by Eileen Manning
August 16, 2022

Over the past few months while planning the 12th Annual Cyber Security Summit, I have been part of many conversations on how to engage more women in cybersecurity. Having spent my entire career in non-traditional roles for women, I am always studying the differences between how men and women take advantages of opportunities. With all non-traditional careers, I think it’s critical to expose kids at a young age to career opportunities while letting them know they can be whatever they want to pursue!

So, this past spring I extended invitations out to a variety of cyber executive daughters ranging in age 12-15 to join me for a day of learning about another career that has very few female leaders, that I am also passionate about. I called it my Future Captain’s in Training program! These girls were already exposed to cybersecurity careers through their parents. They are all really smart. None of them knew each other, but they all had the connection that their parents worked with me building the Summit. Additionally, all but one, was introverted which was important to me for being part of this study.

For those of you who know me for any length of time, being on, near or in-sight of water usually is a good way to get me to a meeting.  Before I could walk, I was plopped into a highchair bolted onto a pontoon boat.  With a father who was Aide to Admiral Halsey during WWII, it was not surprising that I grew up assisting my dad building boats or going off to kindergarten wearing my favorite sailor suit.  The only way my parents could get me to take a nap as a child was to actually let me sleep on the boat, so after raising me on the water does it surprise you that my father absolutely refused to consider me going into the Navy to pursue a career? It was not a profession for a girl! By the way, I could help him build a boat, but I was not allowed to pilot the boat. So, on my 39th birthday, when my husband unexpectedly died, I not only had to learn where he had stored our boat – which took six months to find, but then I had to learn how to trailer the boat, do all the maintenance and become a Captain! Seriously, people literally came through the line at the funeral and asked when I was going to sell the boat? My reply was “When I buy a BIGGER Boat!”  This past week, I purchased my fifth bigger boat!

I arrived home Tuesday night and made an offer on a boat while boarding a plane in Baltimore and continued the negotiations upon landing in Minneapolis. Signed the paperwork Wednesday night. Thursday morning took her out on her “maiden” voyage which was crewed by girls whose parents are all cyber warriors involved with the Summit. This was originally scheduled to be on another boat.

The day started teaching the girls that port is four letters and so is left, followed by an exercise on why calling port and starboard are important while on a boat. After a couple hours of learning the difference between a rope and a line and how to hail a barge on the radio it was time to hit the waterways of the mighty Mississippi. 

Shore power off, lines released, dock cleared, fenders up, downriver we headed. Direction was called as to which side of the nuns to be on, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, but the crew helped each other sharing the reminders they were taught.  Deadheads were spotted and called out to the Captain noting both Port, Starboard and positions of the clock. Downriver our first landing was spotted, marina hailed, cleared for docking, crew positioned with lines and fenders out. After a smooth approach, vessel secured then a quick evacuation exercise as the next team building session was a block away at a water park!!!

In the water the girls continued to connect with one another.  Here they had an entire new set of experiences together. Before long they were sharing what they were planning with friends for the weekend and truly connecting. While nervous parents texted enquiring how it was going.  During this day, I shared how scary it was for me when I took out my first boat and how even today with this new boat I have so much new stuff to learn. I shared funny stories about taking my boat down to the Gulf of Mexico and all the times people asked to talk to the Captain.  Like the marina manager in Mississippi that insisted I call my guests back to the boat when I was tied up at a gas dock and the marina was  closing, he insisted I call them back to move the boat. I finally had to put my Captain hat on to convince him I could actually move the boat and he declared he’d never met a girl that could handle a boat like this.  I shared that my dad didn’t think a girl could be a Captain, but with practice a dream and determination we can be anything we want to be. We can even build Summits.

It was an Awesome Day! Each of these girls were selected because on their own they are smart but introverted and could just use a little encouragement like so many of the women out there that you work with each day. By the end of the day these girls were best friends all of who now know that they, if they want, can choose to be a Captain or whatever they want to pursue with practice and a plan. As we returned to home port, all the girls were lined up on the rail, or as Retired Commander Chip Laingen pointed out to me on a call today, in the U.S. Navy this is called “Manning” the Rail!

Captain Manning
Summit Founding Partner, Executive Producer & Mentor to as many minds as I can influence

Eileen Manning is a 30-year entrepreneur specializing in strategic planning and marketing with a focus on technology events. She has worked at a top advertising agency and spent over a decade in management at a Fortune 100 financial institution producing hundreds of business conferences ranging in attendance from 100 to 5,000; managing marketing services including communications, public relations, business television, video production, and graphic design; and directing an $11 million corporate travel department.

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