Mission Critical is excited to introduce you to the 2024 Top 25 Women in Technology. Meet Christine Whichard.

Title: Global Chief Information Security Officer and SVP Enterprise Technology/Systems

Company: SmartBear

Age: 47

Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics

Organizational affiliations: the Information Systems Audit and Control Association; the Information Systems Security Association; CISO Executive Network

Achievements/awards: Promoted to Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at SmartBear in August 2022; Women in IT 2021 and 2023 USA Awards – Security Leader of the Year – shortlisted; 2023 Top 25 Women in Technology Winner by Mission Critical

What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?

I am a problem solver by nature, and I gravitate toward solutions and unique ways of improving given methods and approaches. I cannot remember not ever being interested in technology. I have always loved to troubleshoot and decipher how things work — I think of innovation and ideation like a watch movement. There are hundreds of moving parts each with complimentary functions with the goal of creating and maintaining accuracy. Curiosity launched my career in technology — first as a developer and evolving from there. I loved learning different programming languages in my early career. Technology is something that I have always enjoyed.

What inspires you to do what you do?

Energy builds upon energy so my teams at SmartBear are an inspirational and driving force for me as the collaborative energy circulates within my leaders and staff. I have three teams: business systems, corporate IT, and security. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t challenge them and they challenge me back especially with the degree and magnitude of the shared responsibility we hold together for the security of our products and infrastructure platforms.

What role does sustainability play in your life?

As a global organization, we take a cloud-first approach to consolidating infrastructure to save on consumption and improve overall efficiencies. If we are consistently reducing our “brick and mortar” footprint, we don’t have the associated electricity and cooling costs. Last year, SmartBear committed to the Vista Climate Pledge to annually measure, offset, and set reduction targets for carbon emissions. The company also participates in a Global Day of Volunteering across its worldwide offices to clean up the environment as well as several other ESG related activities.

Personally, sustainability comes down to the kind of future we are leaving for the next generation. For me, my daughters have changed my view on sustainability on all fronts. ESG is about more than just the environment. It’s about making sustainable decisions that benefit people and the planet. I believe sustainability is the framework that can be applied to your choices of banking, clothes, furniture, food, and choosing to purchase from sustainable companies which support a circular economy. There are several ways to make small changes in your everyday life that can have a big impact on the environment. You can switch to LED light bulbs and bring your own reusable shopping bags to the store. These small changes can help save money and reduce your environmental footprint.

What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?

Leverage the power of the collective. The most valuable lesson I have learned is how to work with highly educated, senior engineers with extensive technical backgrounds in a male-dominated industry. I learned to rely on the soft side of my skill set to help them to understand the value looking at a 360 degree perspective and what I could bring. Using my soft side — attributes like empathy and active listening — goes a long way with positively interacting with various groups. The advantages of using your soft side can translate to many other aspects of life.

What’s something unique about you personally?

I have run 16 marathons so far to include the Boston Marathon. I have a passion for endurance and pushing the body and mind beyond conventional limitations so I have always been a runner, as long as I can remember, and I’ve always enjoyed running longer distances, not sprinting. I like the longer runs that require pacing, strategic thinking, sustaining consistent effort, and grit to complete. Both personally and professionally, I am committed to the long haul.

What’s something unique about you professionally?

My outlook on the world of security and evolving technology. Security and technology are not sprints. The evaluation, rollout, and optimization of technology are long-winded efforts that require focus, commitment, and persistence — much like that of marathon running. I also approach leadership as a team endurance sport; I train like I play.

What’s your most admirable quality?

I am curious literally about everything. I have an overarching desire to learn what’s new, as well as new ways to see different perspectives. My curiosity has driven me into the unknown, which isn’t always comfortable, but it’s where I’ve been able to make discoveries, develop new relationships, uncover opportunities, and experience the most growth. My curiosity is how I ended up diving into the depths of cybersecurity. I believe curiosity fosters mindfulness, empathy, and humility, which I strive for every day in my leadership approach.

Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?

There are so many challenges in this industry, and we need all the diversity we can get in terms of different perspectives, backgrounds, and thoughts to truly be successful. Diversity of ideas and perspectives creates better solutions to problems, more efficient ways, and better results. If you take a square as an example, some may only see the edges and flat surfaces while others see the end points where the edges and flat surfaces come together as well as the free space inside the square. At some point, the collective perspectives will render solutions to problem sets.

What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?

The future of the technology space is machine learning (ML) and generative artificial intelligence (AI). In security, it's all about visibility — uncovering your large and small blind spots and seeing your threats and vulnerabilities to understand where the risks are that could translate to security risks. Large Language Models will allow us to adapt and leverage AI across cyber-attack surfaces, delivering improved efficiency, reducing costs, and saving time when it comes to managing risks within security challenges.

When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?

The optimization and continued incorporation of AI/ML to be able to predict malicious activity before it happens. We will continue to work with tools that incorporate this technology to help past behavioral data become more accurate in predicting future behavior. I think of this akin to flight simulators and utilizing generative AI models to learn and handle risk scenarios based on unforeseen variables and patterns.

back to main page button