After more than 10 years at PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), Gill Woodcock, VP, Global Head of Programs, retires this month. In this blog, we interviewed Gill about her career in IT security and the payments industry, the most rewarding aspects of her job, and why she believes lifelong learning and taking the occasional risk are the key ingredients to success.
Tell us about your educational and professional background. What factors influenced your decision to join this industry?
Gill Woodcock: After completing my degree, I joined a graduate training program in IT (or data processing as it was known in those days!). After five years there, I moved to Barclaycard where I spent more than 20 years working on different aspects of card issuing and acquiring. I was lucky enough to be involved in the UK rollout of chip and PIN which led me into IT security, then operational risk, and on to data privacy. I found the risk management side of IT security very appealing because it combines technical and business roles - there are very few obvious decisions, and most things come down to a balance of risk versus security.
When you joined the Council in 2010, you were the first European employee hired. What was that like and how has the Council changed since then?
Gill Woodcock: Well, it was very different to working in a large financial institution. Back in 2010, the Council was a small group of people and it took me a while to understand the Council’s role in the payments community and figure out how best to work across multiple time zones. Since then, our range of standards and programs has grown hugely; we’ve gone from three or four programs to 27 today and, of course, that has brought much more complexity. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a growing global team and to see the Council become a much more mature organization.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career at the Council?
Gill Woodcock: There are so many different things I could call out here. Firstly, the people - the Council team is fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed working with so many clever people, especially the face-to-face meetings we’ve had where people have flown in from around the world. It is a lovely feeling to turn up in a strange city and be met by colleagues who have become true friends. I have also got to know many assessors, visited all of our PCI Recognized Labs, and met many great people. Secondly, I’d like to call out the PCI Forensic Investigator (PFI) program. I’ve been Chair of the PFI Working Group for several years now and I’m a big admirer of the work done in forensic investigations; it is a complex and fascinating aspect of our industry. Thirdly, I’ve gained a wider perspective of how a community can work together. I’ve attended several of our Board of Advisors meetings and their influence on the Council’s work is very interesting to be involved in.
You hold several industry certifications. Why is continuous professional development important to you?
Gill Woodcock: I’m a huge believer in the importance of continuous learning for everyone, in both our professional and personal lives. For me, industry certifications have been important to demonstrate to myself and others that I’ve achieved a level of understanding on a given topic and to address the “imposter syndrome”. But achieving a certification isn’t enough. Business and technology are evolving rapidly, and keeping pace is challenging but essential to remain relevant and able to contribute. I’d encourage everyone in our industry to keep learning. Leaders need to provide the environment and support to assist with that.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a famous quote that you live by?
Gill Woodcock: One of my favourite sayings is that we are “too busy fighting crocodiles to drain the swamp”. I use this to remind myself to look at the bigger, longer-term picture and try to focus on what will really make a difference, rather than spending all my effort on day-to-day tasks. It is easy to get pulled into the details of a particular project or issue but, as I’ve taken on more senior and broader roles, I appreciate more and more the need to maintain a sense of purpose and overall direction.
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general?
Gill Woodcock: I’d encourage younger people to take risks from time to time. Put yourself forward to lead that challenging new project or take on new responsibilities. Don’t wait to be asked if you’d like to be involved. I think getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new is how you learn, and if sometimes it doesn’t go well, then try not to worry about it too much. My biggest achievements have come from times when I’ve volunteered for a project or task. I haven’t always known what I was getting myself into, and it wasn’t always easy, but I’ve always learned something new.
What are you looking forward to most in your retirement?
Gill Woodcock: I’m looking forward to travelling with my husband and being able to spend time looking around places. I’ve been able to visit many countries in the last 10 years, but often just for two or three days. There is a long list of cities and countries we would like to visit. In my never-ending continued learning, I’m also hoping to complete the Master’s degree I promised myself! And finally, of course, I’d like to spend more time with family and friends. Isn’t that what we would all like to do in retirement?
On behalf of everyone at PCI SSC, we want to thank Gill for her significant contributions to the Council over the past decade; for all of her hard work and dedication to helping the Council grow into the organization it is today; for her valued expertise and commitment; and for the personal friendships forged over the years. We wish you all the best in your retirement.