Mari Galloway is the CEO and a founding board member of The Women's Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), a Northern Virginia-based non-profit organization passionate about helping and empowering women to succeed in the cybersecurity field. Their primary mission is to advance women in cybersecurity by providing programs and partnerships that promote networking, education, mentoring, resource-sharing, and opportunities. Tennisha Martin is the founder and Executive Director of BlackGirlsHack (BGH Foundation), a national cybersecurity nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and resources to underserved communities and increasing the diversity in cyber. BlackGirlsHack provides black women and girls with resources, mentorship, direction, and training required to enter and excel in the Cybersecurity field.
Mari and Tennisha met a decade ago when Tennisha joined Cyberjutsu within the first year that it started. She thought Mari was the coolest woman in the cyberspace. Coincidentally Mari thinks Tennisha is the coolest woman in the coding space. They’ve been colleagues, advisors, and peers for years and are deeply invested in each other’s organizations.
Cyberjutsu started when its founder Lisa Foreman, who is Japanese and Black, combined her love of the arts with her love of cyber security. She realized that online workshops and trainings were a huge opportunity for bringing more women in this space with a true feeling of community. What people don’t realize is that over the past decade, Cyberjitsu has become a multi-million dollar organization. They are the known but unknown underdogs in the space.
Since being involved with WSC and becoming it’s CEO, Mari has gotten feedback that she doesn’t bring executive energy since she often shows up to calls in t-shirts. But her aspirations are at a big executive level. Chief Information Systems Officer is Mari’s dream job at a major company, and while she currently runs a bookkeeping company, she has her eyes on the path the will take her there, despite women of color historically being under-experienced in this industry.
The basics of cybersecurity are founded on the same skills that malicious hackers have. A pen test, or penetration test, is how a cyber security professional, aka a white hat, will test a company’s cyber security and expose weak points. The goal is that a white hat will find your company’s cyber vulnerabilities before a malicious hacker, or black hat, does. The benefit of investing in a cybersecurity team before you get hacked can’t be overstated, especially for non-profits. They have become big targets for hackers who are stealing credit card info and testing if the card works by making small donations to nonprofits. Once those charges are reported as fraudulent to the bank and the funds are clawed back, the non-profit is up a creek for donations that they thought were legitimate.
The main issues that WSC and BGH address are that there aren’t enough technical women in cybersecurity and that there aren’t enough women in leadership roles specifically. They are training women to be qualified in both of these areas. They give folks the opportunities to lead, plan events, speak, and be in the roles that will teach them those exact skills. The financial barriers to entry are also an area that these organizations are focused on. The tests and certifications required for working at a professional level in cybersecurity can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. By getting deeply discounted vouchers for these certifications, they are lowering the barrier for more women to work in the field.
When Mike asked Mari and Tennisha why they spend their energy and time working in their nonprofits when they could easily only work in the for profit sector of their industries, they told him that it matters more that they bring their people with them than that they succeed on their own. It feels well worth it to give back, even with just a small stipend as compensation.
“I don’t think it’s good enough that I take over the world myself. I think it’s a lot bigger flex that I not only take over the world but that I bring my closest thousand friends with me.”
Even though working full time in the nonprofit sector is appealing to them, they want to keep their skills honed by working on for profit clients as well. They realize they are doing work for free that they would be ridiculously compensated for in the for profit sector. However, when they present their work as nonprofit work, it’s not respected for what it really entails.
“Both of us do what we do because there were people who said that we couldn’t. There were people who thought that we weren’t qualified.”
Both Mari and Tennisha noted the disparities in hiring women and people of color in the cyber sector. Unless it’s a PR issue, Black History Month, or some other kind of special occasion, there still isn’t a big demand for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry. This disparity fuels their missions even further. They have found that going through the side door, through their relationships, to secure jobs or donations is much more effective than going through the front door and being judged for their gender or race. To see a growing interest for women to work in STEM and cybersecurity is their motivation to keep going. It’s also motivating for them to become the best in their business because as they pointed out, most high profile Black Americans work in entertainment, not cybersecurity. They want to be the visible people in their space that show what is possible for their community.
Tennisha grew up in DC and had access to books, only while at school, but no computers. She witnessed the income disparities in her school and when she got to college the computer systems available for learning were models now considered archaic. Tennisha has gone on to get 5 masters degrees, but she admits not all those grad schools wanted her to be there. Now she is working in the world of income disparity as a Black woman. Her parents instilled in her the value of being more qualified than everyone around her and that is what she respects in Mari’s credentials as well. Their shared vision of increasing representation for women and people of color in the cybersecurity industry is their version of world domination and they are making strong headway.
Why making space and opportunities for women in cybersecurity is important
The ways Tennisha and Mari have been marginalized in their industry
What inspires them about leaving a legacy for women
Why they are motivated to give so much time to their non-profit ventures
We don't have a lot of very high profile, you know, women and, and specifically black women that are operating in the space. Right? So for me, when I talk about legacy, I, I talk about, you know, like Mary said, letting people know that there's something else out there because there's a lot of, you know, money to be made in the tech space, in the cybersecurity space. But, you know, we're not telling 'em like, Hey, you can be, you know, a computer scientist, you can be a hacker, right.
Welcome to Cause and Purpose the show about leaders, innovators, and change agents working on the front lines to solve some of the world's greatest social challenges. I'm Mike Spear. And we have something a little bit different for you today, not one but two amazing guests, Tennisha Martin from BlackGirlsHack and the Mari Galloway of Cyberjutsu, both of these incredible entrepreneurs came to the social sector from a unique perspective. They were aspiring cybersecurity professionals and both encountered obstacles along the way as black female coders focused on security, they're in the minority of a minority of a minority and decided to build communities and resources that they themselves would've benefited from in their educations and in various stages of their careers and share those resources with others, becoming nonprofit leaders more or less by accident, they're able to share an outsider's view of the social sector, it's advantages in pitfalls. And some of the unique challenges faced by nonprofit leaders of color. We hope you enjoy welcome everybody to a very special episode of cause and purpose it's special, cuz we have not just one but two amazing social impact leaders and founders. And in this case, white hat hackers, it's also special because at least two of the three of us have made a cocktail for today. Something I've been talking about dabbling with for a while. I've never done. Uh, so we'll introduce each of them with a drink of choice. Tennisha, you go first.
Um, so Tennisha Martin, I'm the executive director for black girls hack. Um, and I actually have a very smooth 2022 Gatorade Zero <laugh>
Mari. Why don't you introduce yourself really quick?
So Mari Galloway calling from Las Vegas, I am the CEO and a founding board member for the women's society of cyberjutsu. We do, uh, cybersecurity training for women and girls looking to in advance in the space. Uh, Tennisha is one of our members and a really good friend. And my drink of choice today is Hendricks gin and mango.
I'm Mike Spear, uh, most of the audience probably has heard me before on past podcasts. This is, I think gonna be our 20th episode officially. Yes. I made myself remember the main, it's a, it's kind of a spin on a Manhattan it's it's rye, uh, some cherry hearing, some sweet remove and a little bit of absent and there, well you two, both have your own organizations you're in different cities, but clearly there's history here. Can you tell me the story of kind of how you both met, uh, the organization it came through and, and how you knew that, you know, this would be a connection of friendship and colleagues for years to come. So
I've actually, um, as Mari mentioned, I've actually been a member of cyber JSU for probably smooth decade at this point. And I actually joined back, like, I, I feel like maybe within the first year or so of when they first started, um, and they were having like, um, workshops on like Saturdays at university of Maryland on pen testing. And like, I was like, I'm going to get into pen testing. Like this is gonna be my thing. I can't wait. I'm so excited. So I would go there and just geek out. I think I might have actually met Mari at very first at a Schmoo Con I wanna say, I think there was a lobby con and I wanna say was a few years back. Cause I don't think she was actually teaching and she was absolutely amazing and I was just completely fangirled out and like to this day, like when people like introduce Mary and they don't say like the Mari Galloway like put the D in front of it and it's gotta be like kind of extra long, like I feel disrespected for her because like she's such a goat in this space in my mind.
So like, obviously I'm a big fan of the Mari Galloway and all that she does. Um, so if you're not following her on LinkedIn, like, and you need a reality check, just request to, to, to connect with her and just look at her intro there and it'll just be like, you know, I need to do better with my life.
So I feel the exact opposite. Like I feel like that for her because we, we have a lot of conversations. We talk a lot about a lot of things. Um, I'm, I'm very integrated into their organization as well. And I'm like, Hey, Tennisha, you need to fix that. Hey, you probably should fix that. Or you should go talk to this person. And, um, it's been interesting to watch black girls hack unfold and like get, get the notoriety and get the folks behind it and get the people in there and just, you know, you see, you see the impact that the organization has, you know? And so we're, we're Cyberjutsu and black girls hack are definitely partners in a lot of things because what we do, I feel has value to what they're, what you know, their members and then what they do has value to our members.
Can you tell me the background, Cyberjutsu, like, it's just such an awesome name and you guys have great branding and I, I, I love everything I've, I've seen of it, but I'm really dying to know the backstory.
So the founder, Lisa Jiggets, um, y'all can look her up. She's a pen tester. She was in the air force. She played soccer. Um,
She's a badass, can I say bad?
She she's more badass than I am, but she's, she's Japanese and black. So the cyber Jitsu park comes from, um, the art of like jujitsu means the art of, and so basically the art of cyber and she was wanted to combine her, her love for the arts, um, with her love for Penn testing and cybersecurity. So in Northern Virginia, she was attending different meetups around the area that were mostly guys. Um, some of them fizzled out the others. She just didn't really feel like that was her space. And that was her her thing, cuz most, most people in cyber were hacked, you know, hoodies and they like keep their head down and they sit in the space and that's not Lisa. And she said, let me have a workshop. And the first workshop was Melo or backtracking something. And this is pre-cal. So call Lennox now was backtrack 10 years ago.
And it's basically a suite of tools that help pen testers do their job. Um, and she hosted a workshop and there was like 30 or 40 women that showed up on site. Right. But then there was more women online. And so that was that's when she kind of had the idea of this might be a good thing. There might be, you know, a community for this type of, of learning. And the fact that since 2012 we've been hosting virtual training so that people in California can still be a part of the workshops. We record the workshops afterwards so that you can go back and review and um, get that access. That's, that's kind of where the organization started. I found it because I had failed one of our certification exams and somebody was like, you should get in a study group. And I was like, eh, I don't really like people.
I don't wanna do this. And um, I was getting ready. My contract was ending in North Carolina and I was moving back to the DC area to work for Homeland security. And I found the group and I was just like, wow. Um, you know, it was, it was one of those things where you walk into the room. Um, my first workshop was reverse engineering and you walk in and you see all these women that are like helping each other and like super excited about learning this technology and these topics. And it was like, wow, this is a really cool thing. And I honestly thought it was just kind of like a club like, oh, this is just gonna be a passing phase. Nothing's gonna happen here. I am, you know, literally nine years later running the organization and trying to keep that, that vibe, that community that tried feeling, uh, going and providing those resources for the women that come through and all that. So it's, it's been a, this is like a passion project, but that's grown into, you know, a million dollar organization. People don't know that, but yeah. <laugh>
Why, why do you think people don't realize cuz it normally, I mean, you know, it's, it's solving a need, it's out in the community, it's got great branding. Why don't more people know about it.
Um, so I think because, so you know how, when you watch the basketball teams and like the underdog comes in and like wins <laugh> we're like the underdogs of the industry, like people know us, but they don't know us. They're like, Ooh, what is that? So they know us by the name they're likey. Jitsu's really cool, but we don't have the, the commercial allure that some of the other organizations have when you come toy JSU, it's say, Hey, let's go get a drink next week. Let's go shoot the breeze and have fun. It's not the, oh my God, we have to be a certain way type of group. So everybody can come here and just be open and feel comfortable. Everybody doesn't really doesn't really like that. Right. I was told before that I don't have executive presence because I'll come to an executive meeting in a t-shirt <laugh> and a scarf, you know, like I'm on zoom, I don't care. Um, and I think that's the difference. I'm more of a, I'm like more like everybody else in the group, right. I'm a cybersecurity professional too. I'm I'm learning just like they are. Um, this isn't my only job I work in the industry as well. So, and I, and I think that kind of rubs folks the wrong way, but I don't really care. Well,
I, I don't, I don't think it has to mean one of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that you can wear many hats and exactly. Can you talk about your experience with, with that and kind of how it's, it's helped you and also, you know, share some of the other stuff you both are working on?
So it's helped me significantly. Um, one of my goals is to be a C I O the chief information security officer for an organization or in the VP role or whatever. Um, on the cybersecurity side, I don't get those opportunities to be in the leadership role. So running the nonprofit, being, you know, having to be in the leadership role, having to, while it's volunteer based, you know, hire people, budgets, those kind of things. I've learned all of that stuff in the last nine years, um, which prompted me to start my own business to do bookkeeping cause I was doing the bookkeeping for the organization too. Um, but I, you know, with working in nonprofits with being an entrepreneur, you do get to be creative. You do get to call the shots and, you know, make decisions and, and, you know, figure out, okay, will this program work or will this type of product work. Um, and so that's why, even though the days I wanna quit <laugh> and just say, you know what, I'm done, I'll let somebody else do this work. I come back to why I do it. I do it to help people. And so, um, I think my skills, my speaking skills have increased my writing skills have my graphic design skills using Canva have definitely increased <laugh> I'm like a pro at that. But having that side thing, having that flexibility to be creative is important.
Yeah. I, I think I would just double down on that. Absolutely. Because, um, you know, like Mary, you know, people, I think automatically assume that a black woman does not have that pre like for whatever reason, you know, I think this based on their, you know, unconscious or conscious biases, they assume that, you know, we would not be able to do things that we've proven that we can do, you know, day after day I have literally interviewed for things and they'll saying, you know, Hey, do you have any experience leading people? And I will literally say like, Hey, I run an organization with, you know, 50 volunteers and, you know, probably at least 700 people at this point. Um, so I have a little bit of experience with, you know, managing people, you know, although I'm very much like Mary and that, you know, I don't tend to like humans.
Um, <laugh> so I I've definitely had to come out of like, I think my, my shell, um, you know, to, to do what I, what it is that I'm doing. But I, I think that I came to the realization that, you know, it's necessary if I want to achieve world domination, which for me is like, I wanna be a C I S O just like Mary. Um, and I'm actually probably just gonna settle for being like a vice C I O after she gets the job and then like, hires me <laugh> I think like that might be all right. But, um, I think that it's important that we realize that people are well rounded, right? So for Mary, you know, she does bookkeeping on the side outside of her being a, a badass pen tester for me, you know, I'm pen testing and, you know, have black girls hack and I, you know, do consulting as well.
Um, but the thing that kind of like drives me day after day is like, you know, I've been able to get some people hired underneath my, my LLC mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, so that they can get work experience because one of the things I think that frustrates me to no end is the fact that you need experience in order to get experience. And for so long, people were telling me that I couldn't be in cybersecurity, that I couldn't be a pen tester. I couldn't do all of these things because I didn't have experience. Right. And I, I don't want people to be able to use that as an excuse. So like my goal is to continue to get contracts, so then I can give them experience. And then when we have a whole generation of squad members and ni cyber JSU, ninjas taking over the cybersecurity industry, then you know, we can start see the diversity and the change that we kind of wanna see
For the audience that maybe doesn't confront pen testing on a daily basis. Can you explain actually what that is and the difference between white hat and black hat hacking?
A lot of times, especially if you, um, start to work with other organizations they', you know, security requirements like their compliance requirements pass through to your organization, especially with smaller organization. And so that you have to actually meet those same requirements in terms of like having an annual pen test, for example. Um, so basically what that is, is you'll have people who are basically skilled the same way, as you know, I guess malicious hackers are to try to break into your system. Um, whether that be, uh, an, an, an external network penetration test, or whether that's an internal, you know, penetration test or like a web application test. Um, and you'll have them try to basically break in find vulnerabilities. Um, the thought being that if a white hat, which is like a, considered a good guy, finds the vulnerabilities, then they can tell you how to remediate them or how to mitigate them.
Um, and then you can actually resolve them before somebody can actually use them to basically get in and, you know, steal all of your crown jewels. So, um, you know, for, for that, you know, black hats are basically just considered to be bad guys. Um, and then, you know, white hats are considered to be good guys, but I think we also use, you know, white and black hat, um, white and black in, in pen testing, as, as far as like, um, a white box test being, you know, you having full information about the environment that you're attacking and like a black box test saying that you have no, um, information about, or little to no information about the environment that you're testing, but that that's basically, I think what, what we do,
Let's talk about some of the obstacles that are out there that organizations like cyber JSU, like black girls hack are seeking to address.
We're addressing the fact that there's not enough women, um, that on the technical, um, there's not enough technical women. And then there's not enough women in leadership roles to help bring some of those more technical women that wanna transition into those roles. So we, we try to address that through the hands on training, through workshops, um, to get them at least familiar with concepts so that when they go on a job interview, they can say, Hey, I know how to do X, Y, Z. Um, there's been a number of members that have taken like our intro to cybersecurity or the pen testing stuff. And they were able to go that next week and say, you know, they get asked a question and they can demonstrate their knowledge of that particular topic. We also see the issue of the opportunities aren't as publicized as they should be.
And so what we, we try to make sure that our members and those that are supporting us, see those opportunities have those opportunities. We put them in front of folks, you know, if I need somebody to go speak for something, I'll reach out to either Tanisha or somebody else in that circle to say, Hey, do you guys wanna speak, do you wanna do this kind of thing to give them the opportunity to be visible? Because that's one thing that isn't always happening, right? It's, it's one thing to be a woman. And our, our mission is all women. We don't just, we, we don't specify which one, but I think people assume that we do because, well, I mean, look how I look. Um, <laugh> but, um, it's another thing to be a woman in a leadership role. It's a woman in cybersecurity and to be able to have your voice heard and to be taken seriously.
And so we try to address that by giving folks the opportunity to volunteer, to lead, to plan initiatives, to speak at events, um, our conference planning team right now, there's a few of them that have never done anything like it. But once this is over, once the conference is happen, they'll be able to put on their resume. Hey, I know how to plan these kind of events. I know how to talk to these kind of people to get them to buy in. And so, uh, everything that we do, we try to make sure that at the end of it, they have something that they can take away from it. <laugh>.
Yeah. And I, I think that I, I would definitely agree with that. Um, for us it's, you know, addressing the financial barriers to entry. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because I think for me, one of the hardest things is like, when you go to take some of these certification, um, like I'm not gonna just pick on, um, EC council, but I will, um, their C exam, I think was $1,200 when I, I purchased it. Right. And then when you take a, a retake for it, um, I think it was like maybe $500, right. And there are people out here who are literally trying to find a job so that they can be employed. And when you put like, you know, that as a so-called entry level, you know, certification, um, it's hard for people to get. Um, but I, I think for me, like, you know, we've been able to partner with them and get the vouchers for, and I wanna say it's almost half off, you know, we can get them the training, the book, and the voucher for $800, which is a lot less than, you know, what you pay if you just actually go to their website.
Um, and we have a similar partnership with, um, a lot of the other certification bodies. We are actually announcing next week. So I don't think this has actually come out yet that we're, we're partnering with an organization, um, that does mobile application penetration testing. And they're gonna provide our entire squad with the training and, um, a certification voucher so that they can get certified in one of the smallest areas in penetration testing. So I'm very excited for that, so that they can be able to, you know, not have to worry about having to pay, you know, ridiculous money for, um, certifications. Um, Mary has a similar type of situation with, uh, sands mm-hmm <affirmative>. They have their, uh, Virginia cyber skills academy. Yep. And I was able to actually get a sand certification, um, through her organization. Um, and I don't know if you've got any sand certifications, but, um, when you check out and that $12,000 hits, it's just like, Ooh, this is like, you know, kind of rough, but, you know, we were able to get it for, for free.
And there are a lot of people who, you know, through her organization were able to get it for free, you know, which gives us something that says like, Hey, we can talk about this on our, on our resumes. We can talk about this in our job interviews, um, and be able to show people that, you know, even though we may not have experience, you know, in the case of me, you know, I've got certifications, I can show you the skills that I have. I can talk about what it is that I'm trying to do. So I think that that's the, the value of organization, like women, cyber JSU, and, and black girls hack. Um, you know, and we are not just black girls and we're not just hackers. We have a whole lot of people who are just in cybersecurity as a whole. So I think a lot of times I'll have people who ask me, you know, Hey, um, I'm a man, can I join? And I'm like, you know, the only requirement is that you, you know, be interested in hacking like, come on. Like, we're not gonna be like, you know, Hey, like you gotta check your genitals at the door, you know, it's, <laugh>
Check your genitals at the door. I love it. <laugh>,
I'm curious why you, you both do this work. Why do you spend time and energy and passion on the nonprofit side of things when neither of you has to?
So for me, um, I don't think it's good enough that I take over the world myself. I think it's a lot more, um, of a, a bigger flex if I not only take over the world, but I bring like, you know, my closest thousand friends with me <laugh> so, you know, I, I, I try to talk to people about world domination and about, you know, leaving an impact on earth, on society so that, you know, when we're gone, like the aftershocks will live on, you know, forever and ever. Right. So we'll see, you know, greater diversity, we'll start to see differences in, in terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning in terms of the decisioning systems, um, that are deciding a lot of people's in some cases, freedoms or health or life, life, or death. Right. So, you know, I, at least for me, I'm doing this, you know, one of my friends said, you know, Hey, why don't you actually try? Why don't you do something rather than just talk about, you know, taking over the world. Because, you know, from, from the time I was probably born, you know, my, my father and I have been talking about like, Hey, I'm gonna go take over the world. Um, and now, like I'm telling other people about taking over the world. So, you know, eventually when I take over the world, nobody should be shocked because I've been, you know, talking about it now for, you know, at least a couple years through, through BGH. So
Coming something that happened in pinky, in the brain, they wanted over the world. Yeah. <laugh>
Speaker 4 (00:20:55):
It was one of my favorites growing
Up. Are you kidding? It really was. <laugh>
Our membership, um, director. She was like, well, what are we gonna call? Like the me channel? And I was like project brain. And she was like, well, does brain stand for something? And like a copy and paste it, like the description out of like Wikipedia. And I was like, we just need to change this a little bit and talk about using like networking and, and strategies to take over the world. Right. Because like, and then when you see other people who are from the squad, like we're all gonna talk about taking over the world. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and I, I think that, you know, by just, not just helping people to be able to get jobs and, and do things like generational wealth, um, but then also like, you know, for the future generations of little black kids coming up, um, say, Hey, you know, there's something that you can do besides being a lawyer or a doctor, or, you know, some of the traditional things, the entertainer, um, that we kind of tell our kids, you know, we can be like, Hey, you can be a hacker, you know, mm-hmm <affirmative>, or you can be, you know, any number of things underneath the cybersecurity, you know, umbrella, um, that are stem based.
And we don't see a lot of women in this space, you know, women, right. 50% of the world, what, um, but we are like maybe 25 ish in a lot of stem based careers. So, you know, we need to do, I think a better job in, in showing women that they can actually do this. And I think that starts with, you know, the people who are telling people like Mary and myself who are, you know, consistently trying to take over the world and are doing like badass things that we can do them, you know, like we don't have to just, you know, show you you'll believe us when you, when we say that we can.
Yeah. I, I, I, I agree, um, with what Tennisha said, and I mean, I do this because you know, those days where I'm feeling like I'm not making a difference, I'm not making an impact. I'll get an email that says, you know, Hey, I listened to your talk or, Hey, I went to a workshop or, Hey, I did something. And that completely changed my mind or I'll interview somebody for something. And they'll be like, I didn't even know I could do that. Thank you. You've inspired me or whatever it is, those kind of things. Keep me going and keep me wanting to do this kind of work because it's important. I've been a serial volunteer since I was a kid, I think mostly because I got in trouble and had to volunteer. <laugh> didn't have a choice, but that kind of stuck with me because I, I liked the feeling that it gives, but I like to be paid for this work. Sure. Of course. Why not? Right. I get my hourly rate is what it is. Right. But if I can Le if I can help one person realize their potential, you know, build their confidence and, and power them to do whatever it is they want to do, then I've done my job and why not do it for thousands of people across, across the board?
Are you both unpaid for the work at the organizations?
So I get a now and one of our board members actually advocated for that. She was like, you do a lot of stuff you should get paid. Um, and I was like, yeah, but I feel, I feel guilty. I feel bad. And she was like, yeah, it doesn't matter. <laugh> your time is valuable. You should be getting paid for your time. And, um, I was like, cool. So it's not, it's not a lot. Um, and probably by tax purposes, it's probably not enough, but I'm fine with it because I have the second job. And my goal is to help give back. If we were able to raise enough funding to fund my, at least part of my regular salary, I could, you know, leave my job and just run the nonprofit full time, but then it, but then it's like, but you're not a practitioner anymore. So do you really know what's going on in the cybersecurity industry, if you're not actually in the industry to be able to bring those challenges and help solve some of those challenges that you see day in and day out. So it's kind of a catch 22.
We, and we're in, we're in startup mode. Um, I I'm just a hundred percent volunteer. Um, but you know, Mary, you know, at some point I think over the last six months was like, you really should be getting paid cuz you do a lot. And I have that same type of guilt, like when we started, um, my husband and I were funding this, you know, 100% out of our, our pockets. And since then we've been able to, you know, raise, um, you know, probably a fraction of what women's cyberjutsu does. But again, she's been doing this for, you know, what nine, 10 years at this point, right. BGH has been around for maybe a year or two. So like, I feel like I'm doing something when I get up in the morning <laugh> but you know, at the same time, like if we were to eventually get to the point where, you know, I could be compensated, that would be great, but you know, I, I don't necessarily need to be paid to, to feel like I'm making a difference. And I think that's probably more valuable to me than, you know, actual dollars and, and cents.
Yeah. It's, it's definitely a catch 22. It's like people want to feel fulfilled and purposeful in their work. So they're sort of willing to make concessions, but the concessions themselves are kind of unjust, so right. You know,
And there's a stigma in nonprofit world of, I mean, we see it all the time. The Goodwill is, you know, the dude is making $3 million. Yeah. But his budget is like a billion. Right. So I mean that's relative and people think that as a nonprofit, you shouldn't your executive directors, your, your staff shouldn't get paid, but hello, it's still a business, right? Yeah. The only difference is your profits go back into the organization, not to stakeholders.
Yeah. And I think that if you were to actually like, take a look at what it is that Mary and I are accomplishing like day to day for organizations, um, and you look at, you know, us bringing that same thing to a for-profit organization, we would probably be getting paid like ridiculous money, like, oh yeah, we'd be talking about golden parachutes and you know, things of that nature. Um, but again, like both of us do what we do because there were people who said that we couldn't, you know, they were people who thought that we weren't qualified. Right. And you know, I, I don't, for the most part talk about like myself and my qualifications. Like, I, I usually only, you know, bring them up when someone tells me that I, that I'm not qualified or that I'm not technical or that, you know, I, where did you come from?
Like, you know, not seeing, you know, me having meetings, you know, probably most of the day to try to get partnerships for my organization to get us, you know, all of the things so that we can be able to succeed and thrive. Right. But, but again, there are people who say, you know, Tennisha doesn't deserve it, or Mary doesn't deserve it. Um, you know, not seeing the day to day grind, but like I said, I've been a member of cyber JSU for the past, you know, 10 years, probably like the, the workshop she was talking about backtrack in mediport. Like I actually had that in my inbox. I just looked <laugh>. Um, <laugh> really, I was actually at that, that, that workshop, but people don't, you know, I guess respect the grind. They don't, you know, if we had built like, you know, a company like a for-profit company from the ground up, then they would probably, you know, be like, oh my gosh, she's so amazing. But you know, because we're doing it in the nonprofit space, it's like, uh, are you even working? Right. Like <laugh> really,
Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of that. And what do you, what do do with that? When somebody risks look at my time sheets, I track my time. Yeah. I, I just kinda laugh. It's like, okay, cool. Let me go do my work now while you sit here and think that there's no work being done <laugh> and then people start to, then they wanna start a nonprofit. I get the question. How do I start when I said don't yeah, because it's way too much work. There's way too many regulations. There's way too much stuff involved outside of just having that face. People don't realize the amount of work that's involved because they've never been an entrepreneur. They've never taken a, an MBA course to understand how that looks and how that works. And it's the funniest thing. I'll have these conversations and they'll be like, oh, I didn't know. We needed that. You know, charitable solicitation, if you solicit in any state in New York and California, you have to register mm-hmm <affirmative>. People don't know that. I didn't know that until I did some research, you know, and it's just those. And then you have to manage all that. So now, if you have chapters in places, now you have to find enough money to cover all of that. And that could be five grand a year.
And, and I think that the we're, we're doing this in, in a landscape where people do not trust African American founders. They're not trusting, you know, to give money to organizations. And you know, when we're saying, Hey, like we want donations. They're like, Hey, well we need this or we need this. And, you know, they wanna see, oh, well we wanna see that you've been, you know, I guess the equivalent of proof of past performance, you know, they wanna see that like, Hey, show us a project that you've done, where people have donated you money, um, and show us your outcomes and show all of those things. And before they donate money to you, they wanna see those things. So they're not on the ground seeing you do the work, you know, day to day training, all of the people mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, I tell people all the time, like when, when BGH first started, I was literally teaching the classes myself, six days a week, not sleeping great. And of course not taking care of myself, but you know, people don't, don't see that, you know, there's just like, Hey, we have this thing that we can do.
Are you talking primarily now about like individual donors? Or are you talking about foundations?
I'm talking about like both, but mostly like when we talk about grand people, right? So BGH has, I think definitely shown me the power of, you know, the people who donate, you know, five, $10 here. Um, you know, that in, in large numbers can definitely help, but when we look at how a lot of the other organizations are, are running and then like they have, you know, very large, you know, multi hundreds of thousands of donations to those organizations, um, to be able to do the work that they're doing, you need money for operations, right? You need money to be able to exist, to be able to, um, you know, generate past performance, to be able to, you know, demonstrate the people, the value that you're bringing, the impact that you're bringing. Right. So, you know, the people who are in women's cyber J who BGH can say, Hey, this has made an impact.
This has helped me get a job. This has helped me do this, that or the third. Right. But how do you, I guess, materialize that so that you can actually show the, the large skilled donors. And there's not a lot of them, you know, of the, you know, ridiculously rich people who donate, you know, to cybersecurity nonprofits, specifically, especially women's organizations, mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, because for the most part, in order for you to really see that there's a big problem with women in tech and stem, you're probably a woman, right? So <laugh>, you know, are those people ridiculously rich and then have the ability, there are some people out there, but for the most part, you know, there are a lot of, you know, I guess, different organizations that are important and they're not worried necessarily about, you know, Hey, does it matter that we don't have an equitable number of women and, or minority cybersecurity practitioners in organizations? Why do, why do I care about that? You know, like,
Well, yeah. I mean, I think you bring up a, a good point in some ways. I think what, what both of you do is a little bit less accessible to the common person. How have you adapted to that? Where have you seen success? Where have you, you know, where have you been surprised that you're seeing like, you know, obstacles you didn't expect to be there.
So one sell the organization. And this is probably why I took the sales engineering role that I did at my, my day job, because I need to know how to sell. Like, I know how to sell the story behind cyber JSU. I know how to, I can have the passion behind it because there is, I mean, it's a great organization, but to be able to get the folks on the other end of the phone to be like, yes, I want to sponsor you. That's the hard part. I think I talked to like 10 folks a day saying, Hey, come sponsor us. Hey, come partner with us. Hey, let's work together. Let's figure out some kind of plan. And it's like, oh, we'll get back to you. Oh, we'll get back to you. Oh, we'll get back to you. Cause they don't see the value until you're breached from some hacker and downstairs or across the waters or whatever. You don't see the value in cybersecurity. So you don't really see the importance of go. Why do I need to train folks to do cybersecurity?
Or you have a diversity issue that ends up being the front page because you have a minority or a female problem. Then it's like, Hey, we want to focus on, you know, DEI efforts. We wanna get more women more, you know, whatever into the space. Then it's something that you care about. So like, you know, in February, of course,
You know, those are, those are like Christmas for us, you know, because it's, it's black history month donate to a black organization. That's trying to help do this. Right. It's, it's, it's a women's history month donate to a woman organization. Right. But the rest of the year, you know, absent a, a, you know, a PR nightmare, like, Hey, you've got a demonstrated history of being absolutely atrocious to women and, or, you know, people of color, then, you know, then it's a problem.
And I hate to say it, but how you look, plays a role in that too.
Talk about your experience with
It. There's organizations that don't do a whole lot, and yet they get <laugh> lots of money and we're all fighting for the same pots of money from the same companies. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and it's like, well, what are they actually giving you in return, besides branding, besides, you know, access to an event? Like, are they producing folks that can go out into the world tomorrow and start making an impact in the world tomorrow? And a lot of times they're not right. That's where that whole, when I say we're not commercialized, that's where that somebody told me that they were like, yeah, this organization was so commercial. And I was like, what do you mean? They're like, well, they have this look, this persona, this aura.
But I, I think that also there's a relationship and there's a network on people, you know, both Mary and I have, you know, talked about our, our dislike of humans generally. And a lot of those donations are based on relationships that people have. Yes. Um, in rooms that we're not yet in. Right. So, because at least for me, I know I've not been networking and meeting people and, you know, I've actually taken extreme steps to, you know, actually avoid that most of my life. <laugh> <laugh>, you know, so, so now it's like, you know, I realize in order for you to get jobs, you have to go on the side door, you have to know somebody who can refer you. If you go through the front door, the ATS, I'm still a black woman named Tanisha, you know, who's trying to get a job. Right? Yep. So it, it's a, it's very much a people game as much as it is anything else, even when we're talking about donations. Um, and do you know the right people who can advocate on behalf of your, you know, local million slash billionaire who can drop some money in our, our coffers. So
Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. It's definitely interesting.
What's surprised you both like, so you, you start off with this sort of nonprofit journey founders or on the board of these organizations, and you're kind of, you sort of, it sounds to me like you sort of just, you dove into it and you're like, here's a problem we wanna solve. This is important. Nobody's talking about it. Uh, let, let, let's do this thing, you know, uh, what surprised you the most through that journey or, you know, pleasantly or unpleasantly,
You know, I didn't have any expectations going in when, when it, when I first, when it first happened. Um, but what surprised me was the number of women and people that were legitimately interested in a career in cybersecurity, in stem. You know, my first job was at, um, Accenture and I was the only female on my team. I was the only black woman on the team and I hated it. And so to, to see that there's not just in cyber, but technical in cyber, whether that's pen testing or incident response, or, you know, vulnerability management, whatever, the fact that there was so many women interested in it. Uh, I think that's what surprised me the most, but it was also good to see because now it's like, okay, we know there's people interested in this. How do we help them move to that next level?
Yeah. And I, I think for, for us, we kind of like when I started, I was just like, Hey, I'm gonna show some resources. I'm going to share, like, you know, who's got the, you know, the, the cheap books who's got the cheap training, you know, like, how can we do this more cost effectively? Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and then I started doing a, uh, a workshop and then it was the same type of thing as Mary said, you know, we see that there's so many people who are interested in, um, doing this in this space, who are interested in hacking. Um, and it, it wasn't just, you know, women, um, you know, I think probably 25% of my organization are men or non and, or non binary. So it's just like, you know, so many people who's actually meeting these needs. Right. Because realistically for me, you know, Mari mentioned, I've got a couple of degrees.
I have them because when I got done, then I was like, Hey, there's no real hands on. There's no real, you know, I'm not getting what it is that I need, which is like, Hey, the actual skills that I need to actually be work in this field. Right. So I was like, oh, I'll go and do this. Um, and maybe that'll be more hands on. And you know, it wasn't like necessarily the, the quality of the schools as much as it is that, you know, I think that pen testing and ethical hacking is not something that's taught in a lot of schools. And when it is taught, it's taught more in terms of theory than it is in practice. Right. Um, you know, I, I, I'm a professor now, one of my, you know, other things that I do is I teach computer science and cybersecurity at a, um, college in South Carolina.
They, you know, are taking an advanced level cybersecurity course, um, and have not touched Cali before in their life, you know? Um, <laugh>, they haven't done anything in a, you know, a terminal, right? Like, so how, like, you know, when I, when I went to college many, many, many years ago, um, the first time I saw a computer was actually in college, we learned programming in a terminal, like in a Linux terminal. Um, <laugh> because there wasn't any other, you know, options at the time, like I'm, I'm older than, um, <laugh> than, than Mary is. Um, and I was telling her the last time I actually touched, uh, a Mac was 20 years ago probably. Um, <laugh> me too. And it was a, it was a bubble Mac, like one of those, like, you know, one, yeah. We had those in school <laugh> yeah. So it had like a keyboard, but it didn't necessarily have like the, you know, the, the tower or whatever.
Um, and then, you know, somebody sent me a MacBook to like hack on and I'm like, what am I supposed to do with this? Like, how do I copy and paste in this <laugh> <laugh> so, you know, I, cybersecurity education has not, um, I think caught up with where we're at right now. Right. So, you know, it's, it's crazy because when you graduate with a computer science or a cybersecurity degree, I mean, you enter the real world or you have a masters or, or, or five, um, you should be able to go into a job and say, you know, Hey, I've obviously got some skills, right. But there's no hands on anything that's going on. Right. Right. And I, I went to like, I have masters from Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins. So it's not like I have, like, you know, I went to, you know, the school of McDonald's, I don't know, but <laugh>, you know, it's just like, why aren't we being taught this?
Why is this not integrated into the curriculum? You know, and why are we still having conversations? For example, like, you know, cybersecurity and computer science are two separate topics. Right. I don't, I don't see how you can still produce, you know, a ridiculous number of computer science, majors and cybersecurity is considered like an elective or another topic and not something that's, you know, solidly integrated into the curriculum. Right? Why are we teaching people to develop applications that are insecure, or that are not security focused? When as you know, you said at the beginning, like, we have to go back, you can hire somebody who's already got it integrated, or you can try to retrofit it after the fact, which is more expensive, more defects, more all of the things, right. So why not, you know, shift everything left and have, uh, a security focused, you know, organization, a security focused requirements, development process of, you know, everything, you know, and, and a lot of places don't do that. It's still a separate conversation. Um, so, you know, in order for us to kind of see a change in this, we're gonna have to, you know, take it to the K through 12, take it to the colleges so that we can, you know, teach people good habits before they can learn all the bad ones.
You know, what really inspired you to go down this path. And then when you started hitting the, the walls that you obviously hit, what inspired you to wanna just run right through those versus be like, I'm gonna, you know, do this other thing that maybe slightly easier for me to accomplish.
I have not hit probably 50% of the walls because when I first started black girls hack, I, I can't express to you the benefit of people like Mari Galloway and, uh, like Mary Chaney, who runs, um, minorities, cyber security, who have reached out to me and said, Hey, these are where the, the potholes are. These are where the walls are at, you know, like this is how you avoid them. Right. And, and that's based off of, you know, at least in Mari Galloway's experience, like, you know, decades of experience. Right. Um, and the fact that she's willing to impart that to somebody who's coming behind her, you know, who's generating a, a, a nonprofit organization. That's the kind of benefit that we have from experience that, you know, we don't typically get, because, you know, we don't have women that are in, you know, leadership positions, right.
Like large foundations and, and philanthropists there's, there's, it's clearly relationship driven.
It's about relationships, but they, they trust the people that look like them, regardless of if they have past performance or not. There's a trust there because like, if I didn't know, Tennisha just off break, because she's a black woman, I have a little bit more trust in her because I trust that she's probably gone through similar experiences than I, that I have. And then once I start to get to know her, then it's like, okay. Yeah, I trust you because you've got integrity. You've got you, you know, you, you stick to your word, you do all these things. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> people automatically look at us and see, while we have all of these credentials, they see the negative, even if they don't try to, they see the stereotypes that are pushed in front of them that were lazy, that we can't do X, Y, Z, that were not capable of doing programs or pro whatever it is.
And so that stigma is, is there. We, we saw it with, um, there's another organization out of long beach wonder woman tech. She went in this whole, you know, thing about how they, she can't get funding. She's constantly talking to people to try to get funding for her conferences and all this stuff. And it's like, you see that a lot in with minority run organizations, you see that in the VC world, mm-hmm, <affirmative> too. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know what I'm saying? Like you see it across the board everywhere black owned businesses are funded less than other organizations and businesses.
And it's be, it's based on a stereotype. It's based on some relationships, the mentality that, well, you guys are less than, so you don't need as much as, but we're still trying to make a difference. And people think we're, we've, we've moved past it because we've had a black president mm-hmm <affirmative>, but just two years ago, we had George Floyd. So, I mean like, <laugh>, we aren't that far removed from what's happening and can it be changed? Can it be fixed? Can there be some differences made? Yeah, of course. Um, but people have to be willing to do that. And if you don't, if you're not in those circles, if you, if you're not in those, those groups, you, you kind of get left by the wayside, unless you can get somebody that can get you in there and they have to trust that you are gonna do what you're supposed to do.
And I think in order for them to trust you, they have to first see you, you know, because a lot of times, you know, I don't, I don't know that it's intentional, but, you know, they don't see us. Right. Right. Women's cyber jets who has been in this space for 10 years. I can tell you because I see them. Right. I see the impact that they're making. I, I see the, the grindy, like, you know, we're having workshops, we're having, um, cyber Tucan. We have the, the girls academy, you know, for the, the, the young, younger women. Um, they have all of these things. Right. But then there will still be people who say that we don't see them, you know, what impact are you having? What are you actually doing? Right. But, you know, I say, you know, you can actually just look at her and just see, you know, see right past her, because, you know, a lot of people just overlook, you know, African Americans.
Um, and I don't think that it's necessarily intentional, but, you know, it's just normal. If you were to just look at Mary right now, you know, maybe you see, like she's got tattoos and she's got red hair. And like, you know, maybe she just got outta jail, like last week. I don't know. Like, there's a possibility, right? Not like she's got an entire alphabet behind her name, you know, she's doing amazing, but the degrees, all the things. Right. You know? Yeah. You don't actually know that she should have the in front of her name unless you actually take the time to actually look at her. Right. Um, but are people doing that? You know, not, not really, because there are people who still don't know, you know, that she exists. Those people are not in black girls hack because, you know, I am forever saying our friends over at w WC are doing this thing, you know, because like, I'm still a part of, you know, WSC myself, you know, I, I take advantage of all of the things that they do because I see the work that they're doing, you know, even before, you know, I had a mind to, to start BGH.
I was with them, you know, learning and, you know, lobby con you know, I don't even think I actually went to the conference, but I was in the conference, you know, in the lobby of, uh, Ooan with women's cyber JSU, you know? And I think what you said nine years at this point, the job doing that,
It'll be 10 in June.
Yeah. So it's just like, you know, we have to get people to actually see us to pay attention, um, in order for them to, to recognize the work that we're doing is valuable. I mean, it needs to be done because, you know, we, we can make the business case for, um, diversity in terms of the financial impact to companies bottom lines, right. People will, you know, can show you those studies that say, you know, the more diversity you have, the more, you know, differentiation in terms of thought, in terms of approaches, in terms of problem solving is important to, you know, improved bottom lines. Right. But people will say, Hey, you know, I've got a couple of women that are on my board now we're diverse. Right. But those are probably white women, you know, truth be told. Right. So when we, even, when we look at the companies who are trying to make a difference in terms of diversity, it's, Hey, I've gone from my all white, all male board, and now I've got like two white women on the board and I've made a difference, right? We've, we've, we've got, you know, 20% more diversity, you know, whatever, you know, but are you really getting diversity? You know, like when you look at the management in our companies, for example, you know, Mary, do you have a black manager?
No, but ma she is a minority. Okay. And it's a woman <laugh>. So that's the other part
<laugh> I could tell you that my line straight to the top is, is, is men. Um,
But I'm also on the sales side too. So there's a lot more women on sales than there is on the other side. But yeah. But because that's what we do, we sell. Exactly. We're good at doing that. They're not ne and she's technical, so that's a good thing too, but
Yeah, but there's there. I mean, how many technical people are there in sales, right? Maybe there's salespeople who have been taught some things. Right. But like to have Mari's background going over to sales, I think what blows my mind is the fact that, you know, when you even the, the subtext for her motivation for going over to sales is like to help a WSC. Like women's cyberjutsu, like world domination plan, right. It's like, Hey, I wanna be able to use this.
So I exactly,
For WSC, right? It's not because she needs to learn how to sell anything because we've already know, she doesn't like people. So people who don't like people don't wanna sell, you know, cause she can actually talk to people. Right.
She doesn't want that.
It's all part of an, uh, elaborate world domination plan. You know,
I, I think it boils down to getting people to change their behavior and mindsets. That's what's gonna change how we look at nonprofit work, how we look at what folks are trying to do and the women issue isn't just in cyber. I was just on a call before this and the ladies that I was talking to cause I'm in another mentorship program. They were like, yeah, I'm the only female I'm like, but you're not in cyber. It's across the board that there's this, this, and it's not NEC, I don't know if it's an issue, but there's this, this challenge of just getting more women to be involved in these conversations. I think it's gonna be a mindset change. Um, and companies and organ and you know, philanthropies and foundations have to look at the whole body of work of these organizations to start making a difference. Otherwise we're just gonna stay in the same positions that we're in, you know, trying to just kind of move the little, the rock along the train tracks. <laugh>
I think for me, like it's, it's important that we also realize that women need to be in those positions, but they also need to be paid equitably as well. They
Need to be paid
Because, um, when it comes down to it, like, you know, even in my household, I have conversations with my husband on a regular basis about whether like the, the, the pay gap exists. Um, you know, because they'll say, you know, a lot of women are in pink jobs, you know, so therefore they have lower salaries and, and therefore that's why, you know, women in the overall workforce tend to have, you know, lower numbers than, than men. And I'll say, you know, there are men who do the exact same type of work that I do in my space who make, you know, X number, you know, more than I do. Right. And I, I wouldn't know that if, if we didn't have conversations, you know? Right. But that's a, how do I know that I'm not making enough money? Somebody has to actually tell me that they're making, you know, 10 times more than I am or twice as much as I am.
Right. Right. Um, and without those kind of conversations, then it's like, you know, how would I know? And I think a lot of the, the systems now depend on people not knowing. So when you get these spreadsheets that are being sent around saying, Hey, this is what people are making in this space. And you say, you know, Hey, like I'm clearly, you know, the traditional sources of how much money should I be making are gas lie to you? You know, they're not telling the truth and they're not telling the truth because they have no, you know, I guess rested interest in making sure that women are getting paid the same as everybody else.
What, what keeps you going on a day to day basis?
Um, I know that, um, the long game is what keeps me, um, keeps me going. Um, I feel like what we do is, you know, on the ground, a very thankless job, right. Like every now and again, we'll get a message that says, you know, Hey, um, thanks for helping me or thanks. You know, but for the most time, most part that goes, um, behind doors, um, you know, one of the things that I guess irritated me initially is when people got like certifications based off of training that I was teaching or when they got jobs based off of things that I did. And I was like, Hey, you know, where's the, the, thank you. Where's the, you know, what's going on here? You know, like, oh my gosh, I got a job I'm so excited. Like what about the people who were helping you for free, you know, to be able to do these things.
And then I, I realized that, you know, pretty quick, like I, I've gotta be focused on, you know, other things because a lot of the time, you know, it's not, you're not getting that gratitude. You know, Mary talked about like every now and again, you know, she's been helping people for, you know, 10 years at this point. Right. She should be getting letters every day. Right. Because she's clearly made an impact on, you know, a lot of, of women, but, you know, is she getting those messages every, every day? No, she said every now and again. Right. And that's because again, like, it's, it's not, you know, I guess there's not a lot of grateful people or they don't remember
People gratitude very often.
They don't, they don't. And
That's the problem.
I mean, and, and that's fine, right. Because, you know, again, like our, our legacy is going to be in that, you know, future generations know about cyber security. They're gonna be, you know, have generational wealth. They'll be able to, you know, be making the, the kind of stupid money that people take for granted. Um, and, and that'll be like what we left behind. Right. So like, there'll be like, you know, waves of, of us after we're long gone, you know? And I think that's probably for me the long game, you know, my definition of world domination, did I leave impact, you know, making a difference in the lives of, of other people besides myself. Cause I could very, you know, capably take over the world myself or at least, you know, lead an excellent life myself. But you know, I think if you don't make a difference in other people's lives, then you know, where you really here,
People talk about legacy in all kinds of different ways, but is there something unique in the African American community tied up with legacy where, where you're, you're talking about taking over the world and this is important to you, does it have a different connotation in the black community than it necessarily wouldn't the general population? Or, or am I just totally on the wrong track here?
I, it, it definitely has a, a different connotation because of the fact that a lot of us don't know where our ancestors come from. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> a lot of us are, they were slaves brought over here, so there's no real legacy. There's no real, you know, tie back to, you know, the Royals in Africa that had that generational wealth and all that stuff. And so when folks can come in and start making money, that they can leave to their families, to their kids, to whomever, um, it hits different. Right. I don't have any kids and I probably won't ever have any children because, well, I like to give them back to their parents and <laugh>, and I'll just have my nieces and nephews, but we don't want the folks coming behind us, our kids coming up behind us to struggle. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so it, it, it, and I mean, I think that's across the board, but I think in the black culture, um, it's a little bit more in the forefront because there's so many generations of people that, I mean, we're only a few generations removed from Jim Crow, right? Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, mm-hmm, <affirmative> where, and, and black wall street, where wealth was stripped from them. And that, that sets people back. It's not, it's, it's important that we give this generation the opportunities and those possibilities and those chances to help their families and build that legacy, whatever it is for them.
Yeah. And I, I think I'd also add to that, like, when you think about high, high profile African Americans, for the most part, they're an entertainer, right? You thinking about like an Oprah or maybe like a Tyler Perry or, you know, all those people in, you know, all those people that I just named are all entertainers, right. Where are the very high profile like hackers, um, where are the very high profile people who are in this stem space? Um, and we don't see, you know, a lot of visible people that are in that space. So, you know, for me, you know, I remember the day that Marcus J Carey, um, he's probably like the closest thing we have to like a rock star in the hacking
He followed me on Twitter and I literally ran into my husband's office and I'm like, you know, freaking out and completely like fan girling, like, oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. And so I'm telling him, he's like, who is this man that you're talking about? Like he did, he, he followed you and now you're freaking losing your, your absolute, you know. Um, <laugh>. And, and I was like, you know, because for me, like, that's, that's major, you know, mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and when we think about women that are operating in this space, you know, like I completely fan girl over Mari. Right. But Mari does not have the, I think the, the place on a pedestal that I feel like, you know, she should, you know, and, and Lisa, for example, but yeah, like I feel like they're, they're not on the pedestal, you know, cuz if you say, you know, Hey, who's your favorite hacker, right? Like, oh, who's your favorite woman hacker. Um, you know, like for, if I had to think about that, I'd be like, you know, maybe some people might know like Rachel Tobac or you know, somebody
Listen night. I was thinking Alissa Knight. Oh yeah. <laugh>
So, so it's like, you know, we don't have a lot of very high profile, you know, women and specifically black women that are operating in a space. Right. So for me, when I talk about legacy, I, I talk about, you know, like Mary said, letting people know that there's something else out there because there's a lot of, you know, money to be made in the tech space, in the cybersecurity space. But you know, we're not telling, 'em like, Hey, you can be, you know, a computer scientist, you can be a hacker. Right. So for me, when I talk about legacy, it's not just, you know, leaving generation of wealth. It's like, Hey, you know, are you gonna leave a footprint on the moon? That is <laugh>, you know, like, were you ever there? Um, and you know, because we, we live one life and sober. Yeah. You know?
Yep. It just blows my mind that we are so close historically to slavery and to Jim Crow and voting rights act and all these different, like the fact that people don't appreciate that this has an impact on really not far removed generations is, is shocking to me. But it is just like little insidious thing in our society that like, people just don't understand. Like I, I really want to, and I don't know how much we want to like belabor the point, but like, you know, as, as, as two people who have come up, like not necessarily being tech, savvy kids, not having all the computers as kids who ended up in this cybersecurity space are figuring out the nonprofit world, you know, kind of from scratch. It has to impact you today.
Yeah. So for me, um, I I'm from Northeast DC and, and I remind people all the time that I'm from Northeast DC, I've actually got like this, um, org street sign behind me. That's the street that I actually grew up on, um, in, in DC. Um, and I tell people like, you know, that we couldn't have a book to take home because there were, you know, there was a classroom set of books. There wasn't enough for everybody to have their own books. Right. So, you know, when we talk about like the way that things are in, you know, and, and I was in military brat, my father was in the Navy. Um, so I grew up part of the time in, in San Diego and California as well. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so I, I got to see, you know, kind of how the other half lived when we talk about like the, the income disparities in, in school systems and like the differences in terms of like funding, you know, little things like the fact that, you know, we didn't have, you know, even books, you know, there are some schools that in California where you had like your classroom book, you had your locker book and you also had one that you could take home because nobody wanted you to actually be carrying books back and forth.
Right. But it would be like, you know, if we needed to get work done, we had to do it in the classroom during certain periods because there weren't books available for, for everybody. Right. So, you know, and we also, in a time in America, I think, where people don't wanna discuss it, you know, I think one of the big things right now is like critical race theory. And it's like, Hey, don't talk about the impact of, you know, our, you know, the American history has on the, the everyday existence of black people today. Right. We don't wanna talk about that. We don't want people to, to feel bad. Um, we don't want, you know, kids to, to, to think that, you know, their ancestors maybe did something wrong, but, you know, I think that it's important to have those conversations because, you know, how do we prevent history from repeating itself? We have to actually know that it happened, right. If we try to gloss over it and try to act like, you know, there are so many negative stereotypes that associated with black people, um, and like, you know, they don't want to do anything or, you know, they, they don't work hard or they're lazy, or, you know, there's so many, many things. And, you know, when I look at people like myself and Mary, like, we are literally some of the hardest working people, you know, I know, you know, and
You have five master's degrees. Yeah.
I definitely <laugh>. Yeah. I, I definitely do in, in schools that didn't necessarily want me to be there. You know, I tell people all the time, like, you know, Carnegie Mellon at the time had a program specifically for interset city, youth. Um, so all of my friends from college come, came from urban, um, cities throughout the United States who otherwise, may and may not have been able to get in Carnegie Mellon based on their standards at the time. Because realistically, when we got there, there were literally people that who said, you're the first real black person that I've seen in, in actual life before, you know, not on TV or not like in a book or, you know what I'm saying? Like, you know, and, and it would just be things as far as like, you know, your hair is different or, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, <laugh>, you know, just, it, it, but it's like, people aren't actually taught about the differences, but you know, it, it goes into everyday things just in terms of like, you know, when people are hiring people, they hire people who look like them.
Right. So the fact that you don't see women in this space, the fact that you don't see people of color in that space. Right. And when they are like, Hey, I see something in this guy, he looks like me. He comes from where I come from. He went to the same, you know, I don't know, golf club that I went to, whatever the thing is. Right. Um, you start to build, you know, hierarchies of people who don't contain women and, or people of color. Right. So, I mean, I know it's difficult and people don't wanna talk about it. Um, but when it comes down to it, it's like, it, it's important to understanding the context of even simple things, such as, you know, why we don't make as much money as some of the organizations who operate in the same space that are run by white founders or white, you know, executive directors.
But I, I think it's important to, to understand the context and just to know, like that we're working all that much harder to make sure that we've still got like a lot of the same opportunities that, that other people, you know, have both of my parents went to, you know, have master's degrees when I, they had master degrees when I came out the womb. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so I, I think that all of my siblings, you know, have at least a master's degree, so it's not like, you know, oh, I'm the first, you know, generation of people to go to college. You know, we are educated, but that's only because I was taught that you have to be that much better than everybody else. So, you know, that's one of the reasons why, like, I look at, um, you know, Mary's, um, LinkedIn profile just as a reminder, like you're not where you need to be like, get up and do what you're supposed to be doing, because she's got like 19,000 letters after her name that just like, basically spell out, like, I'm gangster, like
Respect, respect my name. You probably don't <laugh>
Respect my name. You know, that, that's why, like, when people say, oh, this is, this is Mari Galloway. I'm like, no, respect her, like the Mari Galloway. Like, I don't wanna hear anything else because I feel like she's, she's earned it, you know, especially in this space that I know it's, you know, super difficult to, to be in the fact that she can say, you know, Hey, I, I failed the certification and people would be like, oh my gosh, like you failed something. And I'm like, mm-hmm, <affirmative> you guys act like I'm not a whole human out here. Right. You know, like I haven't failed cert. The reason why I know how much the C costs for a retake is cuz I had to take a couple of them <laugh> so <laugh>, my husband feels like we should own stock in east council at this point because how much I'm given those people, um, for failed exam attempts. So, you know, what's
Your experience been going for major philanthropic dollars and, and for grants.
So we are at black girls hack zero for, I don't know in we'll just put it in down there. <laugh> um, but I know that we are zero for whatever, because of the three people who, or three organizations that have donated money, Craig Newmark, um, uh, a bank actually donated some money to us. Um, and someone else, um, donated some money. It was through relationships of people that either I knew or somebody else knew that saw what we were doing and then wanted to, to help. Right. So, you know, any of the attempts that we've had to, you know, I guess kind of solicit money through grants, all of it's been denied for us. So clearly, you know, my expertise is definitely not in, you know, grant writing <laugh>, but I'm okay with that because you know, we are gonna find somebody who can help us <laugh> but I, I can tell you that that is still something, you know, when we talk about people who are, you know, how to make nonprofits, um, live long term, you have to be able to have money, right? You have to be able to operate sustainability. I could technically call, you know, Rachel Tobac, you know, once a, a year and <laugh> be like, Hey, could you, you know, crowdfund? Um, but I, I don't wanna have to do that. Right. I want to be able to use the, the grant system. Um, but I, like I said, it's still lucid for me.
Yeah. So we got our first grant last year from the state of Virginia for $700,000 plus a $700,000 matching. Right. Wow,
Woo. I need that in my life. That,
Yeah. But that took a really long time.
I, and it wasn't us by ourself.
Right. So we've, I've applied for so many grants. And um, last year I applied for a grant and it's funny, the organization that got the grant that got the money, whoa hadn't even been in existence long enough to even do anything about it. Right. So over the years we'll get small things like 600 bucks, $1,500, which is great, but it doesn't help to do operations in the organization. Sustainability, it's difficult. We've even, we've even applied for Craig Newmark grants and have been told, you know, we aren't big enough. We don't have enough of a presence, whatever it is. And so it's definitely difficult to get funding from some of these bigger organizations without having those connections. And I hate to say it, but without having someone white help you get it.
But that's a part of the, I think the gate keeping that is,
And that's exactly,
That's, that's exists in the space. Right. And it, and it may not be like, you know, an actual like cement, you know, 15 foot wall that we actually can see, but it's still there, you know, but it's there. And the fact that it, you know, it takes a phone call from somebody to get, you know, money dropped into your account, you know, and I I'm,
I'm in 48 hours. <laugh>,
I'm so grateful. Like, I, I, I don't mean to be ungrateful, but I'm just saying like, you know, again, that's, that's based on relationships. Like if I had not been randomly matched with her through the shared American cyber program, you know, we would not have had that opportunity. Right. So, so how do people who are looking to make a difference in this space? We are looking to, to do this and to have sustainability, you know, for, you know, populations that are not served in other ways. Right. How, how do we do that? Right. Because
It boils down to trust. They have to start trusting
True. But at the same time, I think it's also relationships, right. We don't know the right people clearly. Right. That's
True too. Or
<laugh>, we're not, you know, appealing to the right people.
Talk to me about your alumni. Like what, the folks that have gone through the programs that you're working on. Like what have they gone on to do? Are there any cool success stories? Like what, what can you share about them?
Um, from, so from our girls program, we've had a number of girls that have gone to college and like changed their majors from, you know, um, business or arts to stem tech, cyber type stuff. So that's kind of cool. Um, and then for the adult side of things, um, we've got folks that are they're leading organizations, they're, you know, managing teams, they're developing programs, they're, they're leading volunteer initiatives, um, joining boards, right. A lot of our members end up starting their own business, which is kind of cool mm-hmm <affirmative> cause they probably just got tired of dealing with the shenanigans at a nine to five job and was like, let, just do this on my own. But we have a number of entrepreneurs in the organization too, that, you know, they come, they get their cybersecurity training and then it's like, okay, you know what, let me start this business to do consulting mm-hmm <affirmative> um, we always ask that members try to give back in some sort of way, um, because you know, their story is important.
I learned the importance of telling their story a few years ago. And it's like, you came through a, you, you came to us, you participated some of, some people have been members for 10 years, like Tanisha share your story, share what you've accomplished from being a part of the organization. And so the thing that I really like is that they, they come back and volunteer, they take on leadership roles. Um, cuz at some point I'm going to relinquish the power to someone else <laugh> and let them run Jisu <laugh> and so it's always good to see them say, Hey, I want to, you know, teach or Hey, I have this idea. Um, and I, I think cyber JSU just gives them the freedom to, just to be who they are to be who they wanna be. So
Yeah, we we've only been around for a couple years, but we, you know, I, I, I always used the example, our, um, our chief operations officer, when she actually started her career, she was a ticket taker for the, um, I think Texas Rangers. Um, and she actually, I think she recently left their organization, but not before she took over the cyber department. Um, and that's within like the past couple of years. And I think that that's absolutely amazing. Um, we have other people who have gone on to start like their own, you know, nonprofits or their, their, their own, you know, companies in, in my mind. And once they to wear the next step on the wrong, you know, as they, if they get reach back and help, whether that's volunteering and mentoring, you know, financial donations, whatever it is, um, then, you know, I feel like we've made a difference, right. Even if they just tell a friend like, Hey, this organization has made a difference so that, you know, maybe we can, you know, get some amazing company to, you know, drop, you know, few hundred thousand in our, in our
Bank account accounts. We
So that we can continue to operate, you know? And I can think about maybe one day actually retiring and you know, joining Mari and, and one of our other friends on the beach, somewhere on
The beach. <laugh>
And what would you both be doing if you weren't involved with cybersecurity?
So my dream job, when I leave cyber, I wanna be a Walmart greeter. <laugh> shut up. I'm so serious. I go, you know, I say this to people and they're like, really? I'm like, you gotta think about it, those old folks that work, those jobs <laugh> they don't have anything else to do. They're in there just living up their life. It's the, most of them look really happy and really excited to be in there. And yeah, uh, Walmart greeter and probably crocheting stuff. I make crochet stuff now, but probably making like little brots and skirts and blankets and stuff. Um, something crafty or artistic
Mind you, I don't like animals, but I want a farm. I just actually want the, the vegetable part of the farm. Like I wanna grow all of my that's a garden. I'm talking about scale. I'm talking, <laugh> take
The away. Oh my corn. <laugh>
Maybe it's a very large garden, but like, I basically wanna feed like the community, like, I don't know, but would dope. I just wanna grow, but mind you, like, I've had one successful like season of, of crops. So, you know, we actually just moved. So we've actually got a backyard now. So like I've gotten like my little, you know, planners back there that I'm about to get started cuz now that it's hopefully stopped being, but that's my goal is that I wanna just, um, be by myself on a farm in the middle. Like my closest neighbor is like 10 miles, 20 miles away. Like, oh geez, maybe on, on our own island, if I can make enough money between now and then. But like, you know, I don't want any other people to be there, you know?
Cause you don't like people
I'll be on the other side of the island
<laugh> we will run everyone Fridays for like drinks and there you spades or something. I don't know.
What's, what's the most important cause that humanity can tackle today and why
Education and quality. We've got to learn, um, how to do things better, more efficiently. And we can't do that without having like a diversity of thought in terms of like different approaches to problem solving. So, you know, I want to educate people more fairly so that we can, you know, see the amazing things that can be done by, you know, people who, you know, were told that they're not smart enough or they're not, you know, good at math or whatever, you know, lies. People tell them to keep them out certain careers and or directions. So that, that for me is, is the goal
Kindness. I mean, it's not really an issue like, like education and stuff, but I think if people are more kind, we can get a lot further in, in, in, you know, like the whole miss America, I want whole peace.
<laugh>, don't be an.
Don't be an. Right. Because there's so many great people that can do some great things and they get turned away because somebody was an to them. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, I, I think if people gotta stop thinking they're better than the next person, because they had some extra privilege or this, that, and the third, um, I just want everybody to get along I'm so I'm tired of all the fighting. I'm tired of all of the, you know, this on this crime and that, on that like, dude, we could be so much further if we just listened to each other and it was just nice to people.
You know, it's the simplest thing.
Okay. When you're ready to go to the beach and the island and build your farm and how do you know you you've hit success? What would you like to look back on your career? Having accomplished
That? I made an impact on one person. I was able to help somebody reach their goal. And if it's a thousand bodies or just one somebody, um, I think it's all worth it.
I think if somebody loves BGH as much as I do and can take over the mantle, then I can leave. And if that happens, like, you know, luck with that next year,
<laugh>, you know, with that,
I will definitely piece out. Right. Because like, I, I care about the mission. Um, but at the same time, like there's a, um, I don't know, there's a quality of life issue because I'm trying to do so many things. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I have issues with boundaries as far as like saying no, because like I want to help all of the people do all of the things.
Every non-profit founder, probably.
Yeah. So I need to probably practice some more, you know, knows for my wellbeing. But, um, I think for me, so obviously that's not happening anytime soon, so
<laugh> so she gonna be doing it forever. Yeah.
Years. Some people do it for 10, 20 years. Yep.
When I retire from work I'm I can do this from the beach. Like I just need an internet connection.
That's it? That's it. That's all we need is the internet
Look, I'll be like, this is the way we hacked back in 2022.
I'm sorry, I ain't got nothing new for you, but like
This is what you started. Like I'm sorry. But like we don't, you know, have breaches here on the farm. <laugh> perfect.
Perfect. Will somebody hand me a PC for God's sake? Like
<laugh> I know, right, exactly.
Gonna send somebody a letter on a typewriter, like take it back. <laugh> full circle.
What's next, uh, for these organizations and how can people support your work?
So what's next for us is, um, we wanna go global. We wanna be an international organization. Um, which means we need help from the, the international community trying to break into that space. Uh, obviously funding that's always there, but volunteers, allies, uh, connections, you know, come do a workshop for us. Come, come do a study group, come, come tell us about your journey, your story. It might inspire somebody else. Um, and then just opportunities. So I don't know who's listening, but opportunities to be in front of that next generation of folks that are, you know, kind of confused about where they're supposed to go and what they need to do, you know, giving, giving us that opportunity to share, Hey, here's an opportunity for you.
And, and I think for, for us, um, you know, I want people to see us, all the things that Mari said, um, in terms of mentoring, um, donating, um, volunteering, giving back, um, you know, even if it's as simple as like, Hey, we've got some jobs and we'll give you like a first look at those, um, you know, so that we can, you know, give your, your, your organization a head start, right? Because for so long, I, I think that we've not had a head start. Um, and I think that, you know, giving them the opportunity to be able to get experience for taking a chance on them, um, to start training people who are entry level so that they can, you know, work their way up in the organization as a, as instead of like, you know, requiring three to five years of experience for an entry level position, right. Give us the opportunity to thrive. And then I think that you'll see that we can, you know, go above and beyond what's expected of us, but again, we need the opportunity. We need to know the right, right. People, you know, and maybe that's as simple as connecting us with the right people. So, you know, tell your rich friends about us. <laugh>
<laugh> your rich friends about us? Yes. Oh my God.
My God. All right. Well said, well, I'll, I'll let you both go. This has been a real pleasure. Um, your, your incredible founders and incredible people. And thank you so much for spending two hours with me, uh, on a, on a Tuesday here. Really appreciate it. Hey, it works.
Thank you for having
Us. Thank you for having us. Thanks so much. Excited to talk again soon. Thank you so much.
That's our show for this week. A big thank you to our guests, Mari and Tennisha, as always. There's more information in the show notes. Please check them out at causeandpurpose.org. For our next episode, we're very lucky to have the senior director of community innovations impact labs and the open source common at salesforce.org Amy Guterman. Amy shares insights from our career leading design projects for social good and lets us in on some of the amazing projects going on at Salesforce impact labs. Hope you can join us until then cause and purposes of production of moonshot.co on behalf of myself, Mari and Tennisha, and our entire team. Thank you for listening. We look forward to speaking with you again soon.
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Nathan Mallipeddi is the Founder and CEO of Myspeech, an international nonprofit, where he leads a team of ~50 members and ~200 volunteers in tackling two of most significant issues in the field of healthcare services in speech therapy—the lack of access to care and unaffordable prices. They are currently building a technology platform to scale therapy and community services to millions of people who stutter around the world. They’ve impacted ~25,000 people in 26 countries, with partnerships in 30 schools. Their partners include Fast Forward, Future Founders, Harvard Innovations Labs, Microsoft, Salesforce, Verizon, the Westly Foundation, Donald A. Strauss Foundation, UCLA SOLE, the World Stuttering Network, and many more.Check out the Episode
Jason Shim is the Director of Digital at the Ontario Science Centre. With over 15 years of experience spanning the nonprofit and academic sectors both as an employee and a consultant, he has consistently helped organizations stay ahead of the technology curve. He loves to help organizations explore the question “How can we harness technology to make a difference in the world?” In 2013, he led Pathways to Education to become the first Canadian charity to issue tax receipts for Bitcoin donations, providing access and awareness to a brand new tech-savvy audience.Check out the Episode
Diana Wilson is very proud to be the Founder & CEO of Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa.W) and Black Sisters in STEM (Black SiS). They are a globally recognized nonprofit whose work has been featured by MTV, Google, The Malala Fund, Face2Face Africa, Blavity, The Late Afternoon Show with Berla Mundi and many more. Black Sisters in STEM is building the largest talent marketplace of Black college women in STEM and training the next Fortune 500 CEOs, innovators and world class leaders.Check out the Episode
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Moonshot.co is home to Cause & Purpose, a podcast about leaders in the social impact sector. Hear their stories, successes, failures, and lessons-learned from lives spent in the trenches, tackling the world’s most important challenges.