When Christina Van Houten was in college, a career in cybersecurity was the last thing on her mind. Graduating with a master’s degree in business strategy, Christina saw herself working in the public sector.
After a string of government roles and a stint manufacturing women’s athletic clothing, Christina stumbled into the tech world.
“I couldn’t have had a more random early career,” says Christina. “I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how it challenged me intellectually.”
That first step was the beginning of a two-decade career in enterprise technology working in a variety of roles. Christina has worked on retail analytics, mobile banking platforms and wearable communication devices for the likes of Oracle, IBM and Infor Global Solutions.
While Christina hadn’t considered adding cybersecurity to her skill set, her savviness in both business and tech caught the eye of Mimecast, which provides cloud-based email security for over 30,000 customers worldwide.
In her role as chief strategy officer, Christina combines her business skills and tech know-how to help companies and organizations stay safe from hackers.
“It’s tech, but it’s part of a larger mission to keep global businesses up and running,” she says. “I feel like I can really make a difference.’
In addition to helping organizations tackle threats, Christina has published a series of books to help women achieve their career goals. Women@Work offers guidance to help women navigate challenges in the workplace, such as dealing with gender dynamics, starting a family and developing a personal brand.
Christina also established the Women@Work website, which includes career advice and a platform for connecting with mentors.
While writing books wasn’t part of her career plan, Christina says she wanted to use the experience and guidance she had accumulated over the years to help other women.
“I was being asked to give to talks to women more often, and I was blown away by the response,” she says. “I figured that it would be a shame to not share what I’ve learnt, as it seemed to be helping a lot of people.”
Christina says that it’s important for girls to stay open to job opportunities early in their career, even if it’s in an area that differs from their degree.
“People tend to overthink their careers in the early stages, but it’s important to take any opportunity that comes your way,” says Christina. “There’s always a place for good people, and if you have a great attitude, people will notice you.”
Christina’s career path:
- Bachelor of Arts (Government and Theology), Georgetown University (followed by public sector roles)
- Master of Business Administration (Business Strategy), The University of Chicago
- Senior Director and VP roles in strategy at of Retail Market Strategy, Oracle, IBM and Infor
- Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast
Author: Gemma Conroy
Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.