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Ep. 49: Cyber Security Expert and GW Professor Diana Burley Follows Her Passion and Makes an Impact

"Trust your instincts, and find your passion and follow it. Work is hard and achieving and striving is hard and you do have to work all the time. It is too hard to do that if you don't truly love what you're doing and you're not passionate about it."

Diana Burley, PhD, is a globally recognized cyber security expert, a professor at George Washington University, and Executive Director and Chair of the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection. She has testified before Congress and authored books on cyber security. Diana had to get used to being the lone woman of color in the room throughout her career. But she views her different voice as crucial to protecting critical infrastructure, as security systems built by people with one perspective are more vulnerable to attack -- hackers are diverse after all! Listen for her inspiring story of following her passion and learning to get her impact recognized.

"Making an impact takes more than just doing good work."

We discuss her proudest career moments, why the lack of diversity in academia persists, working in a white and male-dominated environment, lessons she's learned throughout her career, the value of mentors, how we can stop underestimating ourselves, and more.

"The only way to increase the [female] numbers is to make sure that people know the last time they interacted with a woman in this space she was excellent."

What you'll learn:

  • Diane is the Executive Director and Chair at the Institution for Information Infrastructure Protection.
  • She is a cyber security expert specifically relating to the workforce.
  • Diane runs education for companies and helps them with a strategy for retaining their cyber security staff.
  • She also works on establishing a cyber security culture within an organization.
  • Whether she is teaching or working on security her job is focused on people.
  • The I3P is a consortium of 26 organizations that come together to solve challenges in securing critical infrastructure.
  • Diane’s most proud achievements are getting a PhD and testifying before congress.
  • She has been promoted to full professor and is part of only 2% of POC who attain this.
  • Women leave university having been top academically but are not prepared for all the “other” that comes with working in academia.
  • Moving up in the ranks of academia involves creating impact and promoting your work.
  • Doing important committee work to help students won’t affect your career.
  • Cyber security is also very male dominated and Diane was often the only woman and person of color in the room.
  • She used to feel a pressure to represent everyone but now she’s happy to represent herself and let the work speak for itself.
  • Hackers are from a diverse background so it’s important to have a diverse cyber security team to understand how they work.

"Diversity is a good thing and is my ace in the hole. It gives me an additional leg up as opposed to something that would limit me. I see it as something that enhances me."


  • You can’t represent an entire race or gender; you’ll buckle under the pressure and then won’t represent anyone well.
  • Surround yourself with good people and mentors.
  • You need to trust your mentors and know they have your best interests at heart.
  • Trust your instincts, find your passion and follow it.
  • When things don’t work out this isn’t a failure but an opportunity to learn.
  • No harm comes from trying but you need to ask for opportunities rather than waiting for them to be presented.