Genie Sugene Gan, Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Asia Pacific, Japan, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, at Kaspersky, talks about her career journey, the challenges she faced.
Genie is responsible for the relationships between Kaspersky and the governments and public institutions in APJ and META regions, as well as those with regional and international organizations.
She also oversees the public policy work which includes legislative and regulatory developments, advising on government affairs strategies, and negotiating complex policy positions for and on behalf of the company and the industry.
Ever since I was a 10-year-old girl, I’ve known that I wanted to be a lawyer. The world of law seemed so fascinating to me – solving problems, meeting people, and gaining a wider perspective. Before I joined Kaspersky, I worked as a corporate lawyer at one of the Big Four law firms. Like the tech industry, the field of law is quite male-dominated. I have always felt that as a woman I have to work twice as hard just to prove myself. Unfortunately, this is still true, and gender bias is still around today — but that should never stop you.
I have been working for more than 10 years in my life and I'm constantly still learning every single day
Genie Sugene Gan, Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Asia Pacific, Japan, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa
My journey did not end with law alone: I even had the opportunity to engage in negotiations at the United Nations. Initially, I was very scared. I was often the youngest person in the room, and it felt like all eyes were scrutinizing me from head to toe. I could almost sense their unspoken thoughts, "Okay, let’s see what this new kid on the block has got to say."
No matter how anxious you may feel, it’s crucial never to let it show. Even today, after years of public speaking experience, I still get jittery before taking the stage. That’s because my performance doesn’t only reflect on me, but on the reputation of the company I represent. However, I’ve learned how to manage these nerves. I always say:
Being well-prepared is good, but being over-prepared is the key to success
When you’re over-prepared, your efforts are never in vain. They come to your rescue in unforeseen situations you couldn’t have anticipated. Plus, when you’re thoroughly prepared, it’s much easier to maintain a composed demeanor and hide any nervousness.
When the opportunity arose for me to transfer into the private sector, I was confident that I could excel in this new venture, leading me to where I am today – at Kaspersky.
I joined Kaspersky in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. My first day at the Kaspersky office fell on a significant lockdown period. It wasn’t until 2021 that I had the opportunity to meet any of my colleagues in person, so you can imagine how unique and challenging the experience was – everything had to be conducted online, and learnt remotely, in a home-based, isolated manner.
In the virtual realm, I encountered some real challenges. Firstly, the most daunting hurdle was my lack of technical knowledge, especially in the realm of cybersecurity. Nevertheless, I was determined to bridge this gap. I reached out to researchers and implored every colleague, saying, "Please, I’m eager to learn from you, and I need to learn quickly. Let’s tackle this online, and I promise to absorb knowledge as fast as I can. Please, teach me." Admitting that I knew very little required a great deal of confidence and courage, but my tenacity and eagerness to learn proved to be invaluable assets. Within three months I was able to hold intellectual conversations with governments and regulators and they didn’t even suspect that I was new to cybersecurity. A year later, I became responsible for public affairs in both the Asia-Pacific region, and in the META region.
I would highlight three key factors that have played a pivotal role in my career success, and I refer to them as the "3Cs."
It’s important to have a very curious mind, which means that I would never stop wanting to learn and never stop wanting to try new things. Simply constantly nurturing the desire to learn and the willingness to explore new avenues without ever losing that thirst for knowledge. I always say: “The moment I stop being curious, I stop growing”.
In my line of work, my primary focus revolves around navigating complex geopolitical scenarios, often entailing unpleasant or demanding challenges. There’s nothing "usual" or "routine" about what I do. However, I find that these challenges serve as a significant source of motivation for me. It really drives me and I’m thankful that I have a challenging role because that makes me motivated.
The third element is creativity. When confronted with challenges, I must consistently tap into my creative thinking and venture beyond my comfort zone. This way, I’ll be able to find 10 different ways of doing the same thing to achieve a different outcome based on the varying demands for the situation.
These principles were instilled in me by my family and my enduring role model from childhood – my grandmother. She was a remarkably astute woman, well ahead of her time. Even today, though my grandmother is no longer with us, I occasionally encounter people who had the privilege of working alongside her, and they still hold her in the highest regard.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had her as my role model, but I never want to take that blessing for granted. Therefore, I see my life’s mission as supporting others to discover their unique paths and evolving into the best versions of themselves. It’s essential to acknowledge that these paths may not mirror my own, as each person’s journey is distinct. Just because you aspire to be like Taylor Swift doesn’t mean you are made to be Taylor Swift. This principle extends to career development as well: to flourish, you must remain authentic and true to yourself, and develop your very own style.
Effective mentorship is not about cloning or repeating someone’s success story. It is about helping others create their own success stories
I believe my most significant accomplishment lies in the profoundly positive impact I’ve had on the lives of others. My sincere aspiration is to serve as a beacon, signaling to women that we possess the ability to shatter the glass ceiling at every conceivable level. Many of my mentees face the same challenges: mostly it’s the fear of starting something new. Therefore, I would like to share a few tips that will be useful for any woman who wants to get into IT and develop her career in the tech industry.
Always remember: nationality is not a question. Your gender is not a question. It must not be a reason for you to disqualify yourself. Even the language that you speak or the lack of qualifications should not be a discouragement to you. Many women think they are not good enough for something, but that’s all only in mind. We need to overcome that mental barrier and give ourselves the opportunity because we deserve it. Don’t give up before you even try.
Always keep learning. Live life curiously. I have been working for more than 10 years in my life and I’m constantly still learning every single day.
Seek out your own support group within the industry. Nowadays, mentors who serve as role models and can provide guidance and inspiration are more accessible for women to locate. If finding a mentor isn’t feasible, establish a circle of friends with whom you can hold one other accountable and learn from one another. Remember, everyone benefits from support.