March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “celebrating the women who tell our stories.” There’s no better time to learn about women past and present who have shaped media and storytelling through print, radio, stage, and digital experiences like this one. Tanium’s Shelly Sahani adds her voice to this important activity, sharing her story to help inspire and encourage more women to follow her lead into fulfilling technology careers.
Tell us about your background and your experience prior to joining Tanium.
Shelly Sahani: Robotics was my passion growing up, and that’s what I started doing right after school. I started off in the aerospace engineering industry working at a robotics company in Canada. We did projects for the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, including maintaining the Canadian robots that are on the International Space Station. It was very exciting.
Next, I took the knowledge I learned from space robotics and began applying it to the nuclear engineering field at the same company. Eventually, I decided to explore other paths. I took a position at TD Bank and discovered the cybersecurity group. I fell in love with the people, the industry and the kind of challenges that come with cybersecurity and technology. And from there, I decided to join Tanium.
What role did you start with at Tanium, and how has your career evolved?
Shelly Sahani: I started off as an associate technical account manager (TAM) at Tanium, engaging directly with customers in fields such as energy, finance, and defense. As a TAM, you get to understand what the challenges are in each field. People aim to do their jobs more effectively and technology can help them do that. After I gained an understanding of what our customers’ needs were, I realized I wanted to be a part of that conversation and design solutions for people in our industry. I began with sales and operationalizing our solutions and became an expert in our integration solutions: Tanium Connect and the Tanium API gateway.
Then, I began diving into everything related to data: what is the data, where does it come from, where is it stored, and where does it go? This focus, paired with my knowledge of how we develop products, led me naturally into my current role.
Today, I am a technical product manager. My focus now is building products to make a safer online world. I do believe in that mission and this job allows me to do that. I develop products, understand how the products are going to be used, what the market needs are, plan the product releases, work with engineering to make sure the products are built as they will be used, and make sure that the products are healthy once they are released.
As we reflect this month on the vital role of women in American history, do you have any thoughts about the role of women in cybersecurity?
Shelly Sahani: Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t changed a lot since I started when it comes to workforce gaps and diversity. I still walk into rooms and people don’t look like me, so those gaps aren’t improving as quickly as we want. It’s a difficult problem to solve. If it were easy, we would’ve done it already.
Normally, when you advertise for a role or discuss an opportunity, you reach out to people within your network. Everybody needs to try a little bit harder to expand that first reach — it starts with that. And then you really have to look at who’s best for the job after casting that wider net. It helps to not fill the role with the first candidate that you find that comes from within your network. It could be better. I think it will be better; we just have to keep trying.
What female leaders, either historically or now, inspire you?
Shelly Sahani: Unfortunately, there weren’t many people in technology that looked like me when I was growing up, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. There are a lot of women I admire in the industry. Rinki Sethi, who leads bill.com as their VP and chief information security officer (CISO), is one of them. It’s fantastic to see someone who looks like me in an executive position in my industry.
Within Tanium, Barby Fernicola, AVP, technical account management has been impactful in my career. She and I started at Tanium at the same time, in the same role. It’s been great to be able to bounce ideas around and grow together. Now we are in completely different roles and parts of the organization, but I strongly value Barby and our friendship.
Has mentorship played a role in your Tanium career?
Shelly Sahani: It’s important to have mentors that understand what you’re working on. Hearing the perspective of a mentor who understands your challenges can make a world of difference. Mentors can guide you toward career-making moves so that you avoid career-breaking ones.
It’s important to have somebody that you can trust and speak openly to – regardless of gender. Garreth Jeremiah, sr. director, technical product management, who has been my mentor for many years, has done that for me. Garreth takes the time to recognize everyone’s efforts, and learning from his experiences has been invaluable.
What advice would you give to women looking to advance in technology or cyber roles?
Shelly Sahani: My advice is to try different things. Explore roles, solve a variety of problems, work with different kinds of people, find new ways to communicate, and learn a variety of technologies. You have to discover what you like before you can carve out your best future path.
If I hadn’t tried different things early on, I wouldn’t have known where to go. Nobody else can tell you what you should do. It has to come from within. You won’t be successful in all of the things you try. But you’ll learn what you like and, more importantly, what you don’t like.
How can we foster greater equity and inclusion for women in the industry?
Shelly Sahani: Women need to have a voice. For every public event that we do, every outreach event that we do, our representatives should reflect the diversity of people that we would like to have in our company. Otherwise, we’re going to attract not just like-minded but like individuals. We need to present what we want to attract and showcase people from all walks of life. We should also take opportunities to share different voices and represent them.
We all need to be open and willing to listen to diverse opinions from diverse backgrounds if we want to arrive at the right solutions. When managing products, you don’t just want a fast solution. You first want to understand the problem and what trade-offs exist for the viable solutions. Only then can you move forward with the right way to solve the problem. That’s the one that will help you grow.
“Inside Tanium” is part of a series that highlights the people and culture of Tanium. To learn more about Tanium and explore our range of career opportunities, visit our Tanium Careers page.