With more than 25 years of experience in the technology industry, Linda Gray Martin is Senior Vice President of RSA Conference. In this role, Gray Martin’s ultimate goal is to ensure RSAC is the “must-go-to, can’t miss” cybersecurity conference and year-round learning platform for the industry, offering attendees an exceptional experience at its’ global events as well as via online engagement and virtual experiences. As well as leading the team, her responsibilities range from conference strategy and architecture, to oversight of marketing, PR and technology strategies, vendor management, keynote program management and sponsors & exhibitors.
Q1: Looking at your LinkedIn, you’ve worked for the RSA Conference for 17+ years. What are you most excited about for this year’s event?
A: I am honestly just really excited about being part of such a vibrant community and bringing everyone together again. Last year we were able to meet, in person, for the first time since 2020. It was very inspirational and emotional. In fact, it inspired the theme for the conference this year, “Stronger Together.” RSA Conference provides an annual gathering point in San Francisco for people in the industry to get back together, learn from each other, and get all the educational content they want from our sessions. We’re hoping for a great turnout this year. Right now, it looks like our attendee numbers are tracking close to pre-pandemic times.
Q2: You mentioned the theme, “Stronger Together,” which is described, in part, on the conference site as: “No one goes it alone: we build on each other’s diverse knowledge, exchanging ideas, hearing our success stories, and bravely examining our failures.” Can you elaborate on that last part, Linda – “bravely examining our failures.” Also, are there any scheduled talks that touch on this topic?
A: I think the only way we learn, or one of the only ways we learn, is by making mistakes, and bouncing back from them. I think that is true both professionally and personally. The good news is that I think it’s much easier these days to say, “You know what? Something didn’t work out.” I do think that makes us stronger.
We also use a famous quote written by Helen Keller in the description of our theme: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I think it is so true — especially for our community, which is battling against cyber threats daily.
Coming together is so critical. True collaboration ultimately makes us much more effective. The theme of the event is woven through many of our talks, including Cyber Safety Review Board – Looking Back to Move Forward; Construction Time Again: A Lesson in Paving Paths for Security; and CEO Panel: The Entrepreneur Journey to Scale. You can check out the complete agenda here.
Q3: It was great to see Poet Ali’s keynote, “The Language of Being Human” scheduled for the last day of the conference, Thursday April 27th. Will it resemble his recent TED talk, or will he tailor it for this audience?
A: With all our keynote speakers, we try to invite creative thinkers who are going to make us think a little bit differently, spark conversation, and bring us together. Unite us. Poet Ali is one of those speakers. On the same day, we will also hear from Doctor Michio Kaku, who is a theoretical physicist, as well as Claire Malone, a particle physicist. While it may not be cybersecurity, there’s definitely a scientific link to our industry and these talks – and others — will help our attendees think about things in a slightly different, unique way.
Q4: What’s new for conference attendees this year?
A: The event kicks off again Monday morning and wraps up Thursday afternoon. There are a number of new things that I’d like to let you know about. First, I want to highlight our innovation programming. This year, we saw a 150% increase in submissions for our RSAC Innovation Sandbox Contest, which is outstanding. We’re super excited about it. Since we are constantly looking at ways to evolve our programs, we’re actually bringing back RSAC Launch Pad, which is for earlier stage startups. It gives three participants the chance to pitch their ideas “Shark Tank” style to a panel of VCs, with the ultimate goal of getting strategic advice and raising awareness of their business in the community. This activity is always fun combined with great learning as well.
We also are hosting a CISO bootcamp in collaboration with the SANS Institute. An invitation-only gathering of new and future CISOs, the program is designed to help this important group of experts get to the next stage of their career. In addition to these activities, we also have a few new session tracks: Connected Devices and Cyber Physical Security; DevSecOps and Application Security; and an Inclusive Security track, which has a “workforce of the future” focus.
Overall, we have a terrific agenda. This year, we had over 2400 session proposals – a record number — submitted during our Call for Speakers. We encourage people to submit proposals that have actionable learnings and we try and keep product related content to the Expo.
Q5: What else can attendees do to get the most out of the event? Finally, why does San Francisco make a great host city for the conference?
A: Before you head to San Francisco, first make a plan: build time to attend sessions, but also for social activities because that’s where you’re going to meet people. Wear comfortable shoes. It sounds very basic, but it’s true because we all end up walking far during conference week. It’s a big event. By the way, for those people who can’t make it to San Francisco, we offer an OnDemand pass that will provide access to select conference sessions, as quickly as four hours or less, following the scheduled talk.
I also encourage in-person attendees to check out our Health & Safety Hub for the latest information – and check back frequently. Our community’s well-being, and the safety of our attendees is absolutely our number one priority.
And, why San Francisco? We say it is in our DNA. I know the city has its challenges which they’re working hard to address, but it has great infrastructure and the Moscone Center accommodates all our needs. For a lot of international attendees, it’s a direct flight. It’s easy to get into the city and there’s a wealth of hotels for attendees to stay at. It’s walkable, and easy to navigate. It’s been our home, on and off, for the past 30 years.
Leave a Comment