Editor’s note: The ISACA Now series titled “Faces of ISACA” highlights the contributions of members of ISACA’s global professional community, as well as providing a sense of their lives outside of work. Today, we spotlight Kyla Guru, a leader in spreading cybersecurity awareness among young people and an active proponent of ISACA’s SheLeadsTech program.
Kyla Guru is in a hurry to make her presence felt in the cybersecurity field.
While many of her fellow teenagers still are figuring out what they want to pursue in college – or if they want to go to college at all – Guru already is spreading cybersecurity awareness as founder of Bits N’Bytes Cybersecurity, which lists as its goal to immerse the youngest members of society in cybersecurity concepts.
“These students need to be able to see the role models in cybersecurity, realize how much potential there is for growth and impact in the industry on a grander scale, and feel empowered about developing the necessary skills, both technical and interpersonal, starting now,” said Guru, a junior at Deerfield High School in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA. “It’s all about showing them that these roles are not for one type of person, and that there are opportunities, mentors, classes, and resources, to help us catalyze change right now.”
With that type of mindset, it’s no wonder Guru is zooming down the fast track in exploring the cybersecurity field. Guru, whose father, Naganat, is a longtime ISACA member, founded Bits N’ Bytes during her freshman year of high school, and considers the “passion project” a major piece of her identity. She said her interest in cybersecurity grew from conversations with her family around the dinner table, and accelerated when she attended a cybersecurity workshop at Purdue University the summer before she began high school.
“My fascination for these topics quickly turned into a string of past-midnight conversations in the lobby of our dorm, discussing about just how much of the Internet is ‘unknown,’ ‘unseen,’ or ‘unheard,’ Guru said. “It is knowing the relevance of these studies, and an urging pull to study the unknown, that continues to fuel my passion for cybersecurity.”
In addition to becoming intrigued by the cybersecurity field generally, Guru also is a proud “steminist” who is interested in addressing the gender gap within the technology workforce. In June, Guru co-directed “GirlCon Chicago,” the city’s first all-female high school tech conference, which included a video message of support from Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. In pursuing sponsorship for the conference with ISACA’s Chicago Chapter, she became aware of ISACA’s SheLeadsTech program.
“With ISACA’s support, a network of female leaders from the Chicagoland area, and steady collaboration with their SheLeadsTech program, our all-high school team was able to unite over 180 female students and 50 professionals from around the Midwest in engaging in the future of technology,” Guru said. “ISACA helped ensure that our event was the most rewarding and fulfilling experience for all our attendees.
“One thing I know our team learned from our partnership with ISACA’s energetic team was that you never know what could come out of asking questions with good intention. This was justification for most of the bold moves that went into making GirlCon. Looking forward, I am certain that my collaboration with the SheLeadsTech program has opened many doors to further collaboration, and I look to the program as a support system as I continue my tech journey.”
Beyond high school, Guru intends to study computer science and cybersecurity, in addition to gaining a strong background in business and analytics. By the time Guru’s professional career begins in earnest, there is unlikely to be a client appointment or board meeting capable of fazing her. Her presentation experience includes delivering a TEDx talk titled “Hacking a Solution to Global Cybercrime,” a presentation that allowed her to reach new audiences with her message of how cybersecurity is much more tangible in our lives than many people realize.
“My grander vision for my future is to find myself constantly shape-shifting for new solutions, challenging myself intellectually, and making progressive changes to the dynamics of society that fundamentally impact lives,” Guru said.
Naganat Guru is thrilled to see his daughter share his passion for technology, and said organizations such as ISACA “need the new generation of leaders like Kyla.”
“This is one of the best things that has happened to me and our family,” he said of his daughter’s beyond-her-years contributions in the cybersecurity realm. “I became a CISA in 1998 when Kyla was not even born, but she has achieved so many laurels in the last few years that I cannot probably accomplish in my lifetime. … I may sound biased since I’m her father, but this is true: Kyla is a born leader.”