Women in Digital: Céline Gajnik

ThreatQuotient’s Céline Gajnik lifts the lid on her journey to global marketing director at Threat Intelligence platform provider, and the importance of removing self-imposed career barriers.

Posted 25 April 2022 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Overall, I would say that I did enjoy school before university. Personally, I was always more interested in learning different languages rather than maths or science. I found it very entertaining to be able to converse in other languages and as I grew up in a foreign country rather than my homeland as a child, I have the feeling that the power of language has always been an important part of my life. 

What qualifications do you have? 

Well, I passed high school in France but I stopped studying at the age of 19 as I needed to work. I have a French Baccalaureate in Literature (a national academic qualification), and I learned a lot by starting my career earlier, but that is all history now.

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

I would say it was a mixture of both as I didn’t initially set out to work in marketing for a cybersecurity company. I initially started studying Law at University in France but discovered that it was not for me. I landed my first role in marketing when I was 22 years old and prior to that time I was working in a sports shop. I heard about a job advertised for a distributor in the cybersecurity market in France, which was looking for an English-speaking sales coordinator, who could manage Secure Enterprise Search (SES) as well as administration duties. At the time, it was not easy to find junior people who could speak other languages correctly and since I spoke both English and German I decided to apply. I was a little nervous about applying as I had no security experience, but the director of the value-added distributor said, “I can teach you about security, but I can’t teach you the English language.” After spending a few years with that distributor, they opened a marketing department and offered me the role of marketing assistant and the rest, as they say, is history.  

My path then crossed with Cyrille Badeau, who is our VP international at ThreatQuotient. In his previous work life, he launched Sourcefire’s French office in 2006. He offered me a role as a sales and marketing coordinator for southern Europe in 2010. Cyrille then moved to ThreatQuotient in 2016, and one year later I followed him and have been here ever since.

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

A young Céline was crazy enough to start this role without having any idea of what it actually entailed. So that’s what I would say, do not think “technology? No, that is not for me, it will be too tough, or is too male dominated.” You shouldn’t put barriers on your career as a result of fear and stereotypes. Try and embrace the unknown and look forward to the challenges ahead of working within a growing and interesting sector. 

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

If I can, I would like to choose two. As mentioned previously, Cyrille Badeau is one, he has also been particularly important for my career and still is. Cyrille is always the one I call whenever I have doubts about whether or not I am doing things right, or if I ever have a question about my career direction.

And secondly, I would pick up my actual boss, Marc Solomon, ThreatQuotient’s CMO. Marc and I have been working together for 10+ years, and he is the one who trusted me and gave me the opportunity to grow in my role here at ThreatQuotient. He is mentoring me on how to manage my team, to help me to manage my empath or frustrations, and he always has good advice to help me to structure my thought process or level up my strategy.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I believe I am quite a creative person, which is important in my role, but inspiration largely comes through speaking with people around me – my team, reading news or professional social media, thinking about how I would react myself and talking a lot with Yann Le Borgne, our VP of threat intelligence. We debate, we speak about market interest as well as what he sees and visualises within our consumer focus. Yann is certainly one of the smartest people I know.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date?

I would say that like most people it probably is a mix of bandwidth, prioritisation and reactivity. We are in an industry that is so dynamic, so finding the right balance between marketing buzzwords, how we can get our voice out there and being different by explaining our great value proposition, alongside how we can support our customers by finding what will resonate with them, what they really need, and what will really help them most are all big challenges that I face.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

This is a really interesting question but for me, I think vision and empathy. It is crucial within my role to know where the market is heading and what we need to do to ensure we keep up with it. A simple way to make this easier for the whole team is to listen, support and encourage ideas; ultimately you can only be successful if the team is too. It may sound clichéd or obvious, but we are all human and leadership is driven by a need for respecting others. Providing an ideal place to work will lead to much better creativity within the team. A respectful and empathetic workplace environment provides the best place for people to be creative.  

From a work viewpoint, what has the last 24 months been like?

The last 24 months were a tornado, but it is always positive. We had to reconsider how to market to people with the needs of everyone changing suddenly and a shift in the way consumers were digesting information changing too. So, throughout this time we were trying new things or expanding tactics to connect with people in other ways. We found that people were happier when they had some kind of in-person contact whether this was through Zoom or web events. The question I have heard the most during this time has been, “I hope you’re doing well?” or “stay safe!” even with people you may not know as well. There was always this search to be able to connect with people while in-person contact was impossible. For us as digital marketers, in the past 24 months, it was really: “how can we create this connection and how can we still enable people, provide the right awareness and generate demand for our teams?”. 

What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?

I would say the need for better cybersecurity automation is a key challenge that our customers are facing today.  Automation would support improvements in the detection, investigation and response needs of our customers. It will also help with the talent shortage that the cybersecurity industry currently has. We need to be able to rely on automation that is data-driven and that organisations can trust. As a vendor, ThreatQuotient needs to support our customers through the tool and listen to the people and process so that we can understand what works and what does not. 

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know

I do not like chocolate! It might be crazy to most, but I cannot stand it. I used to work near a chocolate factory and even the smell was not good for me – sorry!