Women in Security: Min Kyriannis

Cybersecurity pro advocates for women and diversity in security
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Monday, December 9, 2019

As a very technical person, Min Kyriannis, associate, cybersecurity & technology business development, Jaros, Baum & Bolles, started her career in IT and networking, but she also drifted into more creative pursuits. “I decided to design; I did a jack of all trades,” she said. “I actually did some modeling and I did food and nutrition where I started catering and single-handedly cooked for 50 to 100 people at a time.”

She then decided to get married, although no one knew, and an old colleague of hers came up to her husband and said, “Hey, do you remember this young lady [referring to Kyriannis] that used to work with us?” Of course! Her husband had married her! So, the colleague offered Kyriannis a position and that’s how she got started in security over 15 years ago.

“Because of that position, I started working with an ex NYPD, three-star police chief, Jules Martin, and ever since then, I’ve loved working in security,” Kyriannis explained. “It was an easy integration to go into security and with all the technology advances, it blended right into networking and cyber. And, I haven’t left ever since, but I still do my food and wine!”

Throughout her professional security journey, there wasn’t any female role models or mentors she looked up to because it was very male-dominated, but along the way she met some colleagues who became friends. “We have the same mindset; we talk about diversity,” she said. “We would talk to each other just for support because there really wasn’t a big female support system.”

For Kyriannis, wading through the male-dominated cybersecurity industry hasn’t been a huge issue for her. “I was a tomboy and I think for me, I acted like one of the guys,” Kyriannis said. “I wasn’t shy, and I think that broke a lot of the ice for me really, because I kid around with the guys; it’s not serious. But I think a lot of women shy away from that. They’re [women] are afraid they’re [the guys] are going to judge them a certain way if they say something. At the end of the day, if they [the guys] realize you’re kidding around and joking around, it tends to be more relaxed, so because of that, they [the guys] tend to be more open with me in some respects.”

In addition to her career in cybersecurity, Kyriannis is also vice president of Women in International Security, NY, which is known as the New York Chapter. One of the key competencies is how to diversify this whole industry that is limited in the amount of women leadership, so one of the initiatives the organization is looking into doing is revamping leadership professional development.

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but in this industry, you see a lot of women, but it’s more ‘cat fighting’ than really support mentorship, and it’s unfortunate,” explained Kyriannis. “I welcome professional women onto the pedestal; I want to give them the forum. The whole intent of getting involved within the industry was to give that to women, and basically say, ‘hey look, we do want to mentor you; we do want to help you.’ It’s not giving women an advantage over the men; it’s letting women professionally develop themselves.”

Also, in the plans is an entire program that addresses mental wellness and children’s program for families. “We want women to think ahead and not just in their professional lives, but wellness as well,” she said. “This industry is stressful and I’ve been working with a bunch of coaches — leadership coaches, health/fitness coaches, nutrition coaches, pre- and postnatal coaches — people how have a specialized background who can come in and actually speak about a topic.”

The office leadership transition for Women in International security happens in December, and that’s when Kyriannis is going to start talking about and developing these programs. “We want to develop a woman as an individual and be very inclusive,” she said. “It’s not just about women as a professional; it’s about their wellbeing.”

When asked her greatest challenge and how she overcame it, Kyriannis candidly said, “well, men,” adding that some men are very closed minded and she had to simple walk away from them. “Don’t be shy or afraid; I think that’s what’s going to propel women forward faster,” Kyriannis said. “What I’ve seen in this industry is that women tend to shy away because they’re afraid. You can’t be afraid; you can NOT be afraid; you’ve to got to keep going. And, have fun; enjoy it; if you can’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be here [in the security industry].”

Kyriannis is all about empowering women to enjoy what they do, talk with people and not be afraid as well as building the confidence of women. “How do we build the confidence of these women to be able to stand on their own two feet?” she asked. “How do we stand up, unified, and help each other, not kill or step over each other? As women, we just have to stand together,” Kyriannis concluded. “We’re all smart women; we all have our strengths; I want to be able to bring that out.”

Kyriannis always ends interviews with this: “Have a sense of humor. If you don’t have a sense of humor, it’s going to kill you!”