Go Phish: Meriam El Ouazzani, Regional Sales Director, META, SentinelOne

Go Phish: Meriam El Ouazzani, Regional Sales Director, META, SentinelOne

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the cybersecurity industry?

My most memorable achievement in cybersecurity unfolded during my tenure at VMware, where I was Channel Lead for Microsegmentation and NSX technology. This period marked a transformative chapter for VMware, catalysed by the company’s strategic acquisition of Nicira. I was entrusted with the multifaceted responsibility of not merely selling but also implementing this cutting-edge technology. My journey began with the task of building a robust channel ecosystem; it wasn’t just about facilitating transactions, but a visionary initiative aimed at establishing a network of resources that collaborated with diverse functions, both internally and externally, to forge a unified approach towards the deployment of NSX technology.

One of my most defining accomplishments during this period was the creation of a dedicated security practice within our partner network. This practice served to ensure that NSX technology was seamlessly integrated into the cybersecurity landscape. Ensuring that these deployments were not just functional but optimised for performance and security was a top priority.

What first made you think of a career in cybersecurity?

Personally, I have always sought a challenging career that fosters both personal growth, exposure to invaluable experiences and learning from some of the industry’s most distinguished experts. I believe that cybersecurity offers precisely that today. The field is characterised by its rapid growth and a relentless demand for skilled professionals, which in turn, compels companies to seek out the most exceptional individuals and invest in their development, cultivating a workplace culture that promotes well-being and provides a vast array of career pathways. It allows individuals to pinpoint a specialisation that resonates with their passions and leverages their unique abilities.

I derive immense satisfaction from problem-solving, critical thinking and staying at the forefront of technological advancements and security threats. This field promises intellectual stimulation like no other, as it demands constant vigilance and innovation.

Beyond its intellectual rewards, the cybersecurity field is actively dedicated to championing gender diversity. Numerous organisations are wholeheartedly committed to creating an inclusive atmosphere for women in cybersecurity through initiatives such as mentorship programmes, scholarships and networking opportunities. My aspiration to be a part of this transformation signifies a desire to illuminate the abundant opportunities available to women who share a passion for technology. As a woman in cybersecurity, my ambition is to serve as a beacon of inspiration, igniting the spark of possibility in fellow women and encouraging them to embark on fulfilling careers in STEM fields. This mission contributes to the ongoing efforts to dismantle gender stereotypes and foster greater inclusivity and diversity within the industry.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

One that fosters active participation from team members in decision-making processes. I place high value on input from my team and frequently employ consensus-building techniques – I firmly believe that this approach can cultivate highly engaged and motivated teams. I also care about the team members’ success. Reaching targets is not enough. Achieving targets and feeling fulfilled from the job is what is rewarding.

Additionally, efficiency is a key focus of mine. I’m dedicated to eliminating waste and streamlining processes to deliver value as effectively as possible. I recognise that we all have a limited number of hours each day to accomplish our tasks, so it’s essential to ensure that we direct our efforts toward achieving the right results and avoid getting caught in unproductive cycles that lead nowhere.

What do you think is the current hot cybersecurity talking point?

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in both cyberattacks and defence mechanisms is a rapidly evolving area of interest. Defenders are using AI to detect and respond to threats, while attackers are also leveraging AI for more sophisticated attacks.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

Family. I have three wonderful children who bring immense joy to my life and fill it with happiness. Additionally, I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive husband who is deeply invested in my success and career, often more so than I am for myself.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

I take great pride in my current career. It’s a path I consciously chose, knowing that it would present significant challenges, particularly in a male-dominated field. However, I always had the confidence that I possessed the qualities and skills needed to excel and take a leadership role within it.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in the cybersecurity industry?

With the increasing adoption of cloud services, ensuring the security of cloud environments remains a critical area of investment. Companies often embrace cloud solutions without giving due consideration to the security measures necessary to safeguard their cloud access.

Additionally, cybersecurity companies are heavily investing in AI and ML to develop advanced threat detection and response capabilities. These technologies are instrumental in identifying patterns, anomalies and threats within vast datasets. Furthermore, organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of threat intelligence services for proactive identification and mitigation of cyberthreats. Investments in threat intelligence platforms and services are on the rise.

Are there any differences in the way cybersecurity challenges need to be tackled in the different regions?

There can be differences in the way cybersecurity challenges need to be tackled in different regions due to a variety of factors, including regulatory frameworks, cultural norms, economic conditions and the threat landscape. However, looking at today’s interconnected and digital world, data protection and privacy have become global concerns. Cybersecurity threats and the need for robust cybersecurity practices transcend borders. Many cybersecurity challenges, such as ransomware attacks, data breaches and phishing, are not limited to specific regions and can affect organisations and individuals worldwide. Additionally, the increasing importance of international data flows and global regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), highlight the need for a more unified approach to cybersecurity and data protection.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

Before taking on the role of Sales Director for the META region, I served as the Regional Channel Manager for SentinelOne in the same region. In that capacity, I focused on cultivating robust partnerships with distributors and resellers.

Now, as Regional Sales Director, my responsibilities have expanded significantly. I oversee all aspects of SentinelOne’s operations in the META region, including sales, marketing and customer relations. This multifaceted role involves several key functions: assembling and leading high-performing teams, establishing strategic objectives, identifying innovative market opportunities and staying attuned to industry trends. My primary aim is to ensure that SentinelOne maintains its competitive edge and agility within the region’s dynamic cybersecurity landscape.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in the security industry?

To aspire to a C-level position in the security industry, it’s crucial to combine technical expertise with leadership skills and strategic thinking. Continuously updating your cybersecurity knowledge through education and certifications while gaining diverse experience across various security domains is essential. While security expertise is a must to relate to your customers and understand their pain points, it’s also critical to develop strong communication abilities and build the right professional network. Seek mentorship to gain insights and guidance from experienced professionals.

Additionally, it’s important to cultivate a strategic mindset and maintain ethical conduct in your work. Valuable advice includes choosing the right people to accompany you on your journey – individuals who share your vision and passion. Don’t hesitate to hire people who are better than you and from whom you can learn. Be open to both coaching and being coached, as it’s never too late to learn. Finally, put your heart and soul into your community’s success and lead by example at all times.

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