Zuzanna Banach

Senior Cybersecurity Manager, Danone
Zuzanna Banach is Senior Cybersecurity Manager at Danone. She is responsible for setting priorities, strategy and roadmap for policy and standards framework, metrics framework and awareness activities. In her career she had the opportunity to work in various roles both in cybersecurity and IT management at British American Tobacco – and currently – Danone.

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

Working in such a field usually means expecting the unexpected and dealing with different challenges and surprises every day. I always try to keep part of my day free from meetings to accommodate that but also to keep a window of availability for my teams and ad hoc conversations. It’s also crucial for me to stay up to date with cybersecurity news and updates.

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

For many years, I thought my place would be in software engineering, focused on low-level technical issues. Surprisingly, I enjoyed working on a much more diverse scope. This enabled me to find my passion for cybersecurity, which matched my leadership skills and shaped my career further.

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

I am proudest of my cyber evangelist work. One of the hardest things is changing different stakeholders’ and teams’ mindsets from perceiving cybersecurity as an annoying formality or blocker to viewing it as a key element that brings value.

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

Cybersecurity, for a long time, was perceived as an exclusive topic restricted to a narrow group of expert individuals. Today, it has entered the mainstream, and everyone needs a certain level of awareness in that area. Recent developments in AI and software automation cause cybercriminals to pose more threats than ever in history. Businesses might need effective defense in the future to survive.

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

When I was still at university, I spent my evenings teaching math. This experience made me realize how often talented people don’t do well due to lack of support, encouragement or opportunities. I also realized how important it is to search for hidden potential in others (but also in ourselves).

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

Make sure you have a peer group to share your experience with. No amount of technical knowledge can replace practical advice, and the support you can get from others working in a similar field is invaluable.

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

When I started my career, I mostly focused on the technical aspects of my work. My first boss helped me understand that finding even the best solutions to technical problems means nothing unless we can bring them to life. This usually means getting many others on board with the solutions we believe are right.
Building relations and influencing others with different views and interests was essential for any cyber work I was involved in throughout my career.

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

I’ll definitely use the time to connect with others. I’ll probably grab a coffee with someone to exchange ideas and see what is happening outside my team.

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

I plan many exciting activities to fully disconnect. Recently I have been woodworking a lot, and I also spend plenty of time playing and singing with my parrot.

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

I think the best leaders direct the spotlight away from themselves and onto others. I hope the people I led won’t remember me but rather the things I helped them achieve.