In Technology


Title: Global CISO and Senior Vice President of Enterprise Technology Systems

Company: SmartBear

Age: 46

Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics from Fairfield University

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: CISM Certification in progress

Organizational affiliations: Member of ISACA, ISSA, and CISO Executive Network

Achievements/Awards: Promoted to Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at SmartBear in August 2022; Women in IT 2021 USA Awards – Security Leader of the Year – shortlisted

Christine Whichard

Flash photography, Smile, Lip, Eyebrow, Sleeve, Happy, Standing, Iris

What led you to a career in technology?

I cannot remember not ever being interested in technology. I have always loved to troubleshoot and decipher how things work — like figuring out how to set up our family’s first VCR at a very young age. 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 motivates you to go above and beyond in your current position?

My teams at SmartBear. I have three teams: business systems, corporate IT, and security. They keep me motivated and confident that, together, there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. I am most proud of the teams I have built and grown over the years, and they keep me motivated and moving forward every day.

What role does sustainability play in your life both personally and professionally?

Professionally, SmartBear is delivering on several global environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, including adopting new data security standards last year. Also, whether cloud-based or on-prem, we always mindfully choose solution providers that are committed to sustainability. Over the last couple of years, we have also developed a mature electronic recycling program, which has been very successful.

As an organization, we take a cloud-first approach to consolidate infrastructure that is needed and save on consumption. If we’re not hosting it, we don’t have the associated electricity and cooling costs.

Generally, SmartBear signed the Vista Climate Pledge last year, committing 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 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.

Making these small changes can help save money and reduce your environmental footprint. Ultimately, by incorporating ESG into your personal finances, you can help make a difference for the future of our planet.

What is the most fascinating lesson you have learned while working with technology?

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was 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 that 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 is unique about you personally?

I have run 16 marathons. 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, consistent effort, and grit to complete. I’ve always been drawn to endurance sports that require powering through the long haul.

“Leadership is an endurance sport.”

What is unique about you professionally?

Perhaps my outlook on the world of security and 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. Leadership is an endurance sport.

What is your most admirable quality?

I am curious. I have an overarching desire to learn what’s new, as well as new ways to solve problems and see different perspectives. My curiosity has driven me into the unknown, which isn’t always comfortable but is 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 necessary for this industry?

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 of doing things, and better results.

What aspect of the industry has the most potential for growth, and how can we accelerate that?

The future of the technology space is machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). In security, it's all about visibility — seeing your threats and vulnerabilities to understand where the risks are that could translate to a security incident. Humans can only go so far. Automation that AI is delivering will improve efficiency, reduce costs, and save time when it comes to security challenges.

Where does the industry need the most improvement, and what can we learn from the current shortcomings?

We cannot build security programs with tech alone. The market is flooded with security solutions, but throwing technology at problems is not the answer. The more complicated your tech stack, the more blind spots you create. We must simplify our tech stacks. My goal is to always have pervasive visibility, early detection and response — as far to the left of the cyberkill chain as possible.

On a different note, we need to expose young girls early on to the world of technology in a way that they know they can have a career in tech. We need to promote specific career tracks around technology for younger generations so they can see the unlimited career possibilities. I don’t think we make this clear enough for them. We need to reach them and educate them about the options before college.

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

The optimization and continued incorporation of AI/ML to be able to predict malicious activity before it happens is the goal. We will continue to work with tools that incorporate this technology to help past behavioral data become more accurate in predicting future behavior.

What advice do you have for women and other minorities who are currently working in the industry but don’t necessarily feel like they belong?

First and foremost, I would always encourage you to be yourself. Show up as the person you are and not the person you think people need you to be. Authenticity will drive your success. Beyond authenticity, it becomes about continuous learning, focus, and execution. If you can continue to learn and grow your skills and focus on execution, you will put yourself on an even playing field. Knowledge and execution have no boundaries or limitations.

What advice do you have for young girls who may be interested in a future career in technology?

Get involved early! Listen to your mind, and follow what you are interested in. If that’s technology, find clubs, programs, and internships where you can get involved to start to get a better understanding of technology. Look for mentors. Find mentors who are leaders or peers, from various domains within technology, to understand the landscape and the career options. The technology landscape is far and wide. Start to get a lay of the land early.