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Spotlight Series: Ellen Sundra, Chief Customer Officer, Forescout

Ellen Sundra, Chief Customer Officer, Forescout

ARTICLE SUMMARY

SheCanCode caught up with Ellen to find out what an average day looks like for her, imposter syndrome, and her advice for other women in tech.

ELLEN SUNDRA IS CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER AT FORESCOUT.

During her time at Forescout, she’s excelled in multiple roles such as SVP of Systems Engineering and Enablement. Ellen brings over 25 years of experience in the cybersecurity industry and was recently named one of the Top 25 Women in Cyber, by Cyber Defense Magazine.

Prior to joining Forescout, Ellen worked as a network architect and security advisor with iPass, UUNet and WorldCom. She also holds a BA in Computer Science from Rollins College and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

At our company, we noticed that our technical teams were working in silos, which led to our customers feeling frustrated, as this miscommunication was impacting the success of their security programmes. That’s when our CEO stepped in and decided to unite the technical teams under one leader who could truly understand our customers’ needs. This role was never part of my career plan, but I’ve really enjoyed the challenges that have come with it.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

I’m really proud of the technical team we’ve built at Forescout. Instead of limiting ourselves to a specific profile, we’ve created a ‘one team’ culture that brings together engineers with diverse skillsets, backgrounds and experiences. This means we now have people who complement each other.  For example, someone who’s great at networking would be happy to lend a hand to a team member who might have more programming experience, knowing they might need their help in the future. It’s been amazing to see how everyone understands the value of their colleagues and this collaborative approach is what makes our team so strong.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

What I love most about my job is that every day is different. My days are a blend of working closely with customers to enhance their cybersecurity programs and collaborating proactively with my team to transform our services and support models to best serve our customers. I value transparency and communication, so every day has at least a few calls across different teams to align on projects and priorities.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD?

Big cyber problems are not solved by one person alone, it requires teamwork. The ability to collaborate and work as a team is a critical skill. While technical skills and knowledge about specific products or vendors can be taught, having the right attitude and work ethic cannot.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE?

I haven’t faced any roadblocks so far, but there have been people that weren’t interested in investing time in my professional growth. So, I made a conscious effort to surround myself with people who are willing to mentor me and share their knowledge. Thankfully, the tech industry is full of problem solvers who appreciate and support those who are passionate about contributing to the cause.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

All the time. Imposter syndrome is something that I’ve experienced too, and I think it’s much more common than people realise. When I feel outside my comfort zone and begin to doubt myself, I try to focus on the immediate task at hand.  I also give myself permission to make mistakes. I don’t expect others to be perfect, so I shouldn’t put that unnecessary pressure on myself to be flawless.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?

Don’t underestimate yourself. As a woman, you’re a natural multitasker, an excellent communicator, and a problem solver. Recognise the value of these skills – they’re just as important as technical knowledge which you can always continue to learn and improve.

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