Abigail Maines, BS ’97, MBA ’99, is on the front lines of the cybersecurity war.
In her role as vice president of commercial and channel sales at Cybereason, Maines helps businesses and organizations defend themselves from malicious computer attacks every day.
“The two key contributors to the rapid rate of change in cybersecurity are ransomware and nation-state attacks—whether condoned, sanctioned or endorsed,” she says. “The convergence of these two risk factors are what have been behind the headlines we’ve seen in the news, such as the Russian SolarWinds hack, China’s Hafnium attack and Iran’s Operation GhostShell.”
After graduating from the UB School of Management, Maines began her career in finance at National Fuel, but saw more growth potential in business development.
She says it was her second role at technical management services firm Installs Inc. that changed her life.
“That job introduced me to Dell, it’s where I met my husband and why I moved to Austin, Texas,” says Maines. “I’m a huge Buffalo booster. I never imagined leaving Buffalo, but a lot of life is luck and timing and I found myself in a situation where my skills allowed me to be successful in what, at the time, was an emerging category.”
From there, Maines rocketed through the tech industry, first joining Dell as senior program manager and continuing on through a series of roles in the Silicon Hills of Austin.
She says her School of Management education has been the foundation of her success, setting her up to bridge the gap between technology and business.
“A lot of what I’ve been effective at in cybersecurity has been getting different groups to work together, and that came from my School of Management experience,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of MBAs in cyber—the principals of these companies tend to come from very technical roles, and as the industry matures these organizations are going to need people with the skills that UB provided to me.”
But Maines says what she wasn’t prepared for were the headwinds she’d face as a woman in business—particularly in cybersecurity, where just one in four employees is female.
“At school I never felt it was male dominated, I never felt any different than my peer group, but in corporate America I did,” she says. “Think about this—just 2% of venture capital went to women in 2021. So imagine: I graduated in ’99, and this is 22 years later—that stat shows how much further we have to go.”
Maines’ industry experience is what led her to co-found Females in Every Role Change Everything (FIERCE) with colleague Rebecca Cahak. It’s an organization dedicated to accelerating the success of women in business, government and academia for the betterment of themselves, their families, their communities and the world.
“Our experience has been that to be successful, you have to be aware that it’s going to be much more difficult as a female than a male in certain scenarios,” she says. “We have chosen to take action on that and point out it exists, provide content, information, networking and peer-group connections to help accelerate folks through the process.”
Through FIERCE, Maines is helping prepare the next generation of women to join her on the digital battlefield and excel in their careers.
“It’s a really exciting time because the response has been so positive since we launched,” she says. “It feels like there was a lot of pent-up demand to get this group interconnected and get the power moving.”
Written by Kevin Manne