Although Viviana Wesley always knew that she wanted a career in computers and technology, when she first started pursuing it, she realized her strengths were not in coding. But, through the guidance of a friend, she was redirected into IT Support and a new world opened for her; a dynamic world where she could use her technical expertise to help people, which is what she truly wanted to do. In this edition of our blog, Viviana describes why soft skills are critically important in this industry and how women are particularly adept at bridging communication gaps between technology and business.
How long have you been at HALOCK and what is your role?
Viviana Wesley: I’ve been with HALOCK for over 12 years. This was my first consulting role and I started out providing IT support to the organization while I was being trained. A couple years after receiving my PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) certification, I became HALOCK’s Subject Matter Expert (SME) and Practice Lead for our PCI DSS services. As the PCI lead, my responsibilities covered many facets of the business such as asset development (developing framework, project management, and QA materials), training and instruction (mentoring new QSAs and conducting PCI education to numerous organizations), and project management for hundreds of PCI-related engagements. My experience has enabled me to create and manage remediation programs and Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) to help compromised and non-compliant clients achieve and maintain PCI DSS compliance.
I’m fortunate to have grown in my career where I’ve also been involved in developing HALOCK’s GDPR, CMMC, Privacy and Risk Management offerings and expanded my understanding of security. In the past several years, I have served as an expert witness for State Offices of Attorney General and Multidistrict Litigation matters for PCI DSS compliance and reasonable security controls.
I like to share insight and learnings with the community through published articles and presenting PCI topics at industry conferences to educate the public and industry practitioners on proven risk reduction and compliance maintenance techniques.
Has your role evolved since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and how so?
Viviana Wesley: Yes, I think everyone’s role has evolved to some degree. For me, the transition to working from home was the easiest part because I relocated and started working primarily from home in the summer of 2018. The changes in my role were related to ensuring that the team was still connected and supported in this remote world as well as evaluating, identifying, testing, and documenting how our team would perform remote assessments for clients during COVID-19 travel restrictions and beyond. I check in with our QSAs almost daily to ensure we remain connected, that the team is supported, and to ensure everyone has the guidance they need to be successful. It is also crucial to communicate effectively and securely in our changing working environment with the team, partners, and clients.
How did you get started in the payments industry? What led you to that career choice?
Viviana Wesley: My road into the payment industry was a winding one. I actually started in IT Administration after college, returned to my alma mater as an IT Administrator, then as an Email Postmaster. I didn’t move into Information Security until accepting an offer from my brother-in-law, who was a PCI Practice lead at the time. After college, when I would come home to visit, my brother-in-law would listen to my work stories then ask if I wanted to work for him, to which I would reply that I didn’t do what he did, so how could I?
Every time, he would explain that he could teach me security and compliance. He needed my soft skills: managing challenging issues, addressing ‘finer’ details, discussing sensitive topics, and more. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what he meant, but now that I’ve rebuilt our PCI team a few times, I definitely do. I’ve been able to combine my strong technical background with my strong people skills to become a trusted consultant and security advisor to hundreds of clients. I’ve always wanted to help people and, during college, I realized my soft skills brought a much needed dimension to the technology field.
Who has been your biggest role model in shaping your career path?
Viviana Wesley: There are so many people that have helped me over the years, but there were a few instances that have really shaped my path. About a year into my Computer Science degree, I realized my strengths weren’t in coding and I started questioning my major choice, which was Computer Science, though I had never coded before college. I knew I liked computers and technology. I knew I got bored easily. I knew I wanted to help people. However, I didn’t clearly see how that was going to happen through programming. I wanted to pursue something that brought me a sense of pride, accomplishment, joy, and I was unsure if programming was it.
When discussing my concern with a brilliant technologist friend, I was given an opportunity to take an IT Support position for the college. Within a short time, I realized that IT was a great way for me to learn and share my technology knowledge in ways that were digestible for non-technical people. I realized that was how I can help – translating technical, sometimes complex information for others to understand and apply for their needs. This has been a big part of my career, connecting and guiding people to succeed. That was my first IT role and it taught me more than I could hope for by providing such a vast array of software and hardware to support. My first opportunity to work at an information security consulting firm also had a significant impact to my progression and all the opportunities that have followed, including being nominated for this blog series.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Viviana Wesley: There have been several that come to mind over the years. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. These are the accomplishments I am most proud of:
- Served as an expert witness for State Offices of Attorney General and Multidistrict Litigation matters
- Developed a new assessment and reporting framework for every version of the PCI DSS since v1.2
- Trained and mentored consulting and client staff on information security, risk, PCI DSS compliance and audit practices, for the betterment of our industry
- Received two Panther First awards for embracing the value and spirit of Customer Service from colleagues at the University of Northern Iowa
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that is the case?
Viviana Wesley: Yes, I have noticed this ever since college. Honestly, I think it may be intimidating for women to enter a field they don’t see a lot of their peers in. As they say, representation matters.
Many women in the tech industry have felt that their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Is ‘unconscious bias’ holding women back in the workplace and, if so, what can women do about it?
Viviana Wesley: I hope that unconscious bias isn’t holding women back, but I always try to go into a situation giving my absolute best to exceed people’s expectations. Women need to be given opportunities to challenge themselves, to grow and excel. We welcome the challenge. We need people to support women in more leadership positions to help combat this bias. Women IT professionals can enhance the industry and progress it further with our unique perspective and executive skills. The aim is to work together to level up the information security world.
What do you see as the future for women in technology roles/payments industry?
Viviana Wesley: Anything they want. I mean really, I believe women can achieve anything they put their minds to. With some women’s natural social skills, they can more easily bridge communication gaps between technology and business.
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?
Viviana Wesley: Honestly before being asked this question, I wouldn’t have thought so, but now that I’ve thought about it, from my parents there were a few. Pay attention (to everything around you). Do it right the first time (so you don’t have to do it again/fix it). Take pride in your work (kind of as a biproduct of the first two and just watching my parents work so hard growing up).
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general? What advice would you give to your younger self?
Viviana Wesley: For other women: Don’t be intimidated by something you don’t yet know. If you are interested in something and have a drive to learn, don’t give up. Reach out to women in the industry. You can find the resources to help you learn and, with the right opportunity, you can find a way to make a difference.
For my younger self: Get more sleep while you still can!