Women in Technology, A Leader’s Advice - Maggie Calle

Maggie Calle currently is the Chief Information Security Officer at Varicent. Her career spans over twenty-five years in security leadership roles within major financial, insurance, retail and technology corporations. She has a strong record of successfully implementing and leading cybersecurity and risk management programs aligning with business objectives, innovation, and digital transformations.

In 2022, she received the Trailblazer award, which honors a distinguished Ted Rogers graduate who has demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in their chosen profession. Their remarkable leadership and achievements are not only remarkable in themselves but are also helping to shape the future of Canadian business by inspiring and mentoring the next generation of diverse leaders; Maggie’s name was also inducted in the Rogers School of Management Alumni Wall of Distinction.

She was also recognized as Women to Watch by Risky Women organization, Canada's Top 20 Women in Cybersecurity by ITWC, Top Influencer in Cybersecurity by IFSEC Global, and Woman in Leadership by SiberX. She received the BMO Best of the Best and Aviva CIO awards for her outstanding performance. She is an active public speaker who mentors and promotes STEM education in her community, and she has co-authored the book Women Transforming the Landscape of Science and Technology – an international best seller.

She holds active CISSP, Chartered Director and PMP certifications, a Bachelor of Commerce and Information Technology Management degree from Toronto Metropolitan University, an MBA in Risk Management and Corporate Governance from Athabasca University, a Masters Certificate in Project Management from Schulich University, a Diploma in Computer Programming and Analysis and a Human Resources Graduate Certificate from Seneca Polytechnic.

Connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/magalicalle/.

1. Can you share the key milestones and turning points in your career that have led you to your current position?  

I would say there are at least three turning points in my career. First, when I was in my final year of College, I decided to look for a fulltime opportunity while continuing my education part-time. This turned out to be a great decision as it was 1998 in the midst of the Internet bubble. This allowed me to step into a role at a startup company specializing in cybersecurity encryption techniques and securing web applications with digital certificates; this was something that not mainstream at that timeframe. It was extremely hard for me to balance my full-time job at the startup with my part-time courses that I thought I was never going to graduate but thankfully with a bit of determination, I managed to graduate. Secondly, thanks to the experience gained at the startup, I secured an amazing role at Bank of Montreal as a web application developer where I took on the responsibility of modernizing the static online websites and implementing features such as email money transfer, single-sign-on and online mortgage applications; this was leading edge development and one-of-a-kind features in the late nineties. Lastly, I’m thankful to my leadership for providing guidance to enable my move from the engineering team to the security department in 2005. This career move helped me grow as a leader in the cybersecurity field.

2. What advice would you give to women who are starting their careers in our industry?

My advice for women starting their career in technology, is to continue to build their technical and soft skills through continuous learning. Do not be afraid to take on challenging projects to build and hone your skillsets. Furthermore, networking within the industry, seeking mentorships from experienced professionals will help develop a collaborative approach to stay on top of industry trends. Lastly, certifications and specialized courses help to build skills for the future.

3. What can colleagues and allies do to support gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Colleagues and allies can help by actively promoting equal opportunities, challenging biases, and advocating for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In addition, mentoring and sponsoring underrepresented individuals fosters a culture of growth and encourages open and transparent communication.

4. How do you think organizations can foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for women?  

Organizations can foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for women by implementing diversity and inclusion programs that help reduce unconscious bias and improves employees’ mental health in the work environment. Mentorship and sponsorship programs are also very helpful for women to come out of their shell and perform at their best while balancing busy lives with children, family, or friends. Inclusive work policies such as no meeting Wednesdays, flexible Fridays, parental leaves, along with remote and hybrid work environments leads to enhanced work life balance.

For me, Varicent checks all the boxes and here our leadership team walks the talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I am proud that Varicent has implemented all of these programs that help me and employees give our best.

5. How have your experiences shaped your approach to leadership and work?

My experiences have significantly shaped my approach to leadership and work by giving me a perspective on the importance of empathy, adaptability and a continuous learning attitude. I’ve learned to lead teams to drive change with a mindset of collaboration, valuing diverse perspectives and being resilient in the face of adversity. Given my cybersecurity role, I strive to maintain integrity in all my actions and lead by example. I lead my team to always help each other out, mentor and learn from each other and to always focus on outcomes to enable our business and organizational goals.