Speed Data: Hiring the Right Cybersecurity Professionals With Leah McLean

Cofounder of the nonprofit Whole Cyber Human Initiative, Leah McLean, shares her advice for recruiting teams looking for cybersecurity superstars and why it’s so important for women to have representation in tech.
Megan Garza
2 min read
Last updated March 25, 2024
Megan Garza and Leah McLean

Welcome to Speed Data: Quick Conversations With Cybersecurity Leaders. Like speed dating, our goal is to capture the hearts of CISOs with intriguing, unique insight in a rapid format for security professionals pressed for time.

On this episode of Speed Data, we're joined by Leah McLean, Vice President and Cybersecurity Specialist for Mastercard Data and Services and cofounder of the nonprofit Whole Cyber Human Initiative. Leah shared her advice for recruiting teams looking for the next big cybersecurity superstar and explained why it’s so important for women to feel like they have a seat at the tech table.


Leah McLean isn’t satisfied simply listening to the latest features and advancements in technology. She would rather dive in and walk through the tech herself.

“Technology was always really interesting to me,” she said. “I was that type of person that in order for me to fully understand it, I had to get my hands on the technology; I would go to the engineering teams and ask them to show me how it worked.”

Armed with the knowledge she gained from those one-on-one tech sessions, Leah now gives back and mentors those looking to get into the data security field.

“I love it when somebody not in cyber comes to me and says, ‘I want to learn more. Can you help me?’ — I love helping people,” Leah said.

It’s more than just our jobs and work; it impacts our daily lives. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting way more phishing scams, texts, emails, and calls every day. So when I can help others to realize how they can better protect themselves, I love that.


“We have to keep helping each other and collaborating. It’s not an easy job, but we need that community, and we need more people to be a part of it.”

Ambition over acumen

Leah is optimistic about the next wave of security professionals but cautions hiring managers against having unrealistic expectations.

“I think there’s a lot of talent out there and a lot of people wanting to break into cybersecurity or advance further,” she said.

“My advice to recruiting teams would be, don’t look for the unicorns that don’t exist. Look for those characteristics in people that have the soft skills, the willingness to learn, the aptitude, the motivation, the drive, because those types of people who are willing to jump in and learn, are going to be easy to train."

“Anyone can build up in terms of skill sets and knowledge, but you need that willingness, and you need that drive. Without that, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today.”

Encouraging women in cybersecurity

Leah is in rare company. A recent Cybersecurity Ventures report found that women hold just 25% of cybersecurity jobs globally and only 17% of CISO roles at Fortune 500 companies.

“Collectively, we all need to do a better job of making women — and not just women, but everyone — feel welcome to the [cybersecurity] industry."


“One of my mentors to this day was very supportive and was one of the first men who encouraged me to ask for more money and negotiate. When you have that kind of support, especially from males, it’s going to open up the doors for more women,” Leah said.

“I also think that groups like Women in Cybersecurity and many others are helping females position themselves for the roles they deserve. I think we need to keep adding more seats at the table with women leaders and diverse backgrounds.”

What should I do now?

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