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Women in Leadership: Carmen Marsh

Our annual salute to women at the top of their field

Back Article Mar 8, 2024 By Sena Christian

This story is part of our March 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Carmen Marsh

President and CEO, United Cyber Security Alliance

Carmen Marsh can say something with confidence that many can’t: She always enjoys her jobs. Twenty-five years ago, she found her passion for technology and has stuck with the profession ever since. 

She now ensures other women have a chance to discover this passion as the president and CEO of United Cyber Security Alliance, a Roseville-based nonprofit she founded in 2020 that provides a platform for women to learn and advance in cybersecurity.   

Originally from Sweden, Marsh is also the CEO and managing partner of Inteligenca, a cybersecurity risk management consulting company she co-founded with Paula Dube in 2017. Inteligenca serves small businesses that lack the big budgets to buy expensive software or the in-house staff to maintain security safeguards. “Paula and I understood that there’s a need for that,” Marsh says.

In those early years as women business owners, Marsh and Dube wanted to hire female cyber risk analysts for their firm. But they encountered a problem: There weren’t qualified women clamoring for these jobs, a conundrum Marsh was used to.

“When I started in the mid ’90s as an infosec engineer, I was the only woman on the team,” Marsh says of her second job at Stanford Ranch International Consulting (after leaving Sony Corporation in San Jose), where she was the only woman out of 200 information security professionals at SRI Consulting. “There’s been some improvements, but then it started going down again, so we are still having issues with having enough gender diversity in cybersecurity.”

“When I started in the mid ’90s as an infosec engineer, I was the only woman on the team.”

In a 2018 post on LinkedIn, Marsh expressed her belief in the need for a hands-on accelerator for women to learn cybersecurity. She declared that she would launch one the following year. “As with everything else, there’s some naysayers,” she recalls. “There’s some guys commenting on my post saying, ‘Why are you trying so hard? Women may just not be interested in cybersecurity,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s not true.’”

Within an hour of posting, she remembers receiving dozens of messages in her inbox, confirming her assertion. She worked on funding and curriculum development, which came together with the support of Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist and one of Marsh’s LinkedIn connections. Months of discussion involved how to move beyond just offering training to also setting participants up to be recruited into internships, apprenticeships or entry-level jobs through partnerships with large corporations.

In July 2019, she launched the 100 Women in 100 Days Cybersecurity Career Accelerator at McClellan Air Force Base. The tuition-free workforce development program (now under the umbrella of United Cyber Security Alliance) provides IT certification training, along with workshops and gaming scenarios, according to Marsh.

With more grants in recent years from Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the City of Sacramento, the organization has expanded to offer this workforce development for all people, regardless of gender, and has now trained 460 participants.

Also in 2019, Marsh launched the Cybersecurity Woman of the Year awards in Las Vegas at Black Hat, a major computer security conference, as a way to highlight how people working in the field can be more than just a “guy in a hoodie,” she says. The annual black-tie event is now accompanied by the Cybersecurity Woman of the World award, which was celebrated at a gala at Ardoe Castle in Scotland last August, and the Cybersecurity Woman of Japan award, held at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in November.

To “inspire global security sisterhood,” as Marsh describes her efforts, she is often traveling, including to develop accelerator programs in Japan, Dubai and potentially in Saudi Arabia. She says she looks forward to soon connecting more with local groups around the Sacramento region in addition to her international work. 

Nearly three decades into her chosen career, Marsh still finds joy, especially with her involvement in the accelerator programs. 

“Throughout my career I’ve been in important roles — they are roles that accomplish projects or manage teams or manage the companies,” she says. “That’s all in its way fulfilling. However, making a difference in people’s lives, I don’t know if you can actually put a price on that. It’s really personally satisfying when you see that you have actually upgraded somebody’s life.”  

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