Some of the most successful business people pattern themselves after a role model and are helped in life by a mentor. Saryu Nayyar is fortunate to have grown up the daughter of the woman who was both her role model and mentor.
Nayyar was born in India and she came to the United States when she was very young. “My parents were pursuing their PhD at Ivy League colleges like Harvard,” says Nayyar. “Once they got their degrees, we moved back to India. My true inspiration is my mother, who is an attorney. She was recently hired as a judge in the Supreme Court of India. She came from a very conservative family. When she was young, there was no concept of women even working, let alone being educated and working in such a high-profile position. It is a really big deal that my mother succeeded as she has, and she has always been an inspiration to me.”
Nayyar returned to the United states alone at the age of 15, and started college at 16. She attended the University of Southern California and graduated in three years with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in Management Information Systems. Despite the heavy course load, she also had three jobs during her college years. “I was pretty much working full-time throughout college,” says Nayyar. “College was great and fun but there was always the space to do more and learn more. That’s what has always driven me personally—to want to do more and explore more and get more experience.”
One of those jobs during her college years was an internship with The Walt Disney Company. She worked in the security space and helped with application development. While at Disney, she met people who helped her land a job with Ernst & Young after graduation.
“I worked in the information security and risk practice at Ernst & Young for several years. I was based in the Silicon Valley area, working with some of the biggest companies out there,” according to Nayyar. “That was a very big milestone from a career perspective because it gave me insight into the problems that CEOs and CISOs were facing, not just from an internal perspective but also from a business perspective. My focus was on what they really need to do, and how to solve their problems. The experience was invaluable.”
Nayyar took that experience and co-founded her own company, Vaau. The company’s goal was to help customers in the automation of their certification and compliance processes. Vaau was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008. From there, Nayyar joined Oracle for a couple of years, working on their security products and strategy.
“Throughout my career, I was always very passionate about identity. I wanted to take the identity world and combine it with Big Data to combine all the data in a centralized back end to really unleash the power of machine learning,” says Nayyar. “This is what we do at Gurucul.
Our user behavior analytics and identity access intelligence technology uses machine learning and predictive anomaly detection algorithms to reduce the attack surface for accounts, eliminate unnecessary access rights and privileges, and identify, predict and prevent breaches.”
To ensure that her company meets the needs of enterprise organizations, she has created an advisory board that is comprised of CISOS from customer organizations as well as other security industry luminaries.
Nayyar recently published the book Borderless Behavior Analytics – Who’s Inside? What’re They Doing? “I wrote this book to evangelize the whole paradigm shift and really be a pioneer to be talking about access identity,” she says “The idea for the book came fundamentally from these existing security defenses that were built to protect an enterprise architecture that no longer exists. I spoke to many industry luminaries to get their perspective on the borderless world. Data is going to the cloud and there are no firewalls that can protect it anymore, so you need an identity to build the context across the board. Only math and data science can really solve the problem.”
“We got seven CIOs and CISOs together to share their perspective on how the security paradigm is shifting for enterprises. We really documented their voices in the book as well as our thoughts on it,” says Nayyar. “We use real stories about what the CIOs and CISOs are facing every day. We didn’t want the book to be theoretical. We wanted industry thought leaders to talk about what problems they are facing in their environment. We are presenting some of the largest enterprises and some of the most innovative and fast-growing companies, like Uber. It’s pretty cool to get their real-world experience. We learned a lot from the journey as well.”
At the end of 2016, Nayyar, received the Bronze Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She was recognized for her vision for identifying market opportunities and building advanced technologies to address them. Needless to say, her role model and mentor – her mother – is very proud of Saryu’s achievements so far, and more is yet to come.