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Carol Juel State innovation focuses on data protection

September 19, 2018

When my son was in first grade he signed up for an after-school extra-curricular coding program. I was impressed with his initiative. But my excitement for him turned to dismay when I saw that every single student in that program was male. As a female CIO, I knew that it was important to have a strong pipeline of both girls and boys interested in technology.

So I did what any reasonable, forward-thinking, motivated, politician would do: I lobbied hard. I called parents. I met with teachers. I wanted to get our first-grade girls in there. And you know what, it worked.

Technology has always played a huge role in my life — from my undergraduate years at Holy Cross, to my career path through Accenture, GE and now Synchrony. That’s why, with my children and young girls, I’ve pushed to make access to technology education gender agnostic, and I’ve encouraged them to learn to code.

Today’s digital world demands constant innovation. Internet-enabled devices are creating reams of data that technologists need to secure. Being fluent in today’s tech-speak is important not just for personal advancement — it’s the basis for everything from frictionless commerce to cybersecurity. In other words, it’s something public and private organizations are investing billions in for the future. Gartner expects worldwide spending on information security products and services to grow to $124 billion in 2019. That would be an 8.7-percent increase from this year.

That’s why tech companies are leveraging their expertise for the greater good. Stamford Innovation Week (Sept. 13-23) is currently underway — and Citi is hosting a discussion with UConn on the intersection of Internet of Things and Cybersecurity. About 100 miles north, at the college’s Storrs’ campus, a ribbon cutting on Sept. 20 officially opens the Innovation Partnership Building where the Synchrony Cybersecurity Center is housed.

While we run cyber resiliency exercises and company-wide cyber-education programs at our Long Ridge headquarters — the intention of the center is to engage computer science and engineering undergraduate and graduate students to work in a collaborative way with Synchrony on things such as next generation technology and the evolution of cyber.

Every summer I get to see a new cohort of high school girls come through our doors during the Girls Who Code program. For many girls, this experience is pivotal; it sets the course for the next chapter of their lives. As I watch my own children grow and learn; we celebrate Innovation Week in Stamford; and mark the formal opening of the Synchrony Cybersecurity Center at the UConn Storrs campus, I want to hear from you.

What is your secret code to how are you innovating in your life? Tweet me: @CIOCarol #SYFinnovate

Carol Juel is executive vice president and chief information officer of Stamford-based Synchrony, a consumer financial-services firm.

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