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Oct 18, 2023 2023-10 Alumni Business Administration

Gies Business alum cofounds cybersecurity nonprofit to empower Latina women

Samantha Bolet earned a master’s in technology management (MSTM) from Gies Business in 2018. Since then, she’s become a senior privacy program manager for the parent company of TikTok and cofounded Latinas in Cyber, a nonprofit that advances Latina women in the cybersecurity industry.

Bolet (LAS ’17, MSTM ’18), who specializes in data privacy, developed her interest in cybersecurity after a series of undergraduate internships led her to pursue the MSTM degree. Now, she helps other Latina women enter and thrive in the profession. In August, she was named to the inaugural Forbes 30 Under 30 Local Chicago list and the Hispanic Executive/NextGen Collective 30 Under 30 list for her efforts.

“It’s not that we’re just asking for a seat at the table – we’re also building the table,” said Bolet, whose mother is from Venezuela and whose father is from Spain. “We’re giving Latina women a chance to network, to cultivate knowledge and expertise, to generate connections with others who may share their background or their culture, and we also elevate them in general.”

Latinas in Cyber started when one of the founding members, Angela Hill, posted a video on LinkedIn looking for other professional Latina women to help form the organization in spring 2022. Bolet responded, joining a group of women she’d never met. Together, they launched Latinas in Cyber in September of that year with Bolet serving as vice president, Hill serving as president, and Vanessa Morales serving as executive director.

The organization brings Latina women together through networking, mentorship, award ceremonies, and three specialized programs, each targeted to women in different stages of their career.

Your Cyber Big Sis brings STEM education and online safety awareness to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Secured Academy focuses on working professionals who want to enter or advance in the cybersecurity field, connecting them to certificates, scholarships, and internship opportunities.

The Cyber C-Suite creates professional and personal development opportunities for cybersecurity leaders – from managers to senior executives.

Latinas in Cyber creators, including Bolet, have spoken at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the global Latinas in Tech Summit. They’ve also secured partnerships with industry leaders, like Google, Fortinet, and Palo Alto Networks, among others.

“When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important that women are not only involved in the conversation but that we’re driving it, that we’re leaders,” Bolet said. “We can only do that when we’re actively involved in that space.”

Bolet views cybersecurity as an industry with flexibility, opportunities for advancement, and lower barriers to entry than some other high-paying fields, like medicine or engineering.

“I’m driven by financial independence and by living life on my own terms,” Bolet said. “I think that happens when you have control over your career, your finances, and your ability to provide overall stability. I believe cybersecurity as a career is a great path into that.”

Bolet chose cybersecurity as a way to merge her wide-ranging interests. Before graduate school, she gained experience in government policy and regulation while earning her bachelor’s in political science. She also completed a minor in Spanish and spent time exploring journalism, communications, and economics. She eventually interned for a startup, working in data analytics and marketing.

She realized she wanted to integrate data analytics and writing into her policy and regulation skill set but wasn’t sure how, so a friend and MSTM alum recommended the Gies Business graduate program.

“I loved the comprehensive approach we had within our MSTM curriculum,” Bolet said. “We had a variety of classes around user experience, business acumen, social media, marketing, technology, how organizations function, and the psychology of how they function. Those components were almost like these little puzzle pieces that came together to form the big picture.”

Bolet valued the breadth of the MSTM program, but she took every opportunity to focus her papers and research projects on cybersecurity topics to stay up to date in the field while adding technical knowledge to her résumé – even after she had already secured a full-time offer in her first semester of the program.

Bolet’s focus and drive led to a successful career and a commitment to help others achieve the same. She plans to continue setting an example and paving the way for other Latina women to succeed in cybersecurity.

“Not only is it important for us to be in these spaces, but it’s important that we’re also showing other women what it looks like,” Bolet said.