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Nicola Whiting | CSO | Titania Group (1)

Nicola Whiting: The Unsung Cyber Security Leader

Managing network security can be complex and time-consuming, especially when dealing with the monumentally large systems that often face responsibility for the safety of critical infrastructure systems. When it comes to information security, financial institutions harbor possibly the greatest responsibility of any commercial industry because of the highly sensitive data that they process, transfer, and store. With the stakes so high, Titania’s customers within the telecommunication, energy & transport sectors use the company’s tools to understand the vulnerabilities on their network and prove assurance. Specialized in Enterprise Security Automation Software, business development, trust- based selling, and neuromarketing, Nicola Whiting is the Chief Strategy Officer at Titania. She has led Titania from an ambitious start-up to the multi-million-pound, award-winning company it is today – in less than a decade. In 2017 Nicola was named by SC Magazine as one of the Top 20 most influential women working in cybersecurity, an honor she has held for 3 years.
Motivated by Challenges
Nicola Whiting was in Infosec in the late 90’s early 2000s, focused on remote management, and database software but became jaded (although she was successful, she couldn’t see a clear path into the boardroom). “Women in Tech” events were less common then, “group think” wasn’t a thing that people were aware of, and diversity wasn’t a major driver-there seemed to be a lot fewer opportunities (even in great companies). In the end, she started her own business, where she became an award-winning jewelry designer, published writer, and Chair of a National Design Guild.
Nicola didn’t set out, with the intent to get back into technology & security, it just happened. Some of her friends ran a business and they needed advice on how to grow it. So, she sketched out some ideas on the back of a napkin and offered to help them find the right person to help them grow-they insisted that that person should be her (commercial skills were eminently transferable). She is, of course, skipping over the intense technical learning curve of suddenly working in the Pentesting industry, but after learning the intricacies of micro-metallurgy, it was an achievable and enjoyable study. (She also ended up marrying the founder, so she has been truly “romanced” by Infosec!)
Valuing Team Members
Nicola Whiting has learned that “true leadership is never about you – it’s always about the other person and what’s important to them”. One of her favorite books is “The GoGiver” by Bob Burg. The company gifts it to all its new team members, and its central tenant, is that members true worth, is in the value they deliver to others.
Making a Difference
Like many women, Nicola Whiting struggled with imposter syndrome, even after winning numerous accolades and being recognized by her peers…
Her proudest achievement was probably winning the Sparky Baird award for her thoughtful piece on A.I. and Cyber Warfare. It’s a US Award given to writers by AFCEA International & SIGNAL Magazine, and it’s very prestigious, she said “it felt like winning a Pulitzer” and it made more impact on her than becoming an Amazon bestselling author with her “Extraordinary Women” book. When the editor Bob Ackerman sat her down and told her that the judging panel had been unanimous in their final decision and that a Professor of Cyber Security had said it was probably “one of the best articles he’d ever read”, Nicola had tears in her eyes.
She said “It made me feel very humble, previous winners include senior figures, like, US Generals, Senators, and Vice-Presidential Candidates. I’m a UK national-from a working-class background. It shows that in this industry, you can make a difference – whoever you are and wherever you come from – you’ll be valued for your contribution.”
Work-life Balance
As life partners and work partners with Titania’s CEO, Ian Whiting, it can be hard not to bring work home. On a positive note, when one of them has a brilliant idea in the shower, they can immediately share it! It’s also fantastic as both of them are continual learners, keeping them fresh and motivated as leaders and they both believe in giving back to the community. Ian created numerous free tools that help businesses secure their networks and Nicola writes for industry journals, speaks at conferences and mentors both individually and for Govt funded Cyber Accelerators.
A Willingness to Listen Titania has had a few “intrapreneurs” who have gained future skills in their roles, before starting their own business. “If launching into the unknown terrifies you, then you can still take smaller steps towards your end goal. The important thing is to clarify what that goal is, test it out with trusted advisors, see if there’s a market for what you want to do. I’d recommend reading “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reis and taking a look at “The Value Proposition Canvas” by Strategyzer – both will help your early journey into entrepreneurship,” says Nicola.
Honesty, integrity, communication, and a willingness to listen are also viewed as key skills. “With these, you can foster an environment of trust and growth, attracting high performing people, who aren’t afraid to make mistakes and learn from them,” says Nicola.
A Wide Range of Great Ideas
One thing Nicola Whiting learned early on is to focus on hiring intelligent, motivated, continual learners – even from non-traditional routes. It’s brought the company some of our best team members. Titania has clear goals and guidelines in place, and the “Traction” series by Gino Wickman has helped the team understand how it runs things and how they’ll be measured. The company also provides plenty of flexibility and feedback opportunities, so that it grows as a team and benefits from a wide range of great ideas.