Arbnora Tahiri, Interim CISO, Visma

Born and raised in Kosovo, Arbnora Tahiri moved to Norway at 23 to pursue a Master’s in Information Security at NTNU Gjøvik. Her career spans strategic security management, risk assessments, penetration testing, security audits, and cloud security. She holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and a Master’s in Information Security, with certifications in CISSP, CEH, ISO/IEC 27001 Lead Implementer, and CCSK. Currently, she leads security at Visma, Norway’s largest software conglomerate, and serve on the Cloud Security Alliance Norway board. Recognized as one of Norway’s Top 50 Women in Tech for 2024, she advocates for diversity, believing it fosters creativity and innovation.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Arbnora shared her professional trajectory, insights on the most demanding challenges faced by CISOs today, the best piece of advice she has ever received, the secret mantra behind her success, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Arbnora. How did you get your start in cybersecurity/tech?

I got into cybersecurity by pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in University of Prishtina, and later a Master’s in Information Security from Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My interest in digital security grew during my studies, and I sought out roles that allowed me to apply my knowledge practically. My initial positions involved security controls, vulnerability management, and penetration testing, transitioning to more management-oriented positions later on, which solidified my passion for the field.

What’s one question related to cybersecurity that you are frequently asked in your current role?

A frequently asked question in my current role is, “How can we ensure that our security measures keep pace with the rapidly evolving threat landscape?” I think this question highlights the constant need for adaptation and proactive measures in cybersecurity.

You are also a Board Member of Cloud Security Alliance Norway. Can you please tell us about this organisation and your role in it?

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Norway is a chapter of the global CSA, dedicated to promoting best practices for securing cloud computing. As a board member, my role involves guiding the chapter’s initiatives, organizing events, and collaborating with industry leaders to advance cloud security awareness and education.

In your opinion, what are the most demanding challenges that CISOs are currently facing in their roles?

In my opinion, most of the CISOs today face several demanding challenges, such as staying ahead of advanced cyber threats, managing regulatory compliance, and ensuring that security measures do not interfere with business operations. Balancing these responsibilities while maintaining a proactive security posture is a major challenge.

What does working in cybersecurity mean on a practical level, and what kinds of skills/personality traits are an asset in the field?

Working in cybersecurity means constantly monitoring, assessing, and mitigating risks to protect digital assets, so you need to have analytical thinking skills, attention to details and also technical knowledge, but during my work experience I’ve found that social skills are equally important. Being able to effectively communicate complex security issues to non-technical colleagues and collaborate across departments is crucial.

Personally, I enjoy the dynamic nature of cybersecurity and the satisfaction of solving complex problems while working with a diverse team to keep our digital world secure.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion in your field? How important is it to have authentic conversations with leaders, professionals, and changemakers to create more acceptance across the globe?

It is still a sad fact that women continue to be underrepresented in the tech field. Having more diversity in the technology industry brings many benefits. I believe that different perspectives and experiences lead to more creative problem-solving, better decision-making, and ultimately, more innovative products and solutions.

I think that with a diverse team, we would have access to a wider range of perspectives and experiences, which would be extremely valuable when it comes to solving complex problems and challenges. This could give us a competitive advantage and help drive the industry forward.

In your academic or work career, were there any mentors who have helped you grow along the way? What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To be honest, no. While growing up, I didn’t have any particular role models to look up to. I found myself having to navigate my own path without any guiding figures. I think that lacking role models made my journey in this male-dominated industry particularly challenging. That’s why I think it’s so important to change this dynamic.

The best piece of advice I received was to embrace continuous learning and stay curious. This mindset has helped me adapt and thrive in the ever-evolving field of cybersecurity.

You were recently recognized as one of Norway’s Top 50 Leading Women in Tech, 2024. Our readers would love to know the secret mantra behind your success.

There is no big secret actually. It is just a combination of passion, perseverance, and continuous learning. Staying updated with industry trends, seeking out new challenges, and being dedicated to my goals have been key drivers in my career. Also support of mentors, colleagues, and networks within the tech community has been crucial for my professional development.

Where would you like to be in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I aim to further advance in my cybersecurity career, and have a bigger impact in this field. Also, I hope to contribute more significantly to initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion within the tech industry.

Which technology are you investing in now to prepare for the future?

Cloud security and artificial intelligence technologies. These areas are rapidly evolving and hold the potential to revolutionize cybersecurity practices, making them crucial for future preparedness.

What advice would you offer others looking to build their career in cybersecurity?

For those looking to build a career in cybersecurity, I want to advise this: Don’t ever doubt your dreams or your potential. If you have a passion for tech, follow it with all you’ve got. Work hard and never give up on your aspirations, no matter what they are.

Most importantly, seek mentorship and networking opportunities. Connect with other professionals in the tech and security communities for guidance, mentorship, and support. Networking can open doors to so many opportunities, provide valuable insights, and help you navigate the challenges of entering and advancing in this industry.

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