contribute to the task at hand.

In my career, I have observed that female managers tend to pay more attention to details and are more budget-conscious when it comes to a project. This makes for more successful engagements and improved profitability. Women are generally not as quick to act without considering all the options and outcomes and this stabilizing effect is good for everyone; whether at home, at work or in society.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current discussion?

Many organizations have become increasingly aware of the diversity conversation and strive to carry that awareness through to their hiring managers. However, I am still waiting to see the day when women are actually represented equally in leadership positions and that is the new normal.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?

First things first: Don’t give up at the first road block. Expect challenges along the road and be ready to meet them!

Highlight your strengths even if you believe they are not suitable for the job. Confidence is key. Be confident in what you know and what you are good at.

Take advantage of internships that give you real life exposure to what you think you want to do.

Don’t undervalue yourself. Do your research on the role in question and don’t let them lowball you. It will impact you for the rest of your career as you attempt to try to catch up!

Titles don’t give anyone a special license to be a jerk.

The tech industry is exciting and growing fast! There is a ton of opportunity, but you have to be willing to put in the work, getting the knowledge and experience you need to be a valuable part of an organization. Do your best to be prepared for a role and willing to fill in the gaps quickly once you land a job. There will always be things you don’t know how to do. Learn them!

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for JAXenter.com. She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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