Editor’s note: The ISACA Now series titled “Faces of ISACA” highlights the contributions of ISACA members to our global professional community, as well as providing a sense of their lives outside of work. Today, we spotlight Patricia Watson, director of cybersecurity, risk & compliance for Kitu Systems, Inc. Interested in joining ISACA and networking with colleagues like Watson? Learn more here.
Patricia Watson rattled off a list of growing concerns she has observed during her career in cybersecurity and risk management: advanced persistent threats that leverage artificial intelligence, ransomware, an increasing volume of nation-state-sponsored attacks.
The degree of difficulty for cybersecurity practitioners has made Watson’s inclination for a robust knowledge exchange with industry peers all the more valuable.
“I am a big proponent of collaboration and knowledge transfer in the areas of cybersecurity and risk management,” Watson said. “The adversaries seem to always be a few steps ahead of us when it comes to cyber-threats. Given that there is a dire shortage of cybersecurity professionals, we all need to do our part to share lessons learned, process improvement capabilities and insights into emerging threats.”
That mindset has made ISACA and Watson an excellent match. Watson, who has been an ISACA member for about 10 years, first became involved with ISACA’s Boise, Idaho, chapter, where she eventually became chapter president. Her penchant for successful collaboration extends to her professional career – Watson, who now resides in San Diego, recently took on a new role as director of cybersecurity, risk & compliance for Kitu Systems, Inc.
“Given that we are a small start-up, the biggest challenges in my role include limitation of resources and competing priorities,” Watson said. “That said, I'm fortunate to be part of a very inclusive and collaborative company culture that appreciates the important role that cybersecurity, risk and compliance functions play in the development of our products as well as the alignment of our long-term roadmap.”
Watson credits an internship with the Sandia National Labs Center for helping to jump-start her career, providing valuable skills-training and hands-on experience. She moved on to become digital forensics program manager at Boise Inc., before taking a risk management role at Sempra Energy, a position that provided the chance to visit renewable energy and natural gas sites to assess their critical infrastructure cybermaturity.
Watson said she was one of few women in digital forensics early in her career, “which meant I always had to prove my skills and abilities beyond the rest of my male colleagues.”
“I'm very proud that I chose a career in STEM, and that even during times when people doubted my abilities or dismissed my contributions, I continued to follow my passion, broaden my skills and focus my energy on the wonderful people that have mentored and supported me,” Watson said.
Watson has experienced much of the western US first-hand. She originally hails from Houston, Texas, but attended the University of New Mexico, where she earned a pair of degrees before a career opportunity took her to Idaho. The position at Sempra Energy prompted her move to southern California four years ago, and her new role at Kitu Systems, Inc., affords her some stability in sunny San Diego.
“For now, San Diego is definitely home sweet home!” she said.
In her free time, Watson loves traveling abroad, which provides prime opportunities to nurture her passion for photography (as one can see from photos from Watson’s New Zealand trip).
That adventurous streak blends with caution when it comes to her approach to the cyber arena.
“Never lose sight of the fact that in cyberspace, transparency is involuntary – therefore, in cyberspace, ignorance is not bliss!” she said.