Women in Identity Security: Lori Robinson
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lori Robinson for a number of years but in quite a different capacity. Until recently, Lori was an analyst with Gartner for many years where she primarily covered the identity space. Now that she’s part of the SailPointCrew, I wanted to spend some time understanding how she got into this space to begin with (why identity?), and what her experience has been like while working as an analyst in admittedly, a male-dominated field. We covered far more than that in our conversation which I’ve captured for you below. Perhaps my favorite takeaway from our conversation? It’s ok to stand-out, to be the ‘minority’ in the room – rather than see it as a weak spot, turn it into an opportunity to shine. Clearly, Lori has done just that and it’s a reminder to each of us to let our light shine, regardless.
Can you share a little bit of your background – why were you drawn into becoming an industry analyst?
To be honest, I didn’t pursue it right away. I was working in product management at an identity vendor. I was approached by a former colleague who had joined Burton Group (later acquired by Gartner). He was encouraging me to apply for the analyst role, but, to be honest, I didn’t have the confidence. I eventually took the chance and went for it.
What drew me in was the opportunity to make a difference. As an analyst you are given an amazing platform from which to influence the industry. It was a stark contrast to my days as a product manager where I could say the same thing over and over and nobody would listen, nothing would change. As an analyst, when I made a recommendation or took a stance, people listened and markets changed. With a platform like that, you are able to enact real change. That said, that comes a lot of responsibility – to be that impactful can have real consequences.
Admittedly, the industry analyst ‘world’ is fairly male-dominated. What have you drawn from that over the years and how has it shaped you into the leader you are today?
I have always viewed being a woman in the male-dominated IT industry as an advantage. Being a women allowed me to stand-out in the crowd. Women in IT are undoubtedly faced with stereotypes and challenges that must be overcome; however, I think our differences also provide us a unique opportunity to shine. It’s ok to stand-out and in reality, it can really help you along.
Working in a male-dominated field for so many years also opened the door to learn from some really incredible male mentors. In fact, for much of my career, I’ve been buoyed up by my male counterparts and mentors who have embraced and mentored me. They gave me invaluable advice and constructive criticism that helped me navigate the world of IT.
We need more of that mentorship happening between women. We can learn so much from each other. It’s really important that women in IT commit to mentoring one another more than what seems to be happening right now.
Can you tell me a bit about your approach to risk-taking?
I would characterize myself as a calculated risk-taker. I like to evaluate and analyze the situation first – how much risk am I willing to take? There’s risk in almost everything we do, not everything is going to work, and it’s those moments of failure that will help you grow. So, risk and failure are good things. To be clear, it’s important not to be careless – and that’s the difference. Taking a risk is ok and welcomed as long as you’ve done your homework first and fully understand the situation, the ramifications, and potential outcomes first.
What’s your number one leadership lesson or piece of advice you’d offer?
Lead where you are! The term “leadership” is often associated with people management or project ownership. But there is an opportunity for each of us to lead – regardless of our position or title. We should look at what we do every single day and seek opportunities to demonstrate leadership. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand to take the lead – don’t wait for someone to hand you the opportunity, take it. Whatever you’re doing, be a leader, show self-motivation and go the extra mile. Doing that will lead to more formal leadership roles in your career.
And finally, I’ve had the chance to see you speak many times over the years. You are very engaging. How did you hone that skill and what tips can you share?
The first time I gave a presentation to a large audience, a mentor of mine came up to me and said, ‘don’t forget that you know more than 98% of the people in the room on user account provisioning’ (the topic of my presentation). That really stuck with me. It taught me to come to my presentations prepared. By being prepared, I don’t mean memorizing your presentation, but instead making sure you’ve done your homework and feel comfortable with the subject matter so that speaking on a given topic feels natural to you.
My next tip would be to treat your presentation as if you are having a conversation with the audience. You aren’t just throwing information at them, but you are instead sharing what you know and waiting for a response. You can always tell when you’re starting to lose an audience, they start looking around, playing on their phones, disconnecting. Take that as an opportunity to re-engage them – ask a question, pause and make a statement, have an interaction with the audience.
And finally, practice. This is important. I don’t mean to go over your presentation again and again – you’ll wind up coming across as too memorized or robotic. Instead, do a couple of dry-runs of your presentation, but then spend time flipping through slides and getting comfortable with the information and the flow. Connect with the content.