Cate Reich

Client Innovation Services Lead, Cyber Fusion Center
Security Manager, Accenture Security

Can you describe your background & path to Accenture?

I'm based in the Metro DC area and have lived here my whole life. In my personal life, I’m a working mom of three kids, nine, eight, and four. Professionally, I lead Client Innovation Services at the Accenture Security Cyber Fusion Center, where I work with clients across industries to tackle complex cybersecurity challenges and enable resilient operations. Since joining Accenture, I have had experiences in incident response, cyber risk management, medical device security and software / platform security. I have aspirations to continuously grow not only in Accenture, but most importantly make an impact on future generations and be a true servant leader in the industry.

Prior to joining Accenture I worked for the Department of Defense, where a great boss and mentor encouraged me to pursue my career in cybersecurity, which started with me returning to school for my Masters of Science degree in Cybersecurity. During my time with DoD I served as a key member launching several inclusion and diversity initiatives including a STEM Internship program for Historically Black Colleges/Universities and Minority Service Institutions as well as a Girls for Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) program at a local elementary school.

How do you manage your time and maintain a work-life balance?

I have always been very independent and empowered, so I started working when I was 14. My work ethic has really helped my career in cyber because it’s very demanding especially being a working mom and a woman in a very male-dominated space. For me, the balance comes from learning to prioritize and how to say no gracefully. Earlier in my career, I said yes to everything, so people would count on me, but what about me?

What I’ve learned about prioritizing is that when someone asks for your help, make sure you understand as much as you can about the task and time commitment and why they need you specifically. Then ask to get back to them after you evaluate your schedule because time is the most valuable asset you have.
As a working mom, the time I spend with my kids is so limited. I definitely hit a few seminole moments in my career where I was turning into this person who could never give herself enough grace to pause and enjoy the moment. So I started to look at my time as currency and determine what matters to the business and what matters to my personal mission to understand how I should spend that time best.

What do you like about the cybersecurity/ tech industry and what ways do you think it could improve?

I really like that a career in cyber can be so diverse. Cybersecurity is a team sport and requires the attention of all team members, and a diverse skillset to get it right. Yes, we need technical talents, but we also need business intelligence to be able to quantify the risk a cyber threat can present. More and more organizations are realizing how valuable diverse skills are in a security org - if you think a career in cyber is not for you or for a specific kind of person - think again.

As for areas to improve, the industry is making great strides in empowering and supporting women as they advance through a cybersecurity career, but we still see a lot of attrition at the midpoint of a woman’s career. Some suggest this is due to women leaving the workforce to start a family, but I recently participated in a research project that interviewed leading female security executives to get their perspective. What was interesting is many indicated women left the career because of uncertain career paths, lack of advocacy at the higher ranks, and a lack of support for their growth and development. All three of these challenges are easy to respond to as an industry and the more we own this and work together, across organizations, to resolve it, the better we will be in the future.

Do you have any advice for students on how they can work on discovering & later maintaining their “authentic self”?

From a professional standpoint, I am always evolving my brand.. I think you need to examine your professional attributes in the light of what inspires and drives you. This is how you can take yourself to the next level and get the most out of your career.

So what I would do early and often, is develop a career profile of what you've done and what you want to do in the future. I like change, and embracing new challenges,and working at Accenture allows me to pivot into new spaces because it’s such a large company that supports all industries and security specializations Don’t be afraid to try something on for size and have the courage to make a change if it's not a good fit for you (personally or professionally). It sounds utopian, but you will know when you’ve come across a place you want to stay and play at, and this is a great thing.

I think we have to invest in ourselves and be intentional about who we look up to. When I find mentors, they fill at least one of these three areas.

  1. They are someone who I can look up to and follow.
  2. They need to be someone who I can identify with. Do they share similar challenges or concerns I do? Did they have similar goals? Are they in a similar space in their life, i.e. working mom?
  3. They are someone who represents the characteristics that I strive for in leadership.
One person I look up to is my mom. She's one of my best mentors and there’s not a day goes by that I don't talk to her. She's a working professional and worked for AT&T for 41 years. I bounce a lot of ideas off of her and she gives me courage and provides the business acumen to see things from a pragmatic lens.

What advice would you give to young girls pursuing a career in STEM or a male-dominated field?

I truly believe that when you want to achieve something, the universe conspires to bring it to you. Roadblocks mysteriously move out of the way when you articulate that vision through your actions and words. Your leadership sees it, which opens doors for you. Your personal life feels the energy and it creates bumpers along the road to keep you out of the ditch. I had a rally of champions behind me while I was pursuing my degree and in switching to a cyber career. It was my boss at the time who inspired me, he said “Cate, the universe wants you to do something. It conspires to bring it to you”.