Women in Digital: Galina Antova

Galina Antova, co-founder and chief business development officer at industrial cybersecurity company Claroty talks to us about her career path

Posted 1 June 2021 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Yes, I did very much. I was a straight-A student through everything. My main passions were science and math and that is what I focussed on, leading me to a career in computer science.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a degree in computer science and an MBA.

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or combination of both?

I would say a combination of both. When I started my career at IBM, I was not looking to be an entrepreneur, I was looking to have a successful corporate career. In the early 2000s the entrepreneurial route wasn’t very common and therefore I didn’t aspire to go down that road.

After completing my MBA in Switzerland, I had the opportunity to join as an executive at Siemens. There I had the opportunity to start a new business from scratch which really gave me a taste of what it would be like to start a new business, and it also helped me get over my prejudice of taking the entrepreneurial path. I was then able to leave Siemens and start my own company. So, the transition was not planned, it was more the fact that opportunities arose, so I took them. 

What is the best career advice you can give to others?

My best advice is to not have a pre-set plan on how your career is going to turn out because sometimes even better opportunities may come your way, and if that opportunity is new and exciting you should have the courage and curiosity to go down that path and see where it leads you. No successful leader I know has had a predefined plan or career path.

If you had to pick one mentor who has had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

I have been very fortunate to have a number of mentors throughout my life. In terms of who had the biggest impact on how I started thinking of myself, I would say it was my official mentor at Siemens, who was in fact the CEO. When I started at Siemens I was brought in on a programme where we could specifically be mentored by the CEO, which was a pretty exceptional and humbling experience for me, especially at a young age. The reason it had such a big impact was because he took the time to regularly meet with me and talk about career aspirations. It really gave me the confidence I needed.

I know I am supposed to only pick one but another big influence of mine who I feel I must mention, was my line of business mentor who brought a real entrepreneurial spirit to such a large company. He taught me that irrespective of the circumstances and no matter the size of the company you work for, you can still be an entrepreneur.

From where do you draw inspiration?

Challenges. I am an optimiser, so when I see a problem or something that is not working, I want to fix that. When I came across the problem of critical infrastructure and just how much exposure it has in terms of cybersecurity threats, it inspired and motivated me to do numerous things in that industry, start my own company and push the industry forward. When I first started Claroty, people were very pessimistic about having proper protection in industrial networks and would always talk about how many limitations there were. However, it became clear that it was just technology with a different life cycle, and we had to figure out how to secure that.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

I would say the key quality is the ability to align the team behind the cause. It is very hard to be passionate about what you do and execute well if you do not believe in the mission. If someone is not passionate for the cause, then they do not make a good fit for the team. It’s about making sure the people on the team have the potential to execute at that top level and motivation to get there.

I’ve seen teams that weren’t performing coming under new leadership and doing amazing things!

As the founder of a company, motivation and passion is easy because the company is my baby, however it’s harder to encourage team members to care in the same way. It’s important to determine whether you like working with those people on the mission.

From a work viewpoint what has 2021 been like for you so far?

Of course, it has been a very interesting year but also one that I think has been extremely positive for the industry in general. We have had to overcome a lot and it hasn’t come without personal and professionals sacrifices for many, but the silver lining for me was that the COVID-19 crisis showed organisations that they must work on digital transformation, and that goes for critical national infrastructure companies in particular. Over the last year we’ve seen organisations get organised and execute on the project at hand. Even those companies who were lagging behind in terms of digital transformation overcame certain internal obstacles and changed their mindset, allowing them to see the importance of building digital infrastructure. Many now see that it’s not just about being prepared for another potential crisis, digital transformation makes us more competitive. And what’s more, it provides a whole new flexibility for our employees.

What do you see as the biggest cybersecurity challenge we face today?

This year has shown us that the infrastructure that runs the world is not very resilient, and we still have significant gaps. We currently have the challenge of protecting the integrity of everything from our way of life, so water, electricity etc, but also newer developments such as vaccine manufacturing. Overall, we need to protect the integrity of our infrastructure and build its resiliency. The question is, how do we do that?

Give us a fact about you that most other people would not know.

I’m a pretty private person so if it is a fact people do not know about me, then I’d probably like to keep it that way.