Caroline Thomas

Enterprise Portfolio Manager, Identity & Security, Shell
Caroline is an experienced IT professional with a proven track record of delivering IT services across various industries including medical, trading and oil and gas. She has extensive risk management expertise, technical (cyber)security and infrastructure knowledge, strong management skills and the ability to adapt to business requirements. She has a strong focus on organizational resilience and managing change through building trusted relationships at all levels. Caroline enjoys working with others to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes in complex environments.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

My work days are typically a mix of strategic thinking, stakeholder management, team management and pragmatic problem-solving in complex technological areas. The mix changes from day to day — having broad enterprise accountability across all areas of cyber, including identity, access, security and monitoring, makes every day challenging and exciting.

What aspects of your career journey have taken you by surprise?

Early on, I was repeatedly discouraged from pursuing STEM studies, so even though I took opportunities wherever I could find them to learn and improve my technical capabilities, I didn’t think I ever could or would end up in a “technical” job. Over time my continued determination to dive in, roll up my sleeves, and learn the content has brought me to a job deep in technology with the added complexity of managing the human element. I would never have imagined ending up in such an exciting and challenging field!

Tell us about the cyber project you're most proud of working on in your career.

I’ve been most proud of the efforts where I’ve implemented solutions that were effective in preventing and resolving incidents over time. Additionally, I’ve been proud to use my leadership position to support LGBTQ+ diversity efforts as the co-founder of an Ally Programme promoting safe spaces.

How has public perception of cybersecurity changed over the course of your career, and how do you predict in the future?

Certainly, people are more aware of cybersecurity these days than when I started my career. Today, cybersecurity topics are in the news where they used to be seen as very complex, mysterious concepts that were very difficult to explain to people.

Tell us about your first job (can be anything!) and one lesson you might have learned from it.

My first paying job around the age of 13 was babysitting when I learned a very useful lesson – when a serious situation happens, the best response is to avoid panic, stay calm, stop and think. You will find a solution. That response has continued to serve me well through many difficult situations in all sorts of high-stress environments, including incident response and disaster recovery.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self about getting started in cyber?

I would encourage my younger self to take the risk to jump into new challenges rather than allowing self-doubt to hold me back.

Tell us about a role model or mentor who has helped shape your career.

I’ve been very fortunate to have several good mentors in my career. From the head librarian who saw my potential and commitment and took the time to develop me even though I was just a high-school student among mostly university graduate students, to a tough boss who helped me transition from an individual contributor to becoming a real team leader.

A meeting gets canceled and you have a surprise 30 minute window of free time — how do you spend it?

Stop, take a breath, look out the window to ground myself, and reset my expectations for those 30 minutes. Then decide on the most productive way to spend that time, whether connecting with a colleague, knocking something off the to-do list or taking a short walk to think through whatever challenge is top of mind that day.

What are the ways you stay grounded and take care of yourself?

I try to take time for important moments with my family, colleagues and friends. And I try to start or end every day on my yoga mat, a sure way to return to a calm, thoughtful place.

When you think about your personal legacy as a leader, what do you hope people will remember?

I hope people will remember me as someone who enabled the team to achieve organizational goals while supporting them as individuals. I also hope to be remembered for my passion for diversity and bringing different viewpoints into the team to improve our outcomes.