Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Hello, Anya!

You’re in sixth grade now and you’re determined to become a physicist. I’m not going  to discourage you.

By the time you graduate from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where the number of girls in each class is in the single digits, your country will no longer have the ability to fund the sciences. But you will never regret your choice. Your first major will teach you to be afraid of nothing. It’ll also teach you that you can start from scratch.

I have a story I like to tell independent girls. The modern world is such that it’s often girls who understand things early, about themselves and the world, and who take on more than boys. You’re that kind of girl, so listen to this.

This happened when I was working for the Russian division of Microsoft, already in a fairly senior position. In this company, there’s a big and important event at the North American headquarters every six months: they take stock of what they have achieved and make plans for the future. On the first day, all the issues are discussed at the functional manager level, and the next day they are presented to the CEO.

So, the first day. The functional meeting I’m responsible for gets out of hand. It was a debacle that I certainly didn’t expect. I got a lot of questions, but had no answers. And the next day was even more important and critical. I crawl back to my hotel room, exhausted. And all I have the energy to do is email my colleagues, everyone I can think of, asking for help. I go to bed and in the morning (much to my surprise) I have about 15 emails in my inbox with some really great and really smart suggestions.

It was perfect! My colleagues saved me from complete failure and I learnt an important lesson. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have to approach people, to talk to them. Because when you discuss your ideas with others, you win them over. Or you may realize that something really is worth giving up.


Asking for help is still not one of my strong points. It’s hard for me, but I try not
to forget that lesson. My only regret is that I didn’t learn it ten years earlier. Realizing this at a younger age would have made my life a lot easier. 

You’re really passionate about what you do

Anya, hello from the future!

You are now about 15 years old and have no idea what lies ahead of you. Right now you’re learning German just because you like it, but in a few years your mom will get a job at a university in Germany and you will go with her. Oh, how your German will come in handy then!

Then you decide to go to Moscow for a while, but you’ll end up staying here for a long time. You’ll get an interview with a very talented person at Kaspersky. He will see your great potential and help you realize it, he will say later on that your knowledge of German also made a great impression on him.

And now, I’m afraid to say, you’ve been working for this company for 15 years. You’ve become an excellent expert and analyst, but the most important thing is that you’re really passionate about what you do. It’s thanks to you, among other things, that Kaspersky Safe Kids was created. Also, Anya, as part of your job you have to deal with the darkest and most horrible content on the internet. Videos and images like this should not be seen by people! Thankfully, you’re an adult and you can deal with it — and because of what you do, children won’t see it.

You’ll be annoyed by mobile apps that deliberately hide privacy settings and websites that use your information without asking. You’ll spend a lot of time thinking about privacy, and you’ll be successful.

All of this will happen, but in the meantime, worry less about the various failures and adversities. The job interviews you failed, the people you broke up with — these are all pieces of the puzzle that make up the picture of who you are today. And it’s a picture you’re going to love. I love it! You know, you’re going to remember being bullied at school differently. Yes, it hurt at the time, but because you stood up to it and stayed true to yourself, you kept your individuality.

With hard work
and perseverance, anything is possible

Dear Masha!

You may be feeling scared or insecure right now, but please know that you
are stronger and more capable than you think. As someone who has literally been
in your shoes, I can confidently say that the journey you are about to embark
on is well worth it.

At first, it won’t be easy to make the tough decision to commit to an IT education. Your naughty older brother is constantly occupying the only PC in the house.
It’s not uncommon for him to prevent you from even playing Heroes of Might
and Magic, let alone help you learn Basic. He’ll go on and on about how useless girls are at programming. Just ignore him.
Later, you’ll question whether you should pursue a career in IT security. You’ll wonder if you have what it takes to succeed in such a competitive field. As it turns out, you do! What’s more, your drive and passion for learning will take you even further. You’ll be drawn into the world of security research and malware analysis, and your lifelong commitment to honing your skills will pay off in ways you can’t even imagine yet.

You’ll have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry, and you’ll quickly realise that you’re no less capable than they are. Your computer science training will provide a solid foundation, and your willingness to take on new challenges will become more useful every day.

You will inspire others with your tenacity and determination, and you’ll become a role model to those who doubt themselves, proving that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. The career highs and personal growth that await you in IT will be beyond your wildest dreams. You’ll feel a sense of pride
and satisfaction when you realise how far you’ve come and the impact you’re making in the field of cybersecurity.


So take a deep breath and believe in yourself. You’re on the right track and I can’t wait to see the incredible things you’ll achieve.

With unwavering faith in you,


The easiest path is the wrong one to take

Hi Yuliya!

First of all, I would like to start with some excellent news for us — you will achieve ALL your goals, so dream big!

Another piece of news: all kinds of opportunities are open to you. You can buy Bitcoin in 2009 and dollars for 35 rubles (for diversification) and just be rich. Or you can choose to make cybersecurity your life’s work and let it become your favorite thing to do, face life’s challenges and celebrate the small victories that build character. You can move around and be prepared to start from scratch, travel
the world and carry your backpack beyond the Arctic Circle, swim with whales and watch the oceans meet at the Cape of Good Hope, run marathons and learn resilience, perseverance and discipline, meet smart and talented people, commit your life to one of them and just be happy.

The easiest way always turns out to be the wrong one, so don’t be afraid to take
on challenges; they are the real gifts of life. And if someone says you can’t do it,
do it twice and send pictures. I have quite a few already.

You will grow up, and very soon we will meet, so go out and do everything you dream of, and eventually I’ll be able to write this letter to you.

If you feel that you are interested in something, do not hesitate — feel free to take it up

Hi Lena!

In about 30 years, you’ll be VP of Marketing for a global IT company. I understand your confusion. It’s the mid-1980s. You’re traveling halfway across Moscow
on the metro to a special school offering advanced German. You’re wearing
an unbelievably hot coat and a hat, carrying those damned skis in your hands for PE!
At this point you don’t even know terms like IT or VP, instead you dream of becoming
a cosmonaut and have read all the books on the mysteries of the universe you could find in the nearest library. You might not ever make it to space, but luckily you will be surrounded by stars in your work. And many of them will work in your team, which will be over a hundred people strong.

At high school, you’ll have to choose an elective in your training and production classes. Remember: choose the Computer Operator elective! Those giant screens that you will see for the first time in your life will surely appeal to you and will determine your future. Next up will be physics school and the Electronics Institute. In 1993, when a friend of yours invites you to work as a system administrator, be sure to accept. You will be connecting computers to the network via dial-up and studying a thick two-book Unix administrator’s manual. At the time, you won’t be able
to imagine that this will lead you to the most advanced technology company in the world.

Eventually you’ll move into marketing. At the time, this new word will seem almost insulting: putting adverts in newspapers, sitting around waiting for customers. But after many years, marketing will become really high-tech and in demand, with data analysis, automation and ML models.

All these things are just details. The important thing is to never be afraid to try new things. Life is impossible to predict in advance. If you feel that you’re interested
in a case, do not hesitate, take it on boldly. One day your father, our father, will say: «Mom and I don’t know anything about these modern high-tech things, but if it’s your choice, we’re ready to support you. Go for it! We’ll be here for you.» These words will mean a lot to you. You will be brave and it will work!

P. S. Oh, and an MBA in marketing will also come in handy.

Pay it forward
and everything will work out

Dear Genie,

Today you’re just a little girl, who loves reading the encyclopaedia and spends hours practicing on the piano as your tiny feet dangle off the chair. I know you dream
of one day becoming a concert pianist and composer.

You’re precocious but reclusive; you love school for the learning it provides but you hate it for the need to interact with others. I remember those days well. You always wanted to excel and make the world a better place, as you saw how our grandparents had set such good examples: living their lives helping and investing
in others; literally raising families who’d lost their sole breadwinners and were left without education or a decent livelihood.

Through the years, it will never be easy for an extreme introvert like you to break out of your own shell, to overcome your insecurities, to face the world (much less
to positively impact others). But eventually you will break away from your awkward self, and become the role model that people see in me today.
Every career decision I made (though, sorry to say — you didn’t become a concert pianist) has had in mind how I could also serve a good cause in each of those vocations. It hasn’t been easy and it takes daily sacrifices to be able to do so
and “walk the talk” in a sustainable way.

I became the woman I am today because I stood on the shoulders of giants and
of the people who had gone before me and had inspired me to become a better version of myself, day by day, to stand up and advocate for the empowerment
of women and girls, youth, and the underprivileged.

I have many people to thank for helping me along this journey, and for believing in me – from my grandmother, who was a huge source of inspiration, strength, and wisdom, to my work family at Kaspersky today (you’ll meet them in 2020).

In this family I was exposed to the technology and cybersecurity industry but was also thrown into the deep end immediately, since it was the pandemic (think: lockdown, isolation, remote working, no office life and no meetings with colleagues in my entire first year). The learning curve was incredibly steep in such conditions and learning these new ropes overnight and out-performing work targets were unthinkable.

But I did it and at Kaspersky, I never felt for a day that I did it without the necessary empowerment, and strong support from the company and colleagues. As a professional, I’ve grown so much over the last four years – kudos to this family of mine.
My encouragement to you is to live life curiously and always be willing to learn. Live not just for yourself but also to serve others. Learn from the best and always stay humble. There’s so much to glean from the people who have gone before you. Pick up what works for you, adapt it to your personal style, and while you’re busy trying to get to where you want to be, also think about how you can make this world a better place. Pay it forward.

This reclusive little girl could do it, and so can you.

Work hard, work smart, get creative, and give it all you’ve got

Dear little Lisa,
Brace yourself. I am you 20 years later.

At this moment, you are thinking that you don’t know what you want to do with your life, but you do know that you are not going to become the doctor or lawyer that our first-generation Korean American mom always dreamed you would be.

I’m here to tell you that there’s a whole other world of possibilities that you never even knew existed.

You don’t know it yet, but one day you will be leading a team of talented, smart,
and passionate cybersecurity professionals at one of the best cybersecurity companies in the world. Your journey to General Manager of North America
at Kaspersky will require you to use what you have always had – your strong will,
your big heart, your curiosity, and your uncanny ability to “find a way” even in the most difficult of situations. You will have the opportunity to gain a firm foundation
in the world of information technology and sales, and just like you have done many times before, you will start at the bottom and work your way up.

It’s okay that you often dread the spotlight and are too intimidated to speak up right now. You will find your voice and confidence through your desire to help as many people as you can in your mission to build a safer world. Don’t despair when you fail. You will. It is in those moments that you will learn from the shortfalls and build grit and resilience while gaining the ability to empathize and lead others through their journeys. Learn as much as you can, share the knowledge, and embrace what makes you unique. A female perspective is refreshing in a male-dominated workforce. It’s good to stand out, listen to learn, lead others with honesty and integrity, and do your best to bring out the best in them. Don’t be scared to let your strengths shine and be honest about your weaknesses. I guarantee that you will doubt yourself
on many occasions. Keep going. Work hard, work smart, get creative, and give it all you’ve got.


Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun and take care of yourself. I love the people I work with and learn from every day. People spend so many hours with their “work families” that prioritizing a healthy, people-first, values-based culture, surrounded by supportive leadership and colleagues makes all the difference. You are not alone. You have your mentors and your tribe whenever you need them.

Please do us a favor and keep me in mind when thinking about where you are right now and where you want to go. Always give your best, and you’ll never have any regrets.

I’m proud of you!  

Your very appreciative future self,


Don't be afraid
of trying new things, trust yourself

Dear Isabel,

This isn’t just a letter, but a recognition of the effort, strength and resilience that lies within every young girl who is chasing her dreams.

You’ve always been around technology, Isabel. Since you were little, you’ve heard your mother, an engineer who works on satellite communications, talk about bandwidth, link calculations and satellite footprints. So it’s no surprise you’re curious about how things work: you disassemble and reassemble things around
the house, you try to fix the toys and consoles that your sister and you have
at home. You’ve always loved to solve math problems and science assignments
at school, and fortunately you have some great teachers that support this desire. Listen to them, and don’t be afraid to choose Telecommunications and Electronic Systems Engineering as your major.

At college there will be moments full of doubts, insecurities and comparisons that make you question your choice. Believe in your abilities, be patient, celebrate your accomplishments, even the small ones, and press on. You’ll also learn what you can be capable of – that just as you can be your biggest obstacle, you can also be your biggest driver. You won’t be alone: you’ll have the support and example of your mother, and along the way you’ll also make very good friends.

In your last year, you’ll have the chance to do an exchange involving different subjects related to cybersecurity. You won’t know much about this topic but it will fascinate and excite you, and it will open your eyes to having another option. Look for some online resources on cybersecurity, learn what you can and don’t worry about your lack of experience. Trust the foundations of what you’ve learned, and soon you’ll get your first job – in cybersecurity.

Today, I have the privilege of working in a great cybersecurity company where every day feels like a new adventure. The satisfaction I get from discovering new cyber threats and learning how to protect against them, contributing to the safety
of online spaces, makes the journey worthwhile. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to meet colleagues and friends who have inspired me to achieve my goals, reminding me that the pursuit of passion doesn’t have to be a lonely journey
and it is always possible to ask for help.


I want to say this to you, Isabel: your love for knowing how things work and solving problems is not misplaced. I should thank that young woman who took the time
and opportunity to try different things, jobs and roles, trying to immerse herself
in the world of cybersecurity. Embrace the challenges, trust your abilities, ask
for support when needed and remember that the path you’ve chosen is rewarding and meaningful. As you continue to grow, remember the excitement of unraveling the mysteries of technology, the pride in applying your skills to real-world problems and the fulfillment that comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself.

With pride and gratitude,


One day everything falls into place

Dear Noushin,

You don’t know this yet, but one day everything falls into place and you see how little things throughout the years have shaped you to be who you are in your professional field.
Until I finished primary school, I spent most of my afternoons and school holidays with my twin sister playing our own home-made puzzle games. We would take turns and spend lots of time creating several puzzles linked together into a multi-level game for the other one to solve. We used all sorts of things to create various levels, simple toys and pieces of sports equipment to create physical challenges, chess boards or other board games to create our own puzzle games, or even just memory games to solve on a piece of paper.

Solving math puzzles was my favorite thing in my later years in school. When
I learned my first programming language in Year 7, I realized that turning the algorithms and ideas you have in your mind into a piece of computer code that can execute on your computer and generate results gave me the same satisfaction that I found in solving equations or the puzzles that my sister used to create for me.

By the time I finished school, I knew computer science was my field of interest
and I went to university to learn more. There, I was fascinated by the algorithms that build the core of computers and enjoyed diving deep into the details and data structures. I particularly liked helping more junior students look at the subjects
in a deeper way and properly understand what is going on in a piece of computer code or an algorithm instead of just learning how to use them.

After I graduated from university, I was extremely interested in programming
and had this idea that the path toward making a deep impact in the field or gaining
a thorough understanding of the digital world we live in leads through a career
in programming. It was completely by chance that I found an entry level job in cybersecurity as a malware analyst.

I wasn’t very familiar with the cybersecurity field. But to be fair to myself, it wasn’t as big as it is now. When I started analyzing my very first malware, I soon grew to love the challenges of reading machine-level code line by line to understand the logic of the higher-level program and eventually learn the developer’s intention. From time to time and for different reasons such as gender-biases or unhealthy competitive intentions, I was treated as if I were unsuitable for this field, but I’m happy that I insisted on staying on my path.


When I look back at my life, I have always appreciated the tasks that require concentration and digging to extract a result, be it the solution to a childish puzzle or the mystery of a sophisticated cyberattack.
Losing myself in the world of machine language and getting into the smallest details of the code is still the most satisfying aspect of my job. I’ve now been investigating malicious programs for over a decade in my day-to-day job, but it’s as exciting as ever and continues to fascinate me.

Don't be afraid
to take the red pill

Hello Tanya!

This is a letter to you, from 2024 to the year 2007. I want to tell you how your life will turn out if you believe in yourself. And you will believe, once you know what’s in store for you.

Right now, reading this letter, you’re 14 years old. You don’t know what you’re going
to be when you grow up, and your favourite subjects at school are math
and Russian. You will be faced with a choice between a technical department
and journalism school, and you will choose computational mathematics and cybernetics, in spite of your prejudices, because The Matrix, your favourite film
(so far!) has blown your mind, and it’s about hackers and virtual reality, with cyberpunk aesthetics and a myriad of references. Don’t be afraid to take the red pill and build your own future :). And the day you find out you’ve been accepted
to MSU’s Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics program will go down as one of the happiest days of your life.

When you’re 19, you’ll dream of getting a ticket to a cybersecurity conference, going as a correspondent for the faculty newspaper (hello, dreams of journalism!),
and listening to the reports of your future colleagues from the Global Research
and Analysis Team (GReAT), thinking how incredible these people are, how interesting and important what they do is, and that it is completely unrealistic
to imagine that you could become part of that team (but you want to!).

In your fourth year, you’ll get a job as a technical writer intern at Kaspersky, afraid that programming and reverse engineering will be too difficult and that the girls in the virus lab will be in single digits. A year later, you go to Germany on an exchange to study at the University of Tübingen, another long-held dream of yours. And when you return to Moscow and receive your diploma, you will put aside your doubts and decide that you can achieve anything you want. You will start learning reverse engineering and join a team of shift malware analysts, analysing suspicious files around the clock. You’ll find it challenging but very interesting, and this experience will prove to be very important and rewarding.

A couple of years later, you will overcome your fear of public speaking and impostor syndrome, and give your first speech to a packed auditorium at this very conference. Don’t be afraid of rejection when you send out conference proposals – soon you’ll be invited to speak, and you’ll have many more conference appearances in different countries with presentations and training sessions. And in a few years, you’ll be a lead researcher at the Global Research and Analysis Team — and you’ll be surprised at how dreams come true. But then again, you aren’t dreaming, you just know where you’re going :).

It’s never too late for anything

Dear Ilkem,

This is your future self, just dropping by to offer you some hard-earned advice.

I’ve been working for many years in the sales field and I’m now the general manager for Kaspersky in Turkey. This role requires me to be the locomotive of the whole team, and the locomotive never has a chance to stop, or even slow down, because if the locomotive slows down, the train slows down. It’s really about analyzing people, making sure my team is inspired, being a good role model, being fair
and transparent, communicating effectively, being with customers, being with PR, being on the stage in the field. It’s a very outgoing and social job. It also requires
to make good analysis of the market and resources, prioritization and effective business planning. As you can see with so much responsibility absolutely requires
a multi-tasking skill. As I enjoy such diversity and possess these characteristics, it’s a very fitting role for me.

But let me tell you something. I was probably around 28 or 29 when I found myself
in sales. It’s never too late for anything. After studying economics, then working
at a bank, I ended up doing a business course, which allowed me to get a job in sales and marketing.

Right now, you dream of becoming a brain surgeon. But you get bored when you do the same thing for a long time. You need variety, speed. This is an advantage in many fields, but not for a surgeon. A surgeon should not be multitasking. They go into
an operating room for eight hours straight and need to just focus on one thing
and not get distracted. But you’re a very good student, you’ll be able to change direction if you want to.

Your schoolwork is very important, and so is achieving good grades. But to grow
and develop, to be able to really understand what you want in the future, you need to be more social, and also to question what you are learning or reading.

When you read the news, or when your teacher or elders tell or ask you something, you tend to accept this as correct, however there may be different perspectives. My advice is to try to always see a problem from multiple aspects and also try
to develop your writing skills, your analytical skills – and not only at school. It’s hard because as teens, we do get influenced by our parents, our close environment, our friends, our teachers.


Yes, it’s important to get into the top percentile and score great grades, but that’s really just the foundation. It’s more important to try to really understand what you excel in, what your strengths are, and try to go down that track instead of just following people’s advice about what constitutes a good career or how to develop. Try to explore what you want, where you feel happy, what kind of skills you have, what you enjoy, and try to choose a track that fits these skills or these wishes. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to be successful, and that won’t turn out to be a good track.

Listen, of course, but always question what you learn and what you hear, and question yourself. I’m not saying that you should lose confidence in yourself, but just have the courage to really understand who you are and what you are good at. You may be very smart and you may be very talented and very successful, but it’s your skillset, the special capabilities you have, which is going to determine where you will be more successful in life. 

Good luck!