An interview with Valeria Scribanti, a Technical Solutions Specialist with focus on cybersecurity.

Welcome to the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity’s blog series, where we highlight the stories of the m… Read more on Cisco Blogs

An interview with Valeria Scribanti, a Technical Solutions Specialist with focus on cybersecurity.

Welcome to the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity’s blog series, where we highlight the stories of the mentors who have inspired and advocated for the careers of those in our community. This series seeks to show the importance of allyship, connection, and how different the journeys can be into a career in cybersecurity.

Interviewer Intro:

Valeria and I met soon after I joined Cisco in 2021. We are both part of the “Swiss Cybersecurity Women” group, which is an internal online group for women in cybersecurity based in Switzerland. Over the years, Valeria and I stayed in touch, scheduling a virtual coffee or sending each other interesting articles. Last year we even got a chance to meet in person at Cisco Live in Amsterdam. The thing that strikes me about Valeria is her upbeat attitude, energy and tenacity. This interview is a chance for me to find out more about Valeria’s path into cybersecurity and her secret to staying positive in an industry with a tendency to focus on the dark side of affairs.


What inspired you to pursue a career in cybersecurity? 

I’ve always been very interested in technology from a curiosity perspective, even though growing up I did not see myself as a very nerdy person. I’m a millennial, so I grew up in an environment where technology was not all that present. I still remember the first time I saw an iPod; it really fascinated me as a device, and I instantaneously wanted to find out all about its workings. Later, when my father bought his first laptop and he was programming in Visual Studio at home one day, I caught my first glimpse of code and that got me hooked. From there I understood that technology is what I wanted to do, and I decided to enroll first in a bachelors engineering program at Politecnico di Torino and then continue with the double degree master’s program between the Politecnico di Torino and the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH).

So, it was really about intuition and curiosity which led me to choose technology as a profession. Well, that and the fact that I was playing a lot of Nintendo with my brother.

What was your first foot in the door – where did you start? 

My studies in Italy laid the foundation for my later work in cybersecurity. As a student in the Computers and Communication Network Engineering program, I got to play with a lot of Cisco technology, learning switching and routing. Yet, as a whole, the university program was rather theoretical and research oriented. It was not until I went to Germany for the exchange program that I took a great course on cybersecurity with a professor from the industry. I was fascinated with the topics he covered in this class – buffer overflow, SQL injections, cross-site scripting. Times have changed nowadays, but back then this type of course was not a standard part of the university curriculum. The topic felt so new and super exciting to me that I decided to consider cybersecurity as a possible direction after graduation.

I landed my first job soon after finishing my master’s degree. The university helped us find a position so for me it was a really smooth transition. The job market back then offered crazy number of opportunities, unlike the current situation.

How did you know what role exactly you want to go for?

By doing the interviews I actually got to know more about the different roles, what day-to-day activities they involve and what trajectory I could follow if I were to join.

How has your career evolved since your initial start? 

My first role was a Network and Security Engineer at a system integrator company in Italy. I still remember the interview with them. We started off with some easy to answer questions, such as “what is a firewall?”. The next questions, however, were topics which were totally new to me back then, such as what an IPS (intrusion prevention system) and defense-in-depth etc. Looking back, I think that the interviewers posed those questions to hone my appetite for the topic and demonstrate that they were dealing with cutting-edge technology. During the interview they explained the principles of those security products and showed me what the role would entail.

As a customer-facing engineer there, I got to work with a lot of Cisco technology, as well as other vendors. The best part of this role was the opportunity to do hands-on work with real projects and real responsibility. As a junior engineer, I felt both scared and motivated to be on site with customers and do things live, but this is how I learned tons about security architecture design, implementation and configuration of different security products such as firewalls, IPS, WAF, anti-virus, etc.

At some point I got to work with the Cisco Secure Network Analytics (formerly Stealthwatch) team on a project. By talking with them I discovered other types of roles within cybersecurity. The work of a security sales engineer, who is responsible for creating and designing proof of value (POV) for security products, really clicked with me and I joined Cisco in 2018. That is how I moved from the more technically oriented operations into a role with a mix of hard and soft skills.

One of the things that I truly love about the TSS role is that I get to work with global customers and as part of a global team, interact with different cultures and put into practice the multiple languages that I speak. I realized the fact that I also enjoy working closely with customers, listening to their needs and being a trusted advisor, someone that customers can rely on throughout the whole process.

What is the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your cybersecurity career? 

I made a lot of choices for my career based on a gut feeling. My intuition served me well but looking back, I could have used some more guidance and data to decide which direction I should take. There are so many different paths that exist out there and it is worth exploring them before deciding on a particular career.

How to do that? One way is to join cybersecurity communities that are near you and find out more about those different roles. Talk to professionals who are already in the field and listen to their perspective.

What’s your single most important piece of advice to people considering a career in cybersecurity? 

Hang out with people who like cybersecurity – you will learn a lot!

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