Noopur Davis

Executive Vice President, Chief Information Security and Product Privacy Officer,

Comcast

What do you feel about a relationship between a mentor and a mentee and do you feel this should become a corporate requirement for companies to have appreciation benefits of mentees and mentors in the bigger picture of things?

So, you know the relationship, I think it should be a formal relationship. And by that I mean, you know it’s not just going out for a coffee, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, that is more casual, that is more friendship than a mentorship. I think a mentorship should be formal in the sense that you define parameters like we are going to be this abstinent, this is how both of us are going to follow through, you know each time we meet, these will be the next steps that we’ll follow up on. So, you know some type of formality I think helps in making this definmenet with the mentors and the mentees. For corporations, I think it depends. You know if you’re a small company, you’re not going to have the budget, you know, the infrastructure to make this a formal program. But I think for a larger company, I think a formal program helps, you know Comcast does for example lots of mentorship programs. And you know, they help with- remember how I just said- it helps to have a framework as a formality, you know encouraging mentorship at a larger scale, which is one of the reasons Comcast for example then you know it does help having all of that. You know, that just mentors, mentees, has formal periods of engagement, has established the key that does the introductions, follow through, make the experience good for both. If the experience wasn’t good, you know how to improve it. So the planning, the retrospectives, the sheperting through the journey. And all of that is important, and I think if you have the resources, it helps to dedicate a small amount of resources to doing that. 

Why is it that gender equality is even a challenge in today’s environment under the circumstances of the Western Society being such a leader in having a more inclusive rather than exclusive environment?

I’m always an optimist. I think we’ve come such a long way, and I think the biggest change that’s happened within the last two years, you know the completion is we are not where we want to be. Despite all the good things, I think we are recognizing there is a problem. And we’re recognizing that we don’t have the solution yet. We are open to experimentation, we are open to trying things, we are open to measuring and we have transparency. I love the diversity transparency reports that companies are publishing, Comcast is one of them. My previous company Intel was one of the previous leaders in Siberia. So why is there still a problem? That is a question that I think about a lot, because I want a magic wand that I can wave. 

And not just me, but everyone who has this intent. But I think we are valid in generational norms. And as much as we would like there to be a revolution, I think it’s going to have an evolutionary part in it as well. There should be zero tolerance for aggression, and harassment, and all of those parts of the blatant discrimination- all of that, yes we need a revolution because that has to stop.

I think the other part is we really need to be more evolutionary. You know we feel awareness, we share data, we encourage, we put systems into place that make this possible. I used to think it was just a field of constant security of hiring, and promotion, and retention. But I think it’s a much longer journey. I think you have to start engaging and encouraging girls when they are girls, from middle school to high school to college and then hiring. We, for example at Comcast, engage with a lot of girls who code and girls robotics and internship and high school engagement programs, and I think all of that is evolutionary. It won’t happen overnight. 

But I think as long as we keep a tag on it, the causal base tries to get better; that is something a corporation can do because they can give data, and analyze the data, and go, ‘Oh there’s a gap’. That doesn’t require an evolution. So, I think we have to separate the problem into things that we can take to immediate actions, and quarters and, single years. And those are things like zero tolerance, pay equity, hiring based off of what is equitable, promotion, retention, that will equal tenses. But, I also think there is an evolutionary part to this that will take time, that will take five years and we just have to keep our eye on it, and you know we know how to do these things. We know how to be involved, we know how to measure, to inspect and adapt, we know how to do something, see the impact, and change direction based on the results. But those are things that can take time, and I don’t think companies can do this alone. I think it’s all levels of society, of companies, of the education system, the legal system, of the governor, it really is a multifaceted issue.

I’d like to talk about one of the most powerful positions held, and you are in it which is completely male dominated – the work that you do in security and privacy in cyberspace, and you’ve been doing it for a long time. I’d love for you to talk a little bit of how that space has transitioned and the challenges that you’ve had to face, and how you’ve overcome them. 

I think the challenges are, the same challenges, and you know I have my personal viewpoint. And my personal viewpoint is as a technical woman of color and we all are apart of our experience, from our vantage point. I think a lot of technical women filter this, but in my entire career, I have always been from the time I was in college, to professors I had in my engineering, undergrad, and grad – they were head of female boss, they were head of female boss’s boss, so I’ve almost always been the only one women of my kind, you know a technical women of color at the table. And that is the challenge, but given I am an optimist, and I also look at all of the positives; despite all of that, despite never having a female boss; my male bosses, my male mentors, my male allies, my male friends have really allowed me to sit at more and more important tables. And now, I don’t need any permission, I need encouragement, and fostering me, and mentoring me and welcoming to those tables. Without allies in that majority population, it’s just not going to happen. You know, it’s just women talking to women. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I think the best piece of advice is that you set difficult goals – and I’m not saying just to be difficult, but you set challenging goals to define these inspiring visions, and then more together to achieve it knowing that the journey is just as important as the destination. So, let me just rephrase that. So I think it is, as a leader, if you can define the challenging visions and then grab your team to work towards those goals, to go on a journey together, and then realize the journey is even more important than the destination. I think that is a really important aspect of leadership. 

Who do you most admire and why?

The person that has just inspired me for so long is my grandmother. Her first name is Kamala, like our vice president, and you know she was just an amazingly strong woman and you know she could read, and write, and manage a household and she fought in the Indian Revolution against the British and went to jail; she was arrested for her participation. She was always involved, not as a politician, she never ran for office, but in the local aspect of it.  And the one thing I always wanted to learn, and I think that I loved the most about her, is she had daughters and she had a daughter in law and she made sure that we were all educated. At that time in India it was just not heard of for my mother, you know they all have PHDS, and Master Degrees and she basically told them we are Indians but are going to get an education. And she did! She cried tears for all of us by our aunts and others all went to all got degrees and this was just not done in the 60s and 70s in India. So she was just an extraordinary woman. And I don’t even think she ever thought that she was empowering women, but it was just natural for her to do that. 

Comments are closed.