We are fortunate to call Lynne Pizzini a Splunk customer. Lynne is deputy chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) at the state of Montana. In this position, Lynne is responsible for the management and protection of all data and information for the state’s agencies and citizens.
Getting to know Lynne has also been a lesson on how we can best balance our family life with successful careers. As a leading IT & security executive in government, Lynne strives to promote diversity amongst organizations for all women in the workforce. She is also a mentor for her daughter, as well as many professionals in Montana and beyond. Lynne’s achievements continue to inspire us and we are proud to call her a Splunk Champion.
Please enjoy this Splunk Women in Tech video Q&A with Lynne:
“Engage your staff — let everyone’s voice be heard.”– A business quote spotted in Pizinni’s office
Tell us about your role at the State of Montana.
I am the deputy chief information officer (CIO) and the chief information security officer (CISO). My primary focus is making sure that we have security throughout the organization in all of our systems and with our customers. Our customers are all state agencies, such as the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Department of Revenue; we host their systems in our data center and provide security for all state systems.
It’s my job to protect the state citizens’ data, and it’s not just the citizens of the state—it’s my data; it’s my mom’s data; it’s my friends’ data. So it's my responsibility to make sure their data is protected, and also to ensure that our systems work properly. Since most business processes are related to technology in some fashion, it’s also my job to make sure all of our business processes are working at top efficiency.
What kind of education did you receive?
I graduated from Montana State University-Northern with a dual major in business education and business administration.
"I tend to do what is called meeting crashing." – Lynne Pizzini
What is your career background?
When I graduated college, there wasn’t a computer science degree; but I worked in a computer lab throughout college. My dad also had a hobby of learning how to write computer programs, so we would sit in our basement and write code, which is where I developed my interest in computers.
Once I graduated college and had my degree, I wanted to teach but I couldn’t find a teaching job—this led me to the state of Montana, where I got a position with the Department of Agriculture. I progressed from there to other computer-related state jobs, and finally ended up in the Department of Administration with a network security position. At the time there wasn’t a CISO; I was the only security person in the state and I worked in the network group, administered the firewall and implemented antivirus hardware and software. As that position grew, so did I as a leader. Today, nearly 200 people report to me.
Have you or other women colleagues faced any gender challenges?
Over time, women and technology have been gaining more respect than they had in the past. When I started out in technology 27 years ago, there weren’t a lot of women—especially in leadership roles. I used to call it the “good old boys network” because a lot of decisions were made on the golf course or in the hallway.
I tend to do what is called “meeting crashing.” If I’m not invited to a meeting and I think I should be, I just show up. But I would say that women are becoming technology leaders at increasingly higher levels, especially in government.
How did you get into a leadership position?
About 15 years ago, the state’s first CIO recognized my leadership potential and mentored me. Now I think about being a mentor and inspiring others to pursue their aspirations within technology.
Are you actively mentoring other people?
I have mentored five people over five years through the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). This group is comprised of all 50 states’ security officers as well as county and city governments.
What advice would you give to girls who are your daughter’s age or younger, who are thinking about computer science as a career?
I would advise them to have perseverance. A lot of times you can lose confidence because there are more guys in technology. Sometimes you may be overlooked or get discouraged, and that is true with most anything in life, but especially in the age of technology. Persevere even if you fail at something. If your code doesn’t work, go back, reread and try again.
When did you become a Splunk customer and why did you choose Splunk?
We’ve been a Splunk customer for quite a few years. We purchased Splunk Enterprise initially because we needed a network monitoring and log collection software solution. We wanted to use all of the different logs and have a single source or access point for monitoring and log management. We decided to purchase Splunk software and it is used quite extensively throughout our organization for IT operations and security.
As an IT security leader, what are the biggest challenges that the industry faces these days?
The biggest challenge we face in security and technology is change; everything changes so rapidly, especially within government. When doing IT research, for a lot of organizations security is often considered after the fact of purchase. Security adds complexity to whatever it is you’re doing—if you want to be on the leading edge, you must do things quickly. And you have to weave security into all of the changes that technology is going to see in no more than five to ten years.
I’m very excited about all the changes and at the same time a little scared. I think about driverless cars, and we need to make sure that the security portion of the new technology is identified so we don’t have vehicles running off the road causing accidents or a car’s navigation system diverting you to the wrong location.
Do you have any favorite leadership or business books?
One of my favorite books is “The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing” by Tina Nunno, a very inspiring leadership book, especially for women. A lot of times we’re a little bit timid, and Nunno really encourages women to be more outspoken, to make sure your point is made and that your voice is heard.
Another favorite book is “It Worked for Me” by Colin Powell. Powell is one of the instructors in a leadership program that I recently went through. He says to keep motivational sayings that encourage you, so I’ve picked out a few and placed them on the whiteboard in my office. One of my favorites is to “engage your staff — let everyone’s voice be heard.”
What aspects about your job keep you up at night?
I want to make sure that I do enough to protect our citizens’ data and that our systems are always available 24/7. For example, we have police officers who are working our streets and they need information at all hours of the day and night. I need to ensure that my systems are available to the people whenever they need them.