Microsoft’s Kathryn Bartunek on Breaking Down Diversity Barriers, Tech Trends

Bartunek shares how to remedy impediments for women entering the security industry, the benefits of Cloud-based solutions and more in this month’s SECURE Perspectives.

SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.

For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Kathryn Bartunek of Microsoft. Earlier this year, Bartunek was named to the inaugural SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Kathryn Bartunek: My mother founded and ran a successful network engineering company that provided staffing and project implementation services for over 30 years. I learned the art of possibilities and the complexities of executing large projects by watching and learning from her.

Once, I accompanied her to a meeting with one of her clients who ran the security consulting/engineering department for a large organization. The client was impressed not only with the company, but also by my drive, initiative and knowledge, and wanted to hire me! That encouragement and validation by a seasoned executive set me off on a course of building a career in the security industry.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Cloud Operations + Innovation (CO+I) is Microsoft’s team responsible for building and operating Microsoft’s Cloud infrastructure. My team, CO+I Physical Security, protects the personnel, infrastructure, data and confidential information foundational to the Microsoft Cloud. We bring best-in-class practices, strategies and tools to execute large transformational programs in a secure manner, consistent with Microsoft’s industry-leading position in Cloud services.

What is your current position?

I currently serve as a senior security design manager for Microsoft’s CO+I team, responsible for datacenter physical security design and compliance in the U.S. East region. I also work with regional counterparts and stakeholders to develop strategies, best practices and program improvements for Microsoft’s Cloud ecosystem.

What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?

Women are active in almost every function of the company. Diversity and Inclusion are a core priority of Microsoft’s growth culture. Nonetheless, Microsoft sees room for improvement and continues to push to increase participation of women across the workforce. Towards that end, I have the honor of co-leading a program focused on increased representation of technical women in management systems. As part of this work, we are assessing indirect causes of lower workforce participation in technical fields across the industry.

With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?

There are plenty of opportunities for trained women in the security industry and an ever-increasing recognition by employers in the benefits of a diversified workforce, at all levels. One of the biggest challenges we have is encouraging women to seek education and training appropriate for this industry.

One realization during the pandemic was the potential for remote work, flexible schedules and other variations from the traditional work week. Adoption of these best practices industrywide offers a greater opportunity for inclusion of the female workforce.

What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?

Throughout society, and as a result in many companies, there are many underlying subtle assumptions about different people, including women, and their interests, talents and other characteristics. As young girls, women themselves start developing their own subtle assumptions, which often influence how they direct their own interests and education.

These assumptions are often not intended or viewed as discriminatory but are just subtle, almost unrealized, assumptions that “that’s the way things are.” They gradually have an impact on the underlying ways that companies organize, and how their systems and dynamics develop. That can make certain roles less attractive to women.

There is a sincere desire by many companies to address the issues that make certain specialty areas less attractive to women. That understanding needs to start at the management level; however, influences can be so subtle that a successful solution needs to be informed by the lived experiences of technical women, including what makes certain fields less attractive to them.

Influences must start early and include educational programs for young girls to get students motivated and confident in the opportunities the industry provides.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

I think public-private cyber partnerships are the most critical trend in security and the protection of critical infrastructure. When it comes to combating cyberattacks, our strongest defense is working together, and the advantages of those partnership are evident and being stress-tested with the war in Ukraine.

Other trends include adoption of artificial intelligence, supply chain assurance and sustainability, metaverse as the next evolution of the Internet and women in leadership.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your space of physical and electronic security design?

Revenue generation hikes through use of subscription-based service models leveraging Cloud computing and new Cloud solutions.

Artificial intelligence, computer vision and related advanced technologies are becoming vital to support the heightened volume of data produced by modern security solutions.

The use of augmented and virtual reality (VR) to train staff reduces costs and safety incidents and increases student motivation and ultimately recruitment and retention of our next generation of workers. The electricians trade, for example, developed an interactive training platform utilizing VR to train electrical apprentices on how to wire homes and commercial premises.

The Security Industry Association’s new Proptech Advisory Board is an example of an evolving dialogue around security, leveraging a longstanding technological benefit we’ve provided to customers that’s now attracting external industries based on increased revenue potential.

A positive psychology culture and sales approach will help the industry gain greater market share and recruit a new pool of candidates by demonstrating a mission that not only prevents bad things but improves experiences, facilitates better property management and enables tenants and owners to use their space more efficiently.

What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?

Two that come to mind are global instability due to the war in Ukraine and disruptions and supply chain issues.

What are the biggest opportunities your company — and the industry — are seeing?

Providing Internet access to remote and underserved communities, revolutionizing the supply chain via innovative engineering solutions that provide more sustainable product life cycles and ensuring equal accessibility for all, including those with disabilities.

What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?

That SIA’s Women in Security Forum increases the number of technical women in the security industry, elevates visibility of women in technical roles and ensure a supportive work environment.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Don’t be afraid of what makes you diverse — celebrate it. Realize that progress is being made in making businesses more accepting and attractive for women, and don’t rule yourself out of an industry that could provide you a great career.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

My family has had the greatest influence on my career. My father was an Army intelligence officer turned lawyer. My mother was an entrepreneur who focused on people and network infrastructure following her time at IBM. I’m incredibly proud and appreciative of the lessons I learned from them and the examples they set.

How do you define success?

Find work that you get satisfaction out of and will utilize your talents. Find an employer where you can respect what it does and can appreciate your coworkers and get respect back from them too. Do your work to the best of your ability not only because that’s what you’re paid to do, but also because it makes you feel good about yourself and your contribution to society. The pinnacle is when you can wake up in the morning and sincerely look forward to starting work.

What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?

This is an industry where you can be as successful as anyone else can and you are as welcome into it as anyone else is. Have faith in yourself, and know your voice matters.

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One response to “Microsoft’s Kathryn Bartunek on Breaking Down Diversity Barriers, Tech Trends”

  1. Aziz Mahat says:

    Thanks keeping updated on cloud services and solutions.

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