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TCE Exclusive: Yana Li Journey From Adversity To Excellence

For those embarking on similar paths, Yana's story offers guidance, encouragement, and a steadfast belief in the limitless possibilities within cybersecurity.

by Samiksha Jain June 24th, 2024 Share on LinkedInShare on Twitter

Yana Li, Director of IT & Platform Security at WebBeds, embodies resilience, determination, and a passion for cybersecurity that has propelled her from a challenging childhood to a leadership role in one of the most critical sectors of IT.

Recently honored for her contributions at the World CyberCon Meta Edition, Yana’s path to cybersecurity wasn’t straightforward. In a candid interview with The Cyber Express (TCE), Yana reflects on her journey, the challenges she faced, and her unwavering commitment to empowering women in cybersecurity.

Early Challenges and Discovering Passion

Yana’s childhood was marked by financial hardship and the absence of familial support. Emerging from a modest upbringing in Russia, she navigated childhood challenges with an independent spirit and unwavering resolve. Opportunities are to be seized,” Yana reflects, recalling how she secured a full scholarship for Computer Science and Engineering studies in the United States, setting the stage for her remarkable journey through the realms of IT and cybersecurity.

Her career trajectory initially flourished in technical support and project management, roles that equipped her with a profound understanding of IT infrastructures. However, it was a pivotal security project that ignited Yana’s passion for cybersecurity.

“It’s not merely a project,” she realized; “it opens doors to a whole new world.” This revelation spurred her to further her education, including a transformative semester at Harvard focused on cybersecurity, where she engaged with industry leaders and broadened her expertise significantly.

Yana Li Breaking Barriers in a Male-Dominated Field

Entering the IT field in 2013, particularly in Russia, Yana confronted a stark reality of gender disparity. The industry was predominantly male, and discouragement was a constant companion. “They tried to tell you that you don’t have it,” Yana recalls, referring to the discouragement she faced early in her career.

Despite these obstacles, Yana persevered, buoyed by a growing network of supportive communities and initiatives aimed at empowering women in cybersecurity. “There’s so much support now,” she emphasizes, citing numerous organizations and communities dedicated to mentoring and guiding aspiring female professionals.

Championing Diversity and Mentorship

Reflecting on her journey, Yana is keenly aware of the importance of mentorship and advocacy. As an ambassador for Google’s Women Techmakers initiative, she actively champions diversity and inclusivity in tech fields. “I want to be the person I needed when I was younger,” she affirms, emphasizing the need for aspiring professionals to believe in their capabilities and seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support.

Her message resonates deeply: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” Yana emphasizes the importance of seeking mentorship, leveraging community resources, and believing in the limitless potential within oneself.

In addressing the persistent gender gap in cybersecurity, Yana stresses the abundance of resources available today. From women-focused cybersecurity councils to mentorship programs offered by tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, opportunities for growth and support abound. “Don’t be shy,” she encourages, urging women to leverage these resources and reach out for assistance when needed. “We’ve all been there,” she reassures, highlighting the collective experience and solidarity within the community. “Just ask for help and believe that anything is possible.”

Advice for Aspiring Women in Cybersecurity

Looking ahead, Yana remains optimistic about the future of cybersecurity and the role women will play in shaping its landscape. With increasing awareness and concerted efforts to foster diversity, she believes the field is ripe for innovation and transformation. “Anything in this world is possible,” she asserts, a testament to her own journey and the limitless potential she sees in aspiring cybersecurity professionals.

In conclusion, Yana Li’s story is not just one of personal triumph but a testament to the transformative power of passion and perseverance in cybersecurity. As women continue to carve out their place in this critical field, Yana stands as a role model, advocating for inclusivity, empowerment, and excellence. Her journey reminds us that with dedication and support, barriers can be overcome, and dreams can be realized.

For those embarking on similar paths, Yana’s story offers guidance, encouragement, and a steadfast belief in the limitless possibilities within cybersecurity.

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