Last August 7, 2020, SecurityMatters Magazine (SMM), the Philippine Women in Cyber Alliance (PCWA), and the Women in Security and Resilience Alliance (WISECRA) honored this year’s awardees of the Top Women in Security Philippines. As part of our efforts to drive awareness of the award and its role in women empowerment, we will be publishing a series of short features on the trailblazing women who made it to the list.
CHARMAINE R. A. VALMONTE
VP Head of IT Security and Infrastructure
Aboitiz Equity Ventures
Charmaine has been transforming the cybersecurity space for the last 32 years, and in the last five years, her expertise and dedication have been put to good use at Aboitiz Equity Ventures where she leads as vice president for IT Security and Infrastructure.
As a retired signal officer of the US Army, Charmaine honed her skills while doing a variety of work in telecommunications, network, data security and information and cyber security. But it was not without some difficulties.
Charmaine has a Master in Business Administration and Organizational Management.
Challenges along the way
“Being a woman has definitely been a challenge especially in the military where it is predominantly male-oriented. This challenge has always been my motivator. Taking command of a tactical communications company and manning its security and operations as a young Lieutenant responsible for a region was definitely a very big task. However, I had a few good female mentors and a great team who ensured that we succeeded as a team.
As a commander responsible for 187 personnel providing secure communications services, I’ve had my share of outages. One unforgettable disruption happened on a Sunday morning.
Interestingly, I had taken an hour from the field to hear mass at the chapel during a field operation. And on that hour, one of my soldiers mistakenly unhooked one of the main trunks to his van as we were tearing down his site. This was a transmission van, so the incident cut off the secure communications line the Post Commander was connected to. Unfortunately, the link was disconnected during a teleconference with the headquarters in the US from our tactical site outside the country. As I was walking out of church to head back to my site, I was immediately ordered to report to the post commander.
Imagine walking out of church feeling refreshed and surprised to see your team fetch you in the company vehicle. We drove to the post headquarters and reported as instructed. The post commander was not very happy, to say the least. I simply took responsibility for the outage and assured him that the secure connection was back up and operational.
Back at my command, I gathered the team and we discussed the situation, corrected our mistake and ensured that we incorporated measures in our operations quickly. I was fortunate to be surrounded by good team leaders and members who made up an awesome team.”
The security industry today
“The security industry has grown over time and we now face myriad of solutions and services. It is important to have a clear understanding of an organization’s requirements and the key fundamentals of security. Often, we hear the latest buzz words or technologies and can easily get lost in the tech terms and we lose our audiences in the boardrooms or communities.”
Advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in security
Women have clearly excelled in the security field. However, a continued disparity in terms of position and remuneration still exists especially in a male–dominated profession.
On being recognized as one of the top women in security in the Philippines
This may have been attributed to the extensive experience in the security field both from a military and civilian perspective. I am a strong advocate of increasing the Information Security profession in the Philippines through the academe and the community programs.
Apart from work, I also teach Information Security at a local college. Privileged to have been consulted as a resource in the development of National Cybersecurity Plan for 2022.
I am especially proud of all the women who represent and excel in this field.
Secret to success
Tenacity. Continuously educating one’s self, learning and embracing change while ensuring that we always remember the fundamentals of Information security and cyber security.
We continue to collaborate and build the necessary teams to combat the adversaries by building a team of cyber warriors.
We always start by developing and building the human firewalls.
I would like to contribute to the profession through speaking engagements, collaboration, and training activities in the areas of emerging technology, Secure Operations, Data Security, Cyber Resiliency, Cyber Warfare, and Cyber Defense Operations.
Message to future women in security
This is the perfect time to get into the Information Security field. It has grown to become its own field with various areas of expertise and career paths to choose from. The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. It is so diverse that competencies were developed in this field and one can choose among technical, operational, professional and leadership areas.