19 Apr Karen Kukoda: Channel Chief And Woman In Cybersecurity
Paving the way for future generations
Northport, N.Y. – Apr. 19, 2021
Karen Kukoda is fluent in cyberspeak — a language few actually understand — and though it’s notoriously complicated, she’s dedicated her career to sharing its message in plain English.
A well-known channel chief and presently vice president of strategic partnerships at SafeGuard Cyber, Kukoda’s passion for security is evident. But were it not for her father’s influence, she might never have entered cyberspace.
“My dad had a business selling computer networks,” she told Cybercrime Magazine. “Working there was my first exposure to selling and understanding technology. He relied on me to be more technical than he was; our skill sets really complemented each other.”
It wasn’t long before the Buffalo, N.Y., native found herself in Silicon Valley. Kukoda launched her career at AT&T, working with high-profile clients such as Oracle, McKesson, and Intel.
“I learned how security is prevalent in every facet of business,” Kukoda shared, and later, while working at HP, she learned “how to build a plane when you’re flying it.”
“FireEye was really where I got an amazing foundation of the cybersecurity landscape,” Kukoda said, reflecting on her time at one of the largest, most-respected companies in our industry. “Ultimately, my goal was to help people understand the magnitude of cyber risks that are out there today.”
Earning three consecutive CRN Women of the Channel awards (2018, 2019, 2020) it’s safe to say Kukoda accomplished some of her goals — but her work in cyber isn’t done.
By achieving success, Kukoda beat the odds. At the start of her career, around 10 percent of jobs in cybersecurity were held by women. By 2019, that figure doubled, and the industry is continuing its push for equal representation.
Kukoda was never discouraged by the gender gap — rather, she’s determined to encourage more women to come into this space. “I’ve had such a positive experience being a woman in cybersecurity,” she said. “There was only one startup I worked at where I felt women weren’t as valued as men. It was challenging, but now I’ve stepped up to change those environments for future generations.”
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, this year, the total number of unfilled positions in our field will reach 3.5 million. Organizations of all types and sizes are welcoming females to fill them.
Being “inquisitive and curious” with a passion for learning about new technologies and securing cyberspace, Kukoda naturally found her way into the industry. And though it’s not always so easy, she knows exactly how other ladies can crack — and eventually shatter — its glass ceiling.
“Take advantage of women in business and security groups in college, as well as internships,” she advised. “Find a mentor, utilize your network, and educate yourself. The possibilities are endless.”
This summer, Kukoda will reach her one-year mark at SafeGuard Cyber, and along with her team, she’s making good on her promise to diversify the cybersphere.
“We’re developing a program that will spotlight women in the industry, ‘Vision & Voice: Women in Cybersecurity.’ You’ll see engaging content that will offer thought leadership and mentorship to those looking to ascend in cybersecurity. Right now, women account for 45 percent of employees at SafeGuard Cyber, and that number will only grow.”
Kukoda is all about cultivating long-term relationships. She took a coding class in high school and earned the nickname “Wizard” — which some girlfriends still affectionately call her today.
– Amanda Glassner is a staff writer and reporter at Cybercrime Magazine.