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March 23, 2020

A Pioneer in Cybersecurity: She's Paving the Way for Women in IT

When Information Security Manager Stephanie Johnson was just starting her career as an IT professional, she found herself sitting in her car one night after work asking herself, "Why am I not being heard? Is it my tone? Posture? What I'm saying?"

She wanted to make an impact and knew she could do better. So she challenged herself to rethink her meeting approach. No longer would she sit back and wait for someone else to speak first. She decided she'd enter her next meeting as a confident subject matter expert.

And it worked.

"I put on a black suit and heels, and I came into the meeting and sat at the front of the table so I could see everyone. I sat up straight, I kept the meeting on track, and I was respectful of others but I took control. From that moment forward, I was always heard," says Stephanie.

Designing her path

Stephanie has created her own approach and career path for her entire life. Growing up in a small midwestern town with a single mother who didn't have a large income, college didn't seem like a realistic goal for many in Stephanie's family. But she believed that education was the key to changing her life.

"I knew there was a better way to live. And I knew I was going to be the first
person to change the picture for my family. I wanted others to follow in my footsteps," says Stephanie. So, step by step, Stephanie earned her bachelor's degree and set out to build her career in IT.
  
Before landing at Freddie Mac, Stephanie held IT positions in several different sectors, including government, telecommunications, consulting, and finance, with 9/11 being the catalyst for her transition into information security, cybersecurity and data privacy. All of her career choices were motivated by one thing: challenging herself to keep learning and growing, and by so doing, creating a path for other women to do the same.

Paving the way

"When I first started my career, there was a common belief that women should be submissive," remembers Stephanie. Luckily, that stereotype has changed, but women still aren't anywhere near parity in representation or pay in the cybersecurity industry specifically or the tech industry at large.

"I feel I have a responsibility to pave the way for minority women in IT. If I could wave a
magic wand and create the perfect job, I would be a beacon for recruiting at colleges to bring
more women into this space. There's work to be done. I am an advocate and an avenue for that work. I want to change the trajectory," says Stephanie.

Her contributions to solving that problem include mentoring other women at Freddie Mac. Through lunches, phone calls, and long advice sessions, Stephanie passes on her tried-and-true pieces of advice: "I tell them they need to learn to own their craft and their brand. If they don't do that, they won't be heard. They can be assertive without being aggressive."

Finding her fit

After years of experience across IT and cybersecurity roles, Stephanie accepted a job in cyber risk management at Freddie Mac because it fulfilled her desire to keep learning and growing professionally while providing her a meaningful mission, a strong organizational commitment to inclusion and diversity and truly open channels between upper management and employees.

"At Freddie Mac, I get to go to work and know everything I'm doing is helping make home possible for someone in the U.S. Our work matters. That is what excites me," explains Stephanie.
   
Overall, Stephanie has found the role and company that's right for her—one that values her ideas, supports her identities and believes in investing in women in tech.

If a role like that sounds right for you too, check out our open positions.


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