Vanessa Pegueros, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, DocuSign
Vanessa Pegueros calls herself an “education nut.” She loves learning in all its aspects. “I’ve always loved math and science from the very beginning of when I was young. I was one of those weird kids that used to read Scientific America in grammar school. It was interesting to me,” says Pegueros.
She started college as a math major but switched into engineering, thinking the job prospects would be better. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley. Upon graduation, she took a job as a network design engineer with PacBell.
“I worked for a couple of years and then I knew I wanted to go back to grad school. I debated between getting my Masters in Engineering or getting a different degree. I even considered law school. But, through my work experience, I realized what I really enjoyed was business and leading teams and managing teams,” says Pegueros.
She took a leave from her job at PacBell and did a full time MBA program at Stanford before returning to PacBell for a few more years. Still feeling the learning bug, Pegueros then earned her MS in Telecommunications from the University of Boulder in Colorado.
After the formal college degrees, Pegueros focused on attaining professional certifications. To date she has earned the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP); the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC); Certified Information Security Manager (CISM); Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC); and Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe (CIPP/E).
“I love learning,” she says. “I learn constantly. I read mostly non-fiction. I’ve been reading more and more books around human psychology because I have an interest in that right now. I’ve been linking that to how people respond during incidents and some of the challenges of managing the human element of incident response.”
When Pegueros began her working career at PacBell, the telecom industry was a great space to get into back then. “I engineered the switches’ capacity and did the software upgrades for the big switches in the Bay area. But I knew at that time wireless was the next area I wanted to be in. Wireless was just in its infancy but destined to become huge. I worked really hard to figure out how I could break into that,” Pegueros says.
She took a job working for a company called Contel Cellular, which got bought out by GTE Mobile. “A lot these companies don’t even exist anymore because the market grew quickly and then consolidated,” muses Pegueros. While at Contel, she was offered an opportunity to build up the new Sprint wireless network in Seattle. “I moved to Seattle and fell in love with the city. When I got off the plane, I knew, this place, just the energy, I just felt it. I loved it and ended up taking the job for Sprint PCS, and then hopped around within Nextel Communications. I went to AT&T Wireless—kind of rode the wave of wireless through various jobs and companies.”
Pegueros ran the next generation wireless team for AT&T Wireless. “The architecture and engineering team was looking at how we roll out new technologies and what made most sense as a rollout plan. I had a security architect on my team. The company’s CISO, who worked on the IT side, commissioned an outside assessment of the company’s security. This group was able to break into everything from the outside. They were able to get access to some of the most sensitive data in the company. At that point, one of the executive vice presidents said, ‘Go dedicate a Director to fix security.’ I got pulled in the office and that became my job,” says Pegueros.
“I wasn’t asked—I was kind of told, ‘You’re going to go fix security.’ For some reason, I didn’t shut that door,” says Pegueros. “This sounded kind of interesting to me. I had no idea what it meant. That’s how I got into security. I always like to tell people, ‘Security chose me. I didn’t really choose security.’”
From there, Pegueros moved to the banking industry, gaining valuable experience in banking, security and mobile. As she puts it, “All the really critical elements kept coming together.” Now Pegueros is Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer with DocuSign. “We are a SaaS provider, and security in SaaS companies is a very hot topic,” says Pegueros. “Customers who trust their data to us want to know it’s secure.”
Pegueros is interested in giving back with her expertise. “I would like to be on a Corporate Board at some point. I want to advise, and I’ve begun to counsel small security startups. I’m seeing my role kind of evolve,” she says.
Pegueros recently became a college lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Last year, I developed a course called Leading and Managing Enterprise Information Security. I taught the course for the first time last winter. It was very successful. I was asked to come back and teach it permanently—however long ‘permanently’ is.”
She definitely sees a space for teaching and lecturing in her life as she goes forward. “I really enjoy it. I enjoy helping people understand the security space,” says Pegueros. “I think we need more leadership training for people coming into security. We have a lot of emphasis on technical training for security, but I don’t think we have enough on what does it take to be a leader in security.”
As both a learner and a leader, Vanessa Pegueros is willing to share her security expertise to help others succeed.