If there’s a name to watch in cybersecurity, it’s Sivan Tehila. An accomplished professor, director, founder, solution architect, and cyber veteran, Sivan has her hand in almost every aspect of the industry—from education and training to implementation and evolution. Sivan has been featured in numerous publications and was recognized as a 2020 Woman to Watch in IT Security and one of the 10 Most Eminent Women in Security 2021. However, we know her most fondly as the Program Director for the Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity at Yeshiva University’s Katz School of Science and Health.
Sivan’s background certainly makes her interesting, but her rich experience, endless work ethic, and impressive pursuits make her an undeniable role model for cybersecurity professionals. Continue reading to learn more about her cybersecurity journey, various ventures, and her mission to make the industry more impactful and inclusive.
Focused on Security from the Start
Since she was young, Sivan has always been an ambitious and curious learner. Sivan grew up in Israel and holds a B.A. in political science and criminology from Bar-Ilan University. After graduation, she earned her M.A. in business development and consulting from the University of Haifa, as well as a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) certificate from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
Like many women in her country, Sivan started her career in the Israeli Defense forces. She served for ten years as an Information Security Officer, then worked her way up in cybersecurity leadership to become the Head of the Information Security Unit in the Intelligence forces, and ultimately the CISO of the Research and Analysis Division. She received primary training during her military service and, at a relatively young age, was tasked with building strategies and action plans for complicated defense operations. With dozens of soldiers under her command, Sivan showed an early aptitude for organizing and directing large groups—a common thread for her professional and personal endeavors to come.
After her time in the military, Sivan continued working in service to her country—just in a slightly different way. In 2015, she joined Rafael, an Israeli Defense Industry, as a certified profiler specializing in polygraph preparation and cyber and computer crimes. She then moved to the Israel Railways to design and build a unique, state-of-the-art Cyber Security Operation Center. This operation center was created to monitor and protect against potential cyberattacks on the hundreds of trains running throughout the region.
Since trains are considered national critical infrastructure, this project was extremely important to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Thus, it gave Sivan the autonomy and resources to explore larger-scale defense tactics for IT and OT systems, many of which relied on cross-functional collaboration, strategic cybersecurity leadership, and global standards compliance, such as NIST and ISO 27001.
Taking Her Talents to the United States
In 2019, Sivan moved to New York and began working at Perimeter 81, a renowned cloud security company, as the Director of Solution Architecture. Around the same time, she joined Yeshiva University’s Katz School of Science and Health and began teaching the course ‘Cybersecurity Audit, Assessment, and Testing’. Sivan chose Yeshiva University not only because it aligned with her Jewish values, but also because she was impressed with the school’s advanced cybersecurity program and wanted to invest in its future.
Recently, Sivan was named the Program Director for the in-person and online MS in Cybersecurity programs at Katz. As Director, Sivan is responsible for shaping the curriculum, establishing career resources, and managing the general success of the program. Luckily, Sivan has an impressive list of faculty members with whom she gets to work on course content and student engagement, as well as networking opportunities and post-graduate career placement in New York and beyond.
“Educating and preparing the next generation of cybersecurity leadership is critical for me,” Sivan says of her latest role. “I’m so excited and grateful for this opportunity.”
Outside of her role at Yeshiva University, Sivan is also the co-founder of Onyxia, a cybersecurity startup (stealth mode) that supports small-to-medium businesses in protecting themselves against increasingly frequent and damaging security threats.
The Fight for Females in Cybersecurity
Throughout her career, Sivan has specifically sought out or created opportunities to champion women and girls interested in cybersecurity. This stems from her experiences in Israel, where she often felt that there was a serious lack of female representation. In the United States, she hasn’t found it to be much different.
“When I served in the Israeli Army as a cybersecurity officer, I was often the only woman in the room,” says Sivan. “I knew it was wrong. I want to change that.”
Sivan’s feelings are not unfounded; women make up only 24% of the cybersecurity workforce and still encounter pay gaps despite doing the same work.1 Similar to other tech-focused careers, many women and girls find themselves without the education, resources, or encouragement necessary to compete in this rapidly growing field. Having experienced this firsthand, Sivan hopes to change that stigma and recruit more women into the field.
Starting at the Source
To promote more diversity and gender equality in cybersecurity, Sivan is working to create organizations that offer support from a young age. This includes building a unique cybersecurity and Digital Transformation program for the Manhattan High School for Girls. To this day, she continues to serve as a mentor for both the high school students and computer programming teachers there.
Sivan also founded Cyber Ladies NYC in 2019, a community designed to empower women currently in the industry and to encourage other women to pursue cybersecurity leadership positions. Through community events, workshops, and panels, the group lives out their mission to create “a safe and empowering environment for women in cybersecurity. A place where we can share knowledge, mentor others, and become role models for young women at the beginning of their careers.”
In partnership with the Katz School, Cyber Ladies NYC launched a mentorship program in 2021 specifically to help women find their first job in cybersecurity. They created three successful and unique programs for over fifty participants, many of whom were just beginning to explore the profession. While it was a challenging endeavor, Sivan and her team found it to be an extremely rewarding opportunity. And their hard work paid off: After completing the program, over 60% of the participants were able to start a new job in the field during the pandemic.
“While this is just the beginning for these programs, the potential for positive impact is tremendous. There will be an influx of women seeking to join the cyber workforce, and I am very proud of the impact we have created,” says Sivan.
Sivan's Outlook for the Future
Though it might seem like Sivan has accomplished enough for a lifetime, she continues to press forward in her long-term mission to train and prepare the next generation of cybersecurity leadership—but with 50% of it being women. She has big plans and high aspirations for the programs at Manhattan High School of Girls and Cyber Ladies NYC, and she’s working on new technologies and products to support current CISOs and IT managers.
As for the master’s in cybersecurity program at the Katz School of Science and Health, Sivan wants to build a solid runway for fulfilling jobs and impactful careers. With a keen focus on the future of the industry (and the forces that continue to attack it), Sivan and the Katz faculty are working diligently to equip students with the tools, mindset, and values to conquer evolving cybersecurity threats and protections.
- Retrieved on December 22, 2021, from isc2.org/-/media/ISC2/Research/ISC2-Women-in-Cybersecurity-Report.ashx