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Bury the silos, break the bias and accelerate diversity

Sanne Aagaard, Marketing Manager

It was really in the cards for Sanne Aagaard to be a PhD. in ethnology and sociology, but on the way to that goal she got the chance to teach corporate branding, storytelling, and communication. She seized that chance, and it sent her career in a new direction – which has now led her to the position of Marketing Manager in Orange Cyberdefense Denmark.

Sanne Aagaard has been employed at Orange Cyberdefense since the beginning of 2022, but her career began completely different in 2001, when she, with a Master’s degree in European Ethnology and Sociology, was hired as an associate professor at Aarhus Business University, to help develop a completely new business education at the Institute for Communication, while she at the same time took a Graduate Certificate in Organization & Cooperation in the evening. This ignited an interest in organizational culture that has followed her ever since. Four years later she switched tracks to the advertising industry when she was employed at a marketing agency in Copenhagen. Here she worked with B2C marketing and gained an in-depth knowledge of the FMCG market and the retail industry. At the same time, she started a family and had four children, before she again changed tracks and started working with enterprise B2B marketing. First as Head of Marketing, Branding & Communication in an engineering company, before she became Marketing Manager in the IT and Telco industry, where cyber security became one of her most important focus areas. Therefore, the switch to Orange Cyberdefense also felt very natural to her when the opportunity arose.

Strategy, coordination, execution and collaboration go hand in hand

At Orange Cyberdefense, Sanne is responsible for developing and executing the company's overall marketing, branding, PR, and communication strategy - the foundation for increasing the visibility and awareness of Orange Cyberdefense's brand on the Danish security market where the aim is always to appear as the customers' preferred cyber security partner.

"Fundamentally, it is my responsibility to increase the visibility and awareness of Orange Cyberdefense's brand, so that we can strengthen our position in Denmark and execute on our overall goal of being our customers' preferred supplier of cyber security solutions and Managed Security Services in Europe. Our ambition is to be the natural first choice when they need a strong business partner and Trusted Expert Advisor within cyber security. Therefore, it’s important that we always appear professional and trustworthy in the eyes of our customers and business partners. This applies both when they read about us in the media, interact with us via our own digital channels and social platforms - and when they meet at various events and seminars", explains Sanne.

In addition to all the Danish activities, there is also a close alignment and a close cooperation regarding campaigns, events, webinars, PR, and communication across the Nordic countries. Sanne has the overall responsibility for driving and coordinating this, in close collaboration with her other marketing colleagues in the Nordic marketing team.

"At Orange Cyberdefense, we collaborate internationally – this also applies to MarCom. Although we are a large organization with more than 3,000 employees and offices in 12 countries, we collaborate across countries, especially within the Nordic region, and of course also with Orange Cyberdefense Group's marketing and communication teams. They run and coordinate several global activities – from events and webinars to various lead-generating activities and branding campaigns, which we tap into", says Sanne.

A meaningful working life

What particularly motivates Sanne is working with projects she is extra passionate about, where she has special skills to offer and the potential to make a significant difference. It is often within the areas of marketing, communication, and branding; but it can also be more general projects and tasks regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion to create a better gender balance internally in the organization - and in the IT and cyber security industry in general. Therefore, she has, among other things, agreed to support and be part of WOMEN@OrangeCyberdefense's core team, as it is an initiative that focuses on creating more awareness around the entire DE&I agenda, which is close to Sanne's heart.

"For me, a meaningful working life is very much about how I can contribute to push things in the right direction, make a positive difference and impact different areas of the organization in a way that creates value for me, my colleagues and the entire company. To be able to do that, you sometimes must challenge the status quo, ask different questions, and dare to come up with new solutions to old problems. It may also be necessary to move the spotlight on new important focus areas that may not have received as much attention before. I am e.g. very interested in the whole Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda and I’m concerned about how we can make it a higher priority area internally in Orange Cyberdefense. I think it’s a topic of incredibly importance and I find it exciting and motivating to work with initiatives such as highlighting more of Orange Cyberdefense's many talented female employees, not necessarily because they are women, but because they are exceptionally good at their jobs and are excellent representatives of our company, because we all need role models, we can reflect in and be inspired by. I think that’s important if we want to attract more women to our company - and the cyber security industry in general", says Sanne.

Silos - no thanks

In addition, she also spends time breaking down silos. It happens i.a. by getting involved in projects that helps strengthen the collaboration and the various cooperation processes across the entire organization - both in the Danish organization, but also between the countries and in relation to Orange Cyberdefense Group.

"To me cooperation is key. I think silo-thinking is outdated – just like the zero-mistake culture, so let's burry it as soon as possible. For us to perform we must collaborate and work efficiently, which means making optimal use of our time and resources. Since I’m a bit of a "popcorn brain" type, I constantly get inspired, and experience new ideas pop up when I collaborate with people who challenge me and bring new and different perspectives into play. That’s why I'm a big fan of collaboration, and I like to return some of all the inspiration and energy I get from all the working communities I’m a part of to my colleagues. For me, it's a good day when I can tell from the feedback, I get that I'm succeeding in this area. That makes me happy", says Sanne.

Passion is a part of Orange Cyberdefense’s DNA

Having worked in very different industries and organizations, Sanne believes that Orange Cyberdefense has a very special organizational culture. One of the first things she noticed was that many of her colleagues are very passionate and take great pride in their work. In general, she meets great commitment throughout the entire organization, which is not something you can always take for granted. At times it can feel a bit overwhelming, but for Sanne it is very positive, because dedicated colleagues always provide an opportunity to learn and get great feedback. Since everyone in the organization is an expert in their field, she makes great use of their knowledge and insight in her daily work. She often finds that the best results are created when everyone contributes to elevate each other’s game.

"If I should describe what characterize Orange Cyberdefense as a workplace in one word, it would be "passion": Passion for cyber security. Passion for making a real difference to people. Passion for building a safer digital society. That's the common denominator for all the people I work with daily. To me passion is the very backbone of Orange Cyberdefense and a part of the company's special DNA", says Sanne.

I probably thought cyber security was a bit nerdy

Before Sanne entered the industry, she had not given much thought to what it would be like to work with cyber security. From a distance, it seemed mostly nerdy and rather male-dominated, and she had doubts about whether it could motivate her to work with marketing, branding, and communication within such a relatively narrow and specialized field. She quickly had to revise that opinion. Therefore, she also wants to puncture some of the prejudices about the industry.

"When I talk to people who know nothing about the cyber security industry or Orange Cyberdefense, I always emphasize that it is a really exciting industry to be a part of. My work is very meaningful, interesting, and challenging. I experience a great variety in my work tasks. No two days are alike. This applies regardless of whether I work at home, remotely or in the office – it's never boring", says Sanne.

With four children, Sanne also appreciates the great freedom and flexibility in terms of organizing her work, which Orange Cyberdefense offer all employees. She emphasizes that there is a mutual trust, which makes it easy to create a good work-life balance. In addition, she also emphasizes that there are plenty of exciting career opportunities for both men and women in the company – even if you are not a techie who is an expert in coding and JavaScript.

Woman in a man's world

When asked what Sanne thinks about being a woman in a male-dominated industry and whether it is something she reflects on daily, she answers:

"Yes and no! I don't think about it daily, when I solve my tasks or participate in meetings and various events, where most of the participants are usually men. There, I don't focus so much on the lack of diversity, because I assume that we are all there because we are competent and each of us has something important to offer to the team. But if we e.g. are talking about some tasks that need to be solved and one of my male colleagues says that we must find the "best man" for the job, then I always correct it to "best person". However, it always happens with a smile on my face. In general, I don't think it's a problem to have many male colleagues and I'm in no way standing on the barricades waving the women's flag. But when I switch into helicopter mode and take on my DE&I glasses, it becomes a little more challenging for me to neglect the issue. Then I can't help but reflect on why most of my female colleagues in the industry, typically work with either Marketing, Communication or HR and to a lesser extent with e.g. Sales and Finance. And if I look at the proportion of women consultants with a more technical background and the part that work with monitoring, research and analysis, the number of female employees is significantly lower. It shouldn’t be that way, and somehow, I feel obliged to try to do something about it. It’s a complex situation though, and it will probably not change before more women start applying to STEM educations and get more interested in and attracted to the whole Tech, IT, and cyber security industry. I hope this will happen as the new digitally native generations become a greater part of the workforce.”

Cybercrime is the world's third largest economy

When Sanne describes why it is so exciting to work with marketing, branding, and communication in Orange Cyberdefense, you get a clear answer:

"The point is that Orange Cyberdefense and the entire cyber security industry are developing rapidly. The cybercriminals are constantly becoming more skilled, more creative, and more organized. Cybercrime is currently estimated to be the world's third largest economy, only surpassed by the economies of the United States and China. It's crazy to think about, but it's connected to the increased digitization in society, which of course brings us closer together, but also makes us more dependent on all the technological solutions we use daily. This creates a lot of advantages, but at the same time it also makes us more vulnerable and exposed to attacks. If that's not interesting, relevant, and meaningful to communicate about, then I don't know what is", says Sanne and continues:

"Although we have never been more focused on fighting cybercrime and never spent more resources on protecting ourselves and building a firmer resilience to attacks, we have never been more exposed than we are today. It is, after all, a huge paradox. This is one of the reasons why I think the cyber security industry is so exciting. There is always a lot of new things happening that you must learn and deal with. To me it makes sense that we do everything in our power to overcome this, because cyberattacks are a constant threat to our businesses, our society, and the economy.  Regardless of whether we are talking about cyber extortion (ransomware attacks), overload attacks (DDoS) or hacktivism and cyber espionage we must stop the negative development and put a stick in the wheel of the organized cybercrime, and I would like to be a part of the environment that does that."

Diversity is more than gender equality and gender balance

Personally, Sanne would like to see more women in the IT and cyber security industry, because they are needed. Sadly, many women may not discover that it’s an industry that offers many exciting career opportunities because they don’t look in that direction when they choose education. Also in this regard, Sanne hopes to see a broader diversity debate.

"The diversity debate must not be limited to a debate about gender equality – it must not turn into a battle between men and women. In my view, the agenda is broader than that. It’s related to how we create a more open, transparent, and equal society and how we shape the labor market of the future, so that cultural norms, socio-economic structures, and various biases, e.g. regarding choice of education, future job and career opportunities do not become barriers. It's about creating equal opportunities for everyone regardless of who you are, and which background you have", says Sanne.

Therefore, she argues that diversity is something that everyone should invest time and resources in, while it’s important to work consciously and purposefully to promote diversity everywhere in society and in all companies. She believes that it’s everyone's responsibility to create the necessary changes.

"Diversity is something everyone should allocate dedicated resources to - and set clear data-driven goals for – if we want to succeed in creating noticeable - and sustainable changes. I think time has shown that we can no longer just stand by and hope that the diversity will increase organically by itself, because that is far from the case – which the IT and cyber security industry is unfortunately an example of. But if you ask me if I am in favor of women's quotas and giving special advantages to attract more women into the industry or get more female CEOs and more women into the boardrooms, I am not quite there - yet", says Sanne.

Without inclusion, there is no diversity

According to Sanne, one of the keys to attracting more women and creating more diversity in the IT and cyber security industry is to focus more on inclusion, because as Sanne says: "Without inclusion there is no diversity".

"Orange Cyberdefense already does a lot to make all employees feel included but it’s an area in which we can constantly develop and improve. We are over 3,000 people in the organization. All of us have different skills, different experiences, different cultural backgrounds, etc., but we work together, and each of us contribute with something different to the team. This nurture the creativity and innovation across the organization. Although I am not an expert in cyber security, I feel that I’m included, respected, and recognized equally to my colleagues, and this reflects to a large extend the culture of Orange Cyberdefense. Seen from a communication perspective, this is something we must incorporate into our communication strategy – it is something we must communicate if we want to attract and retain all the different talents we need in the future. All studies show that diversity increases companies' growth and development potential, that it helps to create better results - and that ultimately it also has a positive impact on the bottom line. So, for me it's a no-brainer that it's an area we need to pay more attention to", says Sanne.

The future is Orange

As the geopolitical situation evolves in relation to the global power balance and the balance between the cyber criminals who are constantly attacking our critical infrastructure on the one hand - and all that is being done to build a stronger cyber defense on the other hand, so that we become better to prevent, resist and overcome the many attacks, Sanne sees an exciting and meaningful career in cyber security ahead of her. Therefore, she can easily see herself staying at Orange Cyberdefense for the next several years.

"I don't have a firm career plan set in stone, but I have some ambitions that I would very much like to see us succeed with in the team, I'm part of in the coming years. I'm quite focused on that now. I also have a personal ambition to continue to build strong, close, and trusting relationships with even more of my colleagues across the organization and expand my network within the industry in the coming years. In addition, of course, I intend to stay on top of my game while I continue learning new skills and seeking influence within the areas, I am passionate about and can influence, so that we can accelerate the positive development and create even better results together in the future", she concludes.

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