Episode 4 of our SON OF A BREACH! podcast series celebrates International Women’s Month with security visionary Didi Dayton, a partner at Wing Venture Capital. Dayton joins host and CRITICALSTART Chief Technology Officer Randy Watkins for timely insights into security growth investments and the expanding female influence in cybersecurity.
Dayton tells Watkins one of her favorite leadership quotes is by Beyoncé, who she describes as an amazing businesswoman. “What she said was, power is not given to you, you have to take it. And I really love that,” says Dayton.
“The way I’ve done it in my career is by owning the data and managing the data in such a way that I could get insights from it,” she advises. “I always made arguments that were driven by data. When you do that, no one can argue with you, because it makes business sense. You know what you’re talking about, it’s your data, you built it, there’s no argument.”
Dayton is responsible for Customer Markets and Programs at Wing. She has held executive positions in sales, channels, and alliances for more than 20 years across multiple successful cybersecurity companies, including hyper-growth organizations such as Websense, FireEye, and Tanium.
Dayton has received CRN’s prestigious Channel Chief award four years running, and she was named to the 50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs and the Power 100 Women of the Channel.
Her advice to women for success in leadership, particularly in cybersecurity, is to be in the room when decisions are being made, and to break the circle. “If you see a circle of men talking, figuratively or actually, just use your elbows and gently break into the circle and take your place,” she says.
“Be confident about everything you do,” Dayton adds. “The way you do that is you develop your skills. You present, you negotiate, you learn about finance, you learn about things that are outside of your comfort zone. That will give you confidence. Then hang out with people that boost you up. Because that’s where the power comes from, is from within.”
Q&A – Celebrating Women in Cybersecurity with Didi Dayton
The following is an abbreviated Q&A based on Watkins’ conversations with Dayton in Episode 4 of our SON OF A BREACH! podcast series. Be sure to tune in to the entire conversation.
Watkins: Which leadership traits have allowed you to be successful in both sales and channel roles in the various positions you’ve held over the years?
Dayton: I think the best sales leaders can juggle a lot of pressure, and a lot of different kinds of pressures all at one time. They really are able to stay laser focused on hitting the number, and also helping their customers solve complex problems. Channel folks also do hit a number, but it’s indirect. Both require a lot of humility. … I see the difference between the two as sales are more mavericks and builders, where channel folks are more consultants and scalers.
Watkins: Can you describe some situations that helped you get that sense of humility?
Dayton: I think it comes from working with a team, and as a team, it comes from recognizing that some people are better at doing things than you are. It does require humility to be able to step away from something you think you could do and allowing your team to do it on their own and do it better.
Whenever I start a role, I think about succession planning. How can I build up this skill set within my team so this thing can run itself, and ideally, I can work my way out of a job and on to the next one?
Watkins: How are you contributing to the investment strategy at Wing, in the existing portfolio companies, and the customer community they’re building?
Dayton: I’m always passionate about finding really cool technology. I love talking to customers, geeking out about what are you seeing out there, what’s interesting, and then also trying to help them solve complex issues. A big part of that is just listening…and helping people find what they need. Sometimes it’s other people, sometimes it’s ideas, sometimes it’s technology, sometimes it’s tools and services.
Watkins: What is Wing looking at that’s bleeding edge, or what is the focus of the investments right now?
Dayton: Really where we live is two to three to five years in the future. And that’s what makes a great VC, is their ability to anticipate the trends and really identify a way before it’s obvious.
With the attack surface being so much larger, obviously, phishing is a huge vector, and we’re seeing a lot of ransomware play out. Now there’s a whole other headache around asset inventory, and unmanaged assets. All of that is very difficult to defend with the workforce not even being in the office. So, SASE is a lot more relevant, and we’ve added to that in our investments, DLP for endpoint, identity and digital trust, and privacy protections.
Watkins: Security is a male-dominated industry, but it’s definitely been growing in terms of the female contributions across functions, from sales to channels to engineering and executive leadership. What mentor figures did you have?
Dayton: I had a lot of mentors. For example, my CEO at SurfControl was Pat Sueltz, and she would call it Pat ‘Sueltz’ like ‘results,’ because it was really hard to spell. She was a badass in every way. And same with the Chief Legal Officer at FireEye, Alexa King. She’s handled some really tough waters recently, and she’s just unflappable, and ridiculously intelligent, and just amazing.
I love the women on your team. Tera (Davis) is fantastic at just smoothing everything out. You’d never know what she does behind the scenes and yet she does everything. She’s definitely someone to look up to in terms of building an amazing business.
Join Randy Watkins and other special guests on SON OF A BREACH!