Judges on Fire: Eleanor Dallaway, Editorial Director, Infosecurity Magazine

In our Judges on Fire series of podcasts, we aim to let you get to know our judges a little better. They also get the chance to share their wisdom and tips about entering the Tech Trailblazers Awards. For our twelfth outing we are catching up with Eleanor Dallaway, Editorial Director at Infosecurity Magazine, who is joining the judging team of the Tech Trailblazers Awards for her first time.

In an interesting conversation, Eleanor shares her rise up through the ranks at Infosecurity Magazine and how she has, over time, become more and more passionate about diversity and inclusion in the industry. She also reports on how startups seem to be surviving the challenges brought on by the global pandemic.

Eleanor also shares her tips for the things she will be looking for in an entry to the Tech Trailblazers Awards. So, over to Rose Ross, Founder of the Tech Trailblazers Awards, as she interviews Eleanor Dallaway in our twelfth Judges on Fire podcast.


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Interview transcript

Rose Ross: Hello everybody, and welcome to Judges on Fire the Tech Trailblazers pod/videocast, where we speak with our judges for the awards. I’m Rose Ross, I’m the Chief Trailblazer and founder of the Tech Trailblazers. And I’m delighted to be joined here by Eleanor Dallaway, who is Editorial Director of Infosecurity magazine, one of our partners. Hi Eleanor.

Eleanor Dallaway: Hi, thanks for having me.

Rose Ross: You’re very welcome. very welcome. Well, it’s lovely for you to join us. Obviously, we’ve been having an exciting time, and we’ve known each other for a number of years. I was just Googling that great tea bar that we had tea just above the Moscone Centre back at RSA. I hate to say, it’s probably about a decade ago, possibly, not that we’re old enough to have gone to RSA ten years ago, but.

So, it’s been a little while. Obviously, things have changed a little bit since then; we’ve all been experiencing a different way of working and living, and weirdly enough we’re quite geographically close, but despite that, we haven’t seen each other for a couple of years. The offices for Infosecurity magazine are probably about half an hour away, something like that, and obviously we haven’t had Infosecurity Europe for a little while.

Eleanor Dallaway: I think the last time I saw you Rose was in the airport, on the way to San Francisco which was for RSA just before lockdown. I think I remember seeing you at Heathrow at the boarding gate, which is where you typically catch up with your Infosec pals at Heathrow!

Rose Ross: Exactly, you guys were already in the queue for the flight, you were there with Dan.

Eleanor Dallaway: That’s right.

Rose Ross: It’s s a strange, small world that we live in for sure. I hope most people who are in the security space know who you are, but could you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what your role is at Infosecurity magazine, and then we can chat a little bit about what you’re seeing in the market and such like.

Eleanor Dallaway: Yes, I’m currently the Editorial Director at Infosecurity magazine. I’ve been with the magazine, for my sins, since 2006, which is insane; so this is my 15th year, and I’ve worked my way up the ranks; I joined as assistant editor, worked my way up through editor, publisher and now to editorial director.

Before that I was a trained journalist, a literature graduate from Loughborough, and somehow landed myself a journalism role in cybersecurity, and thought I’d give it a go. And here I am, 15 years later, and like many people have just organically progressed and fallen in love with an industry that I didn’t expect to. So, here I am.

Rose Ross: Fantastic. Well, as I always like to say, because I’m similar really, I did marketing and then kind of fell into tech, and I say I’m a technologist by osmosis. So, no formal training.

It’s great to have you involved with the awards, you bring an abundance of experience with looking at the startup space, which is obviously where we’re looking and specialising in cyber security. What are you starting to see? Obviously, it’s been a very interesting year, there have been lots of changes in the way that businesses work, the threat landscape has changed somewhat. What things are you seeing that are kind of hot, particularly in the startups that may well be approaching the magazine to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing something interesting. We’d like to talk to you’?

Eleanor Dallaway: I think the amazing thing is, we’re probably still seeing as many startups post-pandemic as we were pre, which is a really good sign for the sector. What are we seeing?

So, there’s a lot in the space of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and zero trust is something that is very big at the moment. The pandemic has obviously forced people to work in a very different way to what they’re used to. So, the technology shifts that have happened as a result of that have brought about different or perhaps the same security challenges, but just on a bigger scale, because suddenly everyone is dealing with that working from home, the mobility, even more than they were before.

I think innovation, luckily, has not been stifled. I judge the DCMS, the UK government’s DCMS Innovation Competition each spring and the entrants this year were just as wonderful and dynamic and innovative as always, so it’s nice to see that there hasn’t been a slowdown. I think AI is probably the exciting place to watch at the moment, but yes, we’re seeing people enter the markets in all types of technology areas, so it’s great.

Rose Ross: Yes, it’s exciting times. And fortunately, as you say, from the early signs at the beginning we’re not seeing that it’s had much of an impact on the number of cybersecurity startups, or startups in general. In fact, I think in some ways they’re realising that the kind of recognition that they’ll get from awards like this is very beneficial to them, and they do need to stand out from the crowd, because I’m sure there are plenty of people knocking on your door, and your colleagues’ door saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a story for you, we’ve got an interesting new product, we’ve got an interesting area in the market that maybe you guys haven’t seen before’. So, that’s great.

Based on your experience, you’ve talked about what you do with DCMS Innovation Awards at the beginning of the year, and you’ve been involved with, I’m sure, seeing a lot of pitches even if it was from a story perspective, but usually it comes from a technology perspective. What kind of things this year are going to grab your attention, because this is the first time you’ll have done it, and obviously we look at a number of key elements which I’m sure you’re going to be very keen on, are innovation we’ve spoken about, leadership, agility, and things like diversity. So, what kind of things will help people stand out in your mind?

Eleanor Dallaway: It’s a good question. I guess I’m a traditional journalist in the sense that the way a story is told can sometimes captivate me. I think the way a startup is able to articulate what it does, what challenge it solves, why it’s needed, is really important especially in the awards process. Things that I would look for, I think simplicity actually, and that may come across like a bit of an oxymoron, given the complexity and the depth to cybersecurity technology. But there’s a real magic and a maturity in being able to articulate something that’s very complicated and intricate, very simply, and I think quite often with this process you just know when you’ve stumbled across a diamond – that does really make me sound like a literature student with that kind of romantic idealistic take on it, finding the one when it comes to cybersecurity innovation, but I certainly think that’s true. But being unique and being simple, being able to articulate it simply, I think, is what always catches my attention.

Rose Ross: Yes, and what you’re just saying made me think a little bit about the process of saying, Mr. Right, or Mr. Right now, and I kind of think that timing is important as well, because sometimes you see some amazing technology, which is maybe just a little bit ahead of the wave, or just a bit behind. So, somebody’s already done it, and perhaps has captured the imagination and the cheque books of the technology world! So, enterprise departments…

Eleanor Dallaway: If there’s a genuine need for something, if there’s a genuine gap in the market, then quite often you’re going to see more than one company, or more than one person identify that gap in the market, and rush to fill it. So, when you see quite a few people in a similar area, I guess what that does is just make you realise that there really is that gap in the market that needs to be filled. It’s like you say, the timing needs to be so spot on because if you’re too late someone else will have done it, and if you’re too early people won’t really truly understand the need for that. So, it’s a tightrope for sure.

Rose Ross: We’ve certainly seen that with entrants where people have maybe not made a shortlist, got in a shortlist, and then maybe in the next year they won, because technology obviously will have developed over that period of time, but maybe it also came then at a good time. And in cybersecurity, are you starting to see startups pivoting because of what’s happened around remote working, and digital transformation acceleration?

Eleanor Dallaway: Do you mean pivoting in terms of evolving their offering?

Rose Ross: Yeah.

Eleanor Dallaway: I’m trying to identify any examples of that [pause] not that I can think of, off the top of my head, or that I’m aware of, but I would be surprised if that wasn’t happening. I’m not sure that that is necessarily specific or unique to a pandemic, I think as time evolves and trends change, and needs and challenges and businesses need different things, I think that probably happens anyway. Is the pandemic a bit of a catalyst for that? Perhaps, but no – I can’t think of any examples.

Rose Ross: Well, it’s interesting, I think it’s probably accelerated some and made some more pertinent, more topical, more relevant for enterprises, as they’ve moved through this and then adapted to that.

We’ve talking about the kind of things you’re looking for, for simplicity, you want to see a need that’s addressed, made in a clear and concise way. Anything else that you’ll be looking for, because we do have other categories, we’ve talked about the cybersecurity, the Security Trailblazers. We were talking before we came onto the call officially, that you’ve been a huge ambassador for diversity and for women in cybersecurity, we do have the Female Trailblazer, and we’ve also got the Diversity Trailblazer, so that’s certainly something we’d like to see you get involved with and having a look at. What have you seen around the ecosystem promoting equality, the whole DEI situation?

Eleanor Dallaway: Two questions there, so the first one; what else am I looking for I think you said, ultimately the businesses or the trailblazers – to use your tech – that come forward and have the customer always completely at the heart of what they do is always something we’re looking for. I think it’s really easy to lose sight of that customer and get carried away by the fancy, flashy boxes and technology, but it’s the people that know what they’re selling, they know it inside out, they know that at heart, and they know who it is they’re trying to help. I think that is what we’re looking for.

In terms of the diversity piece, yes absolutely, those categories – if we were asked to have a specialism or a special category at Trailblazers that we’d be particularly passionate about, that would definitely be mine. Diversity and Inclusion, as you say, it has rocketed quite rightly up the agenda in the cybersecurity industry. In terms of getting the timing right, if anything it’s too late, it’s something we’ve needed for a long time. And are we at the place yet where we’re doing enough in that space? Probably not, but we’re definitely making huge movements towards that.

So, like you say, it’s something that I am passionate about. I’ve taken the role on my team of being the sort of the people person, I try and shy away from all the articles about technology now, because I just want to spend all my time interviewing people, getting to know the professionals at the heart of this industry, and yes, I’ve focused a lot on diversity as part of that. So, that’s definitely my sweet spot, and I’m really looking forward to that category in particular. And I know that there’s the Chief Experience Officer category as well, the CxO categories.

You mentioned we’ve broken down man and woman, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think definitely I’ve got a soft spot for the female category, of course, I’ve been a great ambassador of women in tech, and we run our own Women in Tech events. It’s something I’ve written about not just for Infosecurity magazine, but white papers for the government and things, so I’m really passionate about it. I sit on the fence when it comes to the separating of the awards, but it is what it is and I’m looking forward to seeing what talent comes forward in both of those categories.

Rose Ross: Yes, it’s always a challenge really, because I wanted to do the same, I wanted to spotlight female Trailblazers, but then from an equal standpoint, we needed to have male Trailblazers as well.

You’ve talked to us about what you’re doing with the UK Government and stuff around the world, people are seeing that as basically making sure that tech is open to everyone, and that people who have a talent or an interest and have something to bring, that they seriously consider entering the profession, and that’s amazing. Are you seeing a lot of people focusing on cybersecurity skills, for example are you seeing a lot of accelerators, are you seeing a lot of government initiatives both in the UK, and I guess globally speaking?

Eleanor Dallaway: Yeah, there absolutely is. If you take a look at the UK Cyber Council, which launched officially this year alongside the NCSC, there’s a lot happening about the professionalisation of the industry and the Council is on a mission to be able to do that. I think, continued education, investment in recruitment, investment in upskilling, it’s all good, really good signs. We talk about this enormous skills gap that we have [pause] I don’t know, sometimes I think we do ourselves a disservice as an industry with the way we market our profession. And I think sometimes it’s less about whether or not our industry has those vacancies, it’s actually advertising ourselves better so that people want to get into the industry.

And that’s something I found in all the work I’ve done around closing the gender gap, we need to make the infosecurity or cybersecurity profession an industry that people want to join. And that’s something that we need to really embrace and work on, before we even think about anything else. So, there’s a huge amount of work being done, and government agencies – yes, it’s all happening and it’s all really positive.

Rose Ross: I had a great conversation with a young lad who was in the sixth form, who had done a competition with Young Enterprise and was going forward with his team to Europe to represent the UK, and he said a great thing, and I’m curious about what you think, because you’ve got little people, and I have a slightly less little person! But, he said basically that he didn’t see a career in technology as attainable, just because of the way he perceived people like Tesla, Elon Musk, and the people who are seen as being the representatives of the tech industry in the ongoing media, really.

Are you seeing that’s something that’s starting to change as well? And is that part of the equality opportunity that we have right now?

Eleanor Dallaway: Yes, I think there has been evolution in the curriculum. Definitely young people are taught technology and ICT skills at a much younger age than we ever were, so there’s huge progress in that. In terms of a tech career being attainable, I’ve actually never thought of it like that; I always think that a tech career seems very attainable, but a more niche cybersecurity career seems a little bit more… there’s not many well-trodden paths into that industry. It doesn’t help when people like me, and all the people I interview say, ‘Well, we just kind of fell into this industry by accident’, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche that’s so true for so many, and serendipity has brought so many people into this industry, that I do believe it’s our responsibility to start making these paths and advertising them.

I’m surprised about people thinking that generally a tech career is unattainable. Children grow up today thinking it’s profitable, it’s a well-paid career. I think it’s seen as cooler now than it used to be.

Rose Ross: Absolutely true with the iPhone and other tech that they’re all hanging onto.

Eleanor Dallaway: Yeah, exactly, so I think it’s a combination of factors, which will mean that a lot of the younger generation will certainly move into. But you also have to look at the nature of the work as the world has evolved, there are more tech jobs now than they used to be. You look at artificial intelligence, you look at robots in shops, and all sorts of things, and we need more people programming the computers to do the job. So, it’s natural isn’t it, that that’s the way the world’s going.

Rose Ross: Certainly, a burgeoning industry. And I think that’s very true, particularly people who are now at a senior, more advanced part of their career. I would say almost all the ones that I know as well have come from a different… they haven’t gone specifically into cyber security, they’ve come into tech and then they’ve shuffled into it – drawn into it, maybe not shuffled into it! But then I’m sure it goes the other way as well, I’m sure people who go into cybersecurity will end up having a slightly different role as they follow their passions, or where they really start to see where they can contribute and want to contribute within an enterprise, or within that ecosystem. So, good stuff.

We’re looking forward to getting things done, you are going to hopefully be on a very enjoyable and relaxed break very soon. So, thank you so much for joining us Eleanor before you head off, although hopefully by the time you’re live, you’ll be, well, not quite back again!

Eleanor Dallaway: I don’t even want to start thinking about coming back!

Rose Ross: We won’t talk about that, we’ll forget about that, well you’re about to go. Hopefully, we’ll get to do tea either near the offices or in San Francisco again soon.

Eleanor Dallaway: Oh, I hope so, I’ve really missed the travel. I miss going to these amazing places that we have the opportunities to do, I miss connecting with an industry face-to-face. As a journalist you want to get those stories, and you want to get to know people so that you can tell their story as best you can, and it’s so hard to do that behind a computer screen. So, I miss that interaction desperately, and I can’t wait to get back to business events and interviews soon. So, yeah schedule me in for that tea.

Rose Ross: Sounds good to me. Well, thank you Eleanor.

It’s Eleanor Dalloway, who’s the editorial director at Infosecurity magazine, who we’re delighted is joining us this year as one of our judges.

My name is Rose Ross, and I’m the founder and Chief Trailblazer at the Trailblazers, and you have been joining us for a Judges on Fire video/podcast. Thank you very much.