Women in Cybersecurity: Incident Response, with Rachel Ratcliff, Stroz Friedberg

Stroz Friedberg is a specialized risk management firm built to help clients solve the complex challenges prevalent in today’s digital, connected, and regulated business world

Stroz Friedberg is celebrating International Women’s Day, a global celebration on March 8 recognizing the achievements of women, by profiling some of the women whose work keeps our company at the forefront of cybersecurity. Throughout this month, we’ll be posting interviews that highlight different career paths in technology, overcoming obstacles, and advice for other women pursuing their own careers in the industry. We hope readers will be inspired to #BeBoldForChange and join us in contributing to International Women’s Day’s vision of empowering women around the world.    

I am a vice president in our Dallas office and work as an engagement manager in Stroz Friedberg’s Cyber Resilience business. That means I am the point of contact for our clients on a variety of engagements from security assessments to active data breach responses, from digital forensic investigations to some eDiscovery matters. I also manage our technical teams across cases.

My background was originally in the arts and I quickly segued into law, practicing for a firm in Dallas as a civil litigator for seven years after graduating from law school. There I represented a lot of businesses in proceedings brought by employees and led cases involving digital forensic investigations. One of the first cases that I worked on (and continued to for many years) was the Enron litigation – our firm represented Ken Lay at the time. That was an interesting case for many reasons, not least because it was at the forefront of many forensic and eDiscovery issues. I had always been interested in technology and could see the projected growth in the industry. As I was looking to do something other than the traditional practice of law, coming over and working full-time on the technology side was a natural progression.  The learning curve was steep at first, but keeping up with ever-changing technology and ongoing cyberthreats are challenges that make my job fun.

Many of the things I like about being an engagement manager at Stroz Friedberg are similar to what I liked about being a lawyer. My work involves consulting with clients on how to proactively avoid conflict, litigation, and claims against them, and how to quickly and efficiently respond once those types of issues arise. As well as exercising these skills, I enjoy problem-solving with my clients to come up with creative solutions to their technology problems. This includes engaging with clients about issues such as developing policies around their mobile device or portable storage device usage, how to integrate and best leverage cloud computing in their environments, or how we might be able to help with some interim CISO work to strengthen their IT security posture. The subject matter may be different case-by-case, but the core skills can be applied across many situations.

It’s no secret that the technology sector has long been a male-dominated field.  Fortunately, the gender imbalance seems to be slowly improving – I see more women at the table when I come into meetings now. Nevertheless, even today, I often walk into a room with key stakeholders, from executives to technical teams, as the only woman. Unfortunately, that can sometimes put you in a position where you need to prove yourself just that bit more. However, I find that time and again, as soon as people realize that I know what I’m talking about, that I’m there to help, and that I’m listening to what the clients’ issues are, that dynamic quickly changes. It is key to have confidence in who you are and what you’re bringing to the table. I’m never apologetic about being the only woman there, but I always want to make sure that I’m given an equal seat with everyone else. Among the ways I achieve this is by coming with a clear message and directive, and being true to my own leadership and communication styles.

To other women aspiring to have a career in the field, I would advise to stay confident in what you know and “Keep at it!” Mentorship can take many forms, and I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors (both male and female) in this field.  However, as a woman, I think it’s especially important to actively seek out women in your field who you admire and can develop a relationship with – even if it’s just someone to use as a sounding board or meet for lunch for time to time. And never forget to pay it forward – take the opportunities you have to support other women in technology so that we can all lean in together.


Our lawyers don’t want to miss out on the fun and would like you to know that all of the posts are the opinions of the individual authors and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Stroz Friedberg. The ideas and strategies discussed herein may not be appropriate for any one reader’s situation and are not meant to be construed as advice.



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