Women at the top: Renee Guttmann - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

Women at the top: Renee Guttmann

Renee Guttmann

North Atlanta Business Post asked some of the most influential business women in North Atlanta to respond to a survey about their experiences, their obstacles and their successes as executives. Here is a Q&A with Renee Guttmann, the vice president of information risk of Accuvant.

Renee Guttmann is a renowned global information security and privacy executive with a proven track record of establishing internationally recognized information security programs for Fortune 500 companies. Prior to joining Accuvant as its chief information security officer, she served in a variety of security leadership roles, including CISO of Coca-Cola as well as Time Inc., Time Warner and CapitalOne. Guttmann is a fellow of the Ponemon Institute, which is widely regarded as one of the premier security information and privacy sources. She also serves on multiple technical advisory boards and is a board member of Hillside, a nonprofit organization that helps children in the Atlanta community. She currently lives in Atlanta with her family.

What decision did you make that put you on the path to this career in business?
My first decision was to complete my undergrad in archaeology but forego a master’s in museum management in order to study computer programming. My second major event was when I chose to leverage my skills and philosophies about human beings being unable to change our spots to start a career in information security.

What obstacles, if any, did you face on your way up the corporate ladder?
It is hard to believe that 20 years ago, I sat around a table in Washington, D.C., with other computer security professionals, and we asked ourselves if what we were doing would ever really matter. Lots of folks dropped out to do things that their businesses understood and would fund. I decided to stay the course (even though other doors opened), because I really believed that as humans, some of us would leverage the Internet for purposes “other than good.” That said, I was one of the first women in the field and even today, I am sometimes the only woman in the room. I don’t notice it anymore but early on, I found it intimidating.

What gives you the most satisfaction at work?
I am in a unique position where I am able to provide thoughtful leadership and practical advice to security professionals at conferences and to Accuvant clients. I am the key executive stakeholder of our company’s initiatives to increase the number of women in the information security field.

What keeps you up at night?
I was in New York City on Sept. 11, as well as the power failure that occurred a year later. I don’t take personal safety for granted, and the intersection of cybersecurity and physical security causes me concern. As an industry, we need to focus on protecting our organizations’ computers as well as the safety of our communities. Second, there is an extreme shortage of information security professionals; which is why I avidly support programs for our highly skilled returning veterans as well as establishing meaningful programs in high schools and community colleges.

What advice would you give to young women interested in pursuing a career in business?
Don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation, but became familiar with ways to do so. There are books and seminars that you can take. This will enable you to be an advocate for yourself and help you lead conversations more successfully, particularly where there are multiple organizational perspectives and objectives.

What degree do you think might prove most useful to young people today?
Information security. Also, I think that there is a shortage of individuals that can design usable user interfaces.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for young people today?
If people are looking for a career, I believe that information technology jobs will continue to flourish – especially as we connect all our devices and appliances to the Internet. I also see opportunities for young people to learn the skills necessary to solve large complex problems that cross multiple domains including the humanities, sciences, art, etc.

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