In recognition of Women’s History Month, the PCI Security Standards Council is pleased to bring you a special edition of our podcast. In this panel discussion, we examine what it means to be female in the tech world with three women from Global Payments, a leading worldwide provider of payment technology and software solutions.
Maty Fame: Hello. My name is Maty Fame. I'm the Director of Information Security in the Global Security Operations Center. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the worldwide team who provides 24/7 security monitoring and analysis of cyber threats. This is actually where I started my career 15 years ago as one of the analysts providing the security monitoring function.
Thank you, Maty. And Phyllis.
Phyllis Woodruff: Thanks, Alicia. Yes, I am VP of IT Risk and Compliance for Global Payments and, interestingly enough, I think I am the oldest from the panel and the one with the least tenure at Global Payments. I've been with the company just since last May. I had the remarkable experience of building a team and joining a new organization during the pandemic, which has been fascinating. I have been in the payments industry for quite a while, about 17 years, and I moved over from another company in the Atlanta area.
Well, welcome. And, Safina.
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: Hi, my name is Safina Jamal-Syphoe. I have been with Global Payments for 10 plus years. I am currently a PCI Compliance Manager responsible for 16 reports on compliance for all level one and level two business units as part of Global Payments.
Very good. Well, welcome, everybody. We're so happy to have you here today. How did you get started in the technology or payments space and what led you to that career choice? We can start with you, Maty.
Maty Fame: So, I grew up in Senegal, West Africa and right after high school, my father asked me if I wanted to continue my education in the United States. I was super excited by the opportunity, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to study, so he guided me towards cybersecurity and the only thing I can remember is him saying, "Do you know a career in that field will pay good money?" My eyes lit up and I was very excited about that. So, I went to college and majored in Computer Information Systems and, right after college, I started my career in technology with Global Payments. And then it became about the thrill, the learning opportunities, and the challenges. It feels so good to be the frontline of defense and part of the team responsible for defending and protecting the organization against cybercrimes. It made this career choice all worth it for me.
And, Phyllis, what about you?
Phyllis Woodruff: I've always found technology fascinating, but I came about it through a bit of a backdoor. I began life as an elementary school teacher and found it very difficult to make a living as a school teacher and joined a small diagnostic software company. So, this is dark ages - think PDP-11 patch panels, very, very old - but learned a tremendous amount. And that has been the thrill for me in terms of technology, walking into a new situation as a novice and walking out being one of the subject matter experts and I absolutely love that. I came into payments, again, via the technology track. I've been working for an internet middleware company doing travel software and moved over into what was then CheckFree and never looked back. Payments has been very, very good to me.
Great. And how about you, Safina?
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: I started in Toronto, Ontario, Canada right out of school, right in the compliance program for Global Payments Canada GP. The payments industry kind of chose me. My mom got sick with cancer and we were at home and I was starting to annoy her by providing her with, like, too much tender loving care. So, she told me, "Go get a job." So, I interviewed at Global Payments Canada and I started out just as a compliance analyst, you know, level one just handling some day-to-day compliance tasks and then worked my way up two years later to a compliance analyst. So, you know, learning and growing really and then, eventually, being able to move to Atlanta to further my career. So, that's how I got started and, again, you know, technology, payments, and Global Payments has been really great to me.
The next questions are open for a group discussion, so please feel free to weigh in. Do you notice a lack of women in technology? And if so, why do you think that is the case?
Maty Fame: So, there's definitely more men than women. And in general, I think there is a lack of women in technology because women, we tend to just be very hard on ourselves. And we tend to just not speak up and share what we really want when we have to put our foot down and just speak up and share with the world, "This is what I want, so I'm gonna raise my hand, and hopefully, I'll get a seat at the table."
Phyllis Woodruff: Very well said and I think really what you're referring to is the “imposter syndrome”, which tends to plague women. And I think we do need to own our skills in a very real way. We need to recognize our own superpowers, if you will, because they are there.
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: So, in my 10 years at Global Payments, actually, I've seen quite a few women that want to join our team, more so than men, at least from a compliance perspective and that's what I've seen and it's a little different. We are looking for, you know, a mixed bag of people to join our team, but it tends to be more women that are focused on compliance than men. A lot of our executives are women, our current Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) came from the compliance space and is now the CISO of our company.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance, doubting your own ability? And how do you overcome it?
Maty Fame: Definitely, for me, I'm very hard on myself. I rarely give myself a pat on the back. I am constantly questioning, "Did I say it right? Should I say it a different way?" and things like that. But I have gotten better over the years, just because I often remind myself to strive for excellence, not perfection. And that this is a journey not a destination.
Phyllis Woodruff: For me, I think as I've aged, I've developed more confidence in my own ability to pivot and to think on my feet. And that comes simply with experience. We do, as women, have a tendency to be very hard on ourselves as you said very, very clearly, Maty. And I think, as well, our male counterparts may be a little bit more willing to stick their necks out and say, "I can do that." I've had numerous experiences where I was the expert in the room and there were any number of men trying to tell me how to do it. And, again, you get to a point where you just don't even listen anymore and you very politely say, "We're gonna do it this way."
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: For me, you know, self-doubt comes and goes. I try my best to understand where it stems from and kind of breath through it. But, you know, I'm fortunate enough to have enough female leaders surrounding me that I can come to, to ask for advice on, you know, "Why am I feeling this way?" Or "Did you ever feel this way as well?" and kind of rely on them to provide me with guidance and kind of navigate me towards self-confidence and self-reliance versus just self-doubt. Again, we're not at it alone, we have a group of women that's great in technology that we're seeing more and more now that we can rely on. I'm living and breathing proof of that.
What advice would you impart to women about how to succeed in the payments industry or in a technology-based field in general? Is there anything that you wish you had known?
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: I wish I had really known how much networking can do for you. There are many people with a lot of knowledge and connections out there, it's just you have to go and find them. So, I wish I had, you know, known that a little bit more, even starting out with such a junior. I wish I had taken more of an advantage of networking, but I learned early on that I need to do it and that would be one piece of advice that I would definitely give somebody starting out in payments and/or in technology.
Maty Fame: Yeah, I echo that. I wish I'd known the same thing. I've learned throughout the years, "Don't do it alone, build a relationship, have mentors, a network, a trusted group of advisors," things like that, that will tell it to you just like it is. Even the strongest person needs support. We don't have to do it alone. Surround yourself with people that will compliment you, not people like you.
Phyllis Woodruff: I love that and I think that speaks to the strength of teams. If I were to add something, I think it would be, regardless of what your career is, always remember that what you do matters. Everyone's sphere of influence is different, so the sphere of influence for our CEO is much broader, certainly than my sphere of influence. But everyone I come in contact with throughout the day, everything I do has an opportunity to help build good for Global Payments. And that's of critical importance. Every single one of us can make a difference, and you do with every interaction. I think another piece of advice would be to look for the people with influence in your life. They may be a boss, a potential mentor in another part of an organization, they may be outside your organization. This is like networking on steroids where you can actively learn from that person and know that you can go to them for advice. Maty, similar to what you were saying about having that trusted team around you. Know who they are.
Maty Fame: For me, one career advice that really stuck with me is from one of my mentors. She told me a long time ago, "Speak up, make your voice be heard. Don't shrink yourself or shy away from opportunities. Gain confidence and know you are in the room because you deserve to be." And I really like that and I keep thinking about it every day, going to meetings, talking to other people, being surrounded by either female leaders or male leaders where I tend to shrink myself then I'm like, "Nope, don't do that. You are in the room because you deserve to be."
Safina Jamal-Syphoe: I mean, it's more along the lines of networking, but don't be afraid to make connections. A piece of advice would be the hardest part is just getting your foot in the door. Once you're there, the opportunities are vast. So, you know, use the tools that you have, seek out people, tools, technologies that you're really interested in and just try and get your foot in the door, and that's where I'd recommend a starting point. And then from there, you know, the world is your oyster.