Women in Digital: Kate Dadlani

Kate Dadlani explains how a fascination with tech led to her to becoming head of security advisory services at Logicalis UKI before turning 30, and the challenges of being a young female leader in the industry.

Posted 9 May 2022 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

I have always loved to learn but only in very specific areas. I’ve always been the sort of person to give 100 percent or nothing at all. Particularly when I wasn’t interested in a specific subject, I tended to cruise and just did what I needed to obtain a good grade. However, when I was interested in a subject, I took the learning home with me, and I would teach myself more – and technology was always my thing. I was curious and wanted to understand and learn everything about it including phones, TVs, cameras and computers. It really fascinated me.

From a work viewpoint what have the last 12-24 months been like?

Change and evolution. I have seen the organisation completely change in structure and evolve to form a new region, where we are working more collaboratively and effectively. There’s no question about it, it has been a journey – and it has taken time. However, I feel we are now in a great position, with the security department having created its service offerings and delivering well, etc.

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

With most of our formative years being spent in education, educators tend to have a significant impact on our careers, personality and development. For me, it was my university lecturer, Tim Watson. He showed me that although technology is greatly beneficial to us, it’s also a gateway for exploitation and threat. The way he taught and explained different techniques really inspired me to push myself and learn more.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from our leaders. Leadership provides such a key role in organisations – how they instil company culture and what is really important. The way they can invoke change, motivating and encouraging employees. Logicalis implementing flexible working policies and promoting work/life balance makes me want to go to work each day. I’m inspired to do right by the organisation.

Why did you decide to embark on a career in technology? 

When I was a child, my mum bought me my first computer and I remember being mesmerised by it. My mum spent a lot of money on it, and I completely took it apart just to rebuild it. This early passion for technology led me to complete a Forensic Computing degree at De Montfort University. My dissertation on using iPhone backup files as evidence not only gained me a First-Class degree but also got published internationally in Digital Forensics Magazine. 

Honestly, if you had told me when I was in university – or even when I took apart that computer – that I would be working as head of security advisory services before turning 30, I would not have believed you. I have achieved a great deal in such a short space of time, and I am proud of myself.

How has your career led you to work in a senior role in a large company? 

Firstly, I think the opportunities I have had to work in a variety of role for different companies has helped me to understand what I enjoy doing the most. I started my career as a cyber intelligence analyst at aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin before becoming a cyber consultant at Ernst & Young. At EY, I was lucky enough to work with clients across the globe in the financial sector like HSBC, Morgan Stanley and more. 

In terms of my progression at Logicalis UKI, I first started as their security and compliance manager almost five years ago. I was brought in to make security a priority in the organisation as well as to promote secure behaviour. Since then, I’ve been promoted to CISO, data protection officer and from May last year, I have been head of security advisory services. Logicalis UKI has been particularly great in supplying me with endless opportunities to learn. The company has let me harness and develop my skills, allowing me to make a lasting impact on the organisation.

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

Women doubt themselves and are more susceptible to ‘imposter syndrome’ than men. I also think that women in senior positions are most likely to experience this, purely because men usually dominate management roles. My advice for anybody who finds them in this position is to be transparent.

Whilst presenting yourself as a confident individual can help encourage people to look to you, being transparent with yourself and your colleagues is equally important. Embracing who you are is the only way you can reach your full potential.

For me, it’s all about being transparent: transparent with your colleagues, transparent with your managers, and, crucially, transparent with yourself. Of course, it is only natural for professionals to portray themselves as confident individuals, masking any underlying insecurities or fears they might have. We all do it; we use different masks for different occasions. However, I believe that we can only reach our full potential when we take these masks off and embrace who we truly are. Recognise your strengths, recognise your weaknesses – and be upfront about them both.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge in your career?

The fact that the tech industry is so heavily male-dominated is the biggest challenge overall. Entering the C-suite sphere has shown me that you are often battling with high-level executives with traditional views. As a young woman, getting them to change their opinions and operations has proven to be quite difficult.

The tech industry must place more women in positions of power. Societal standards have meant that men and women have different ways of working, with women quite often being risk averse. I think combining these different working styles better could be beneficial to businesses and could help them increase innovation. 

What do you think is the biggest issue in tech right now? 

Remote and hybrid working have increased the surface for potential attacks. Home routers aren’t traditionally as protected as the ones used by enterprises. A lot of businesses are even promoting BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) initiatives and most personal devices are not fully protected either. A study from McAfee Enterprise and FireEye has shown that 79 percent of organisations have experienced downtime due to security risks.

Businesses need to be ensuring they are implementing basic security and have the latest patches installed. Hackers search for the easiest way in and the only way to reduce risk is by fixing vulnerabilities as soon as possible.

We behave very differently working from home than we do in the office. In between calls, we may search for things online that aren’t work-related, leading us to accidentally view unsafe websites. This means there’s a huge potential employees could induce attacks without meaning to. But again, it’s so vital businesses are constantly scanning for and amending any holes which could be exploited by hackers.

What qualities do you feel make a good leader?

The tech industry must acknowledge the challenges professional women face daily. There’s such a large gender disparity, it can often be hard for women to be heard. Good leaders are the ones that recognise this and do something about it. 

I want to draw attention to this problem and give women the confidence to build the skills needed to overcome it. If I carried on in my career by ignoring the issue and not speaking about it, it is just going to continue.

I do not believe that women should go on having to constantly prove their capabilities just because the tech industry is largely male. Regardless of gender, industry leaders need to address the challenges women face in the office. There needs to be a better focus on building women’s professional confidence.

I genuinely believe that businesses that acknowledge this imbalance will create a better, friendlier workplace, full of collaboration and innovation.