RSAC 2018 Keynote Lineup: Plenty of Women. This Committee Is Owed an Apology

After taking a lot of heat, some of it seemingly unjustified, the RSA Conference (RSAC) announced the final lineup of keynote speakers for the 2018 conference. In light of the controversy regarding the lack of diversity, it is not surprising that it seems to have gone out of its way to ensure that there are plenty of women among the keynote speakers. In fact, besides the sponsored keynotes and the two panels that are mixed in gender, the rest of the keynotes appear to be female.

Whether these speakers were chosen because they are women or not isn’t really the issue. Whether they are security pros isn’t really the issue, either. In fact, RSAC has a history of having non-security-focused speakers as keynotes. What is interesting, though, is that all the haters who were so quick to point fingers at RSAC for its lack of diversity previously have crawled back under their rocks. I have not seen one of the individuals or companies that scorned RSAC come forward and acknowledge the fact that RSAC has corrected the imbalance and made it right. I was expecting at least a few to say, “They only did it because we shamed them into doing so.” But not even a peep.

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Now, those of you who know me know that I believe just about everything you need to know in life can be learned from watching the “Godfather” movies (even Part 3 has some good lessons in it). Watching this saga unfold, I am reminded of Consigliere Tom Hagen admonishing the Senate committee investigating Michael Corleone. The Senate’s whole investigation had just fallen apart when Frank “Frankie Five Angels” Pentangeli recanted his earlier testimony about the Corleone family. In the ensuing chaos, Hagen stands up and yells that the committee owes an apology to the war hero Michael Corleone and his family, who were slandered by the Senate committee. No apology was ever made.

The same is true here. Regardless of whether it made these speaker selections as a result of the public outcry of the haters, RSAC is due an apology. Once again it has shown that the RSA Conference, the biggest security event in the world and the place where the rest of the world meets security, tries really hard to meet the needs and heed the wishes of the security community. If you are going to be so quick to hate and scorn, at least have the scruples to acknowledge progress.

By the way, if you are interested, here is the keynote lineup as listed in above referenced blog article:

  • Security guru and RSA Conference Program Committee Chair, Dr. Hugh Thompson will bring together experts Dr. Dawn Song (professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, UC Berkeley), Dr. Kate Darling (Mistress of Machines. Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Ethics, IP Theory and Policy, MIT Media Lab) and Dr. Sebastian Thrun (founder and president, Udacity) to explore the many layers of artificial intelligence and its application and potential to help—or hurt—humanity.
  • Panelists from the SANS Institute, Ed Skoudis (top hacker exploits expert/teacher in the United States), Johannes Ullrich (head of the Internet Storm Center), James Lyne (top expert on cyberattacks in the UK) and moderator Alan Paller (director and founder of SANS Institute) will provide an update on the most dangerous new attack techniques, how they work, how they can be stopped and how to prepare for what’s coming next.
  • The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security will sit down for a Q&A session with CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa. 
  • Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology. Saujani has ​been​ ​named​ ​one​ ​of​ ​Fortune’s​ ​World’s​ ​Greatest​ ​Leaders,​ ​Fortune’s 40​ ​Under​ ​40, and a​ WSJ​ ​Magazine​ ​Innovator​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Year.
  • Jane McGonigal, PhD, Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future, New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned designer of games.
  • Margot Lee Shetterly, writer, researcher and entrepreneur who authored “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
  • Monica Lewinsky, public speaker, writer, contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, a founding board member of the Childhood Resilience Foundation and social activist in the battle against online harassment, advocating for a safer social media environment.
  • Panelists Adi Shamir (Borman Professor of Computer Science and The Weizmann Institute, Israel), Ronald Rivest (MIT Institute Professor), Moxie Marlinspike (Founder of Signal), Paul Kocher (Security Researcher and Consultant) and Whitfield Diffie (Cryptographer and Security Expert, Cryptomathic) talk with Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO of RSA, on the past, present and future of information security.
  • Tim Urban, Creator of Wait But Why, will share his own story of coming to understand how his own mind works with head-spinning thinking, quirky graphics and his signature stick figures representing the major “players” in his head that battled over the steering wheel, and how it relates to us all.

Additional keynotes include the following executives from sponsor organizations:

  • Andy Ellis, Chief Security Officer, and Josh Shaul, Vice President, Web Security, Akamai
  • Rohit Ghai, President, RSA
  • Samir Kapuria, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cyber Security Services, Symantec
  • Rami Rahim, Chief Executive Officer, Juniper
  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • John N. Stewart, Senior Vice President, Chief Security and Trust Officer, Cisco Systems
  • Christopher D. Young, Chief Executive Officer, McAfee
  • Marc van Zadelhoff, General Manager, IBM Security

All in all, this is a great lineup. If no one else is going to say it, I will: Nice job, RSAC Speakers Committee! For the rest of you, remember, “Leave the gun, take the cannolis.”

Alan Shimel

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Alan Shimel

Throughout his career spanning over 25 years in the IT industry, Alan Shimel has been at the forefront of leading technology change. From hosting and infrastructure, to security and now DevOps, Shimel is an industry leader whose opinions and views are widely sought after.

Alan’s entrepreneurial ventures have seen him found or co-found several technology related companies including TriStar Web, StillSecure, The CISO Group, MediaOps, Inc., and the DevOps Institute. He has also helped several companies grow from startup to public entities and beyond. He has held a variety of executive roles around Business and Corporate Development, Sales, Marketing, Product and Strategy.

Alan is also the founder of the Security Bloggers Network, the Security Bloggers Meetups and awards which run at various Security conferences and Security Boulevard.

Most recently Shimel saw the impact that DevOps and related technologies were going to have on the Software Development Lifecycle and the entire IT stack. He founded and then the DevOps Institute. is the leading destination for all things DevOps, as well as the producers of multiple DevOps events called DevOps Connect. DevOps Connect produces DevSecOps and Rugged DevOps tracks and events at leading security conferences such as RSA Conference, InfoSec Europe and InfoSec World. The DevOps Institute is the leading provider of DevOps education, training and certification.

Alan has a BA in Government and Politics from St Johns University, a JD from New York Law School and a lifetime of business experience. His legal education, long experience in the field, and New York street smarts combine to form a unique personality that is always in demand to appear at conferences and events.

alan has 79 posts and counting.See all posts by alan