#MIWIC2022: Camellia Chan, FLEXXON – IT Security Guru

Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2022’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.

This year, the awards are sponsored by Beazley, BT, KPMG and KnowBe4.

Camellia Chan, CEO and Founder at X-PHY, a Flexxon brand

What does your job role entail?

Put simply, my role is to make sure that the business continues to make an impact – to the industry and my team. This entails having oversight of business development, investing in industry partnerships, setting the strategy for global expansion, and nurturing a team of extraordinary people. In practice, our work seeks to respond to industry needs. 

I started Flexxon as a memory and storage solutions provider, specialising in industrial, medical, and automotive NAND storage devices, and leveraged on this expertise to develop the X-PHY Cybersecure SSD (solid-state drive), our flagship cybersecurity solution. This happened because I noticed a recurring trend when speaking to our customers – that both blue-chip companies and smaller enterprises had either fallen victim to a cyberattack or were worried about this becoming the case. We evolved and created X-PHY to address this pressing problem. 

Another part of my job is supporting our incredible employees. It’s important to give your people opportunities to grow, especially considering the growing cybersecurity skills gap – in fact, the World Economic Forum reported there is still a cybersecurity workforce gap of over 2.72 million positions earlier this year. That’s why I set up our ‘innovation lab’. Its intention is to boost R&D, foster greater collaboration and cooperation amongst employees, and facilitate the exchange of skills. It functions like our very own sandbox to push the envelope, strengthen team dynamics and deliver an enriching environment to our employees. These are the kinds of initiatives that I love to be involved in. 

How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?

There is a popular misconception that entering the deep tech industry requires years of formal technical education under your belt. I certainly did not have those credentials when I joined the industry – at university, I studied business management and later picked up a specialisation in IT. 

After assembling my first PC in my second year, I developed my passion for building technology. Coming out of university, I started work at an electronics manufacturer where I learned the basics of logic circuits. I then spent a lot of time studying a variety of technical topics that I am interested in.

I certainly did not originally set out to be where I am today, but a larger vision spoke to me – I knew that I could use my passion for technology to make something that would benefit the world. In 2007, I combined my love of business and technology by founding Flexxon, which is now a leading cybersecurity and industrial memory and storage solutions provider. In 2021, we unveiled the X-PHY cybersecure SSD – the world’s first AI-embedded data security SSD designed to deliver real-time protection against cyber threats.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?

In building Flexxon, I never saw gender as a hurdle. I ensured that from the get-go, every individual’s value was measured by our contributions, propensity to grow and shared mindset. Not gender, or any other factor. 

However, despite significant progress made in the past few years, I recognise the issue of underrepresentation is something that will take many more years to change. We must strive to create more opportunities for women to enter the industry on equal footing. For instance, professional networks that empower women in the professional space are crucial to ensure we keep improving and that more women in the industry come forward and challenge misconceptions surrounding barriers to entry and success. For this reason, it is great to be part of this brilliant award to highlight the amazing work that women are doing in the industry.

For me, a combination of hard work and ambition was – and still is – a driving force in everything that I do. I have always believed in my abilities and acknowledged my weaknesses. In every instance, I have reminded myself never to give up. Believing in yourself in both your successes and failures is highly important, but this is not always easy. Indeed LinkedIn found that women apply for 20% fewer jobs than men despite similar job search behaviours – women typically don’t believe in themselves enough. This is why we need to have confidence in ourselves, and lean on our networks to lift us up. 

What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?

My career as a founder of an international cybersecurity brand has brought with it plenty of accomplishments. But if I had to name three it would be:

  1. Taking the leap of faith by setting up Flexxon 

This incredible journey began in 2007 and I’ve not looked back since. Starting a company isn’t easy but if you believe in your business model and surround yourself with the right people, you can achieve great things. 

  1. Re-engineering the cybersecurity landscape with the X-PHY

When we designed the X-PHY, we knew that embedding AI and Machine Learning capabilities at the hardware level would be a game changer. We were looking at the industry from a completely different viewpoint, and we knew this was going to be a tremendous contribution to the global fight against cybercriminals. Less than a year into the X-PHY’s launch, our partnership with Lenovo really served as great affirmation of its value. We collaborated with Lenovo to integrate the x-PHY into their world-class laptop solutions. These laptops benefit from X-PHY’s zero-trust security framework and 24/7 real-time protection to data stored within the drive. The fact that we are tackling this issue head-on with leading OEMs like Lenovo fuels my passion for the work that we do every single day.

  1. Creating a space that helps employees grow

My experiences prior to setting up Flexxon led me to be determined to create a workplace without politics, where every opinion and idea can be heard, and individuals are given many opportunities to develop in their hard and soft skillsets. Having an extraordinary team is the foundation on which commercial success can be gained, and I am really inspired by the team I work with on a daily basis. Our people are our first customers and strongest advocates, so we must always foster a culture where the team can thrive.

What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?

The first step is to always practice what we preach, which begins right in your own backyard. To champion diversity in the workplace, we must encourage a culture of openness and inclusion. We are all learning in this space and stand to benefit from working with everybody around us. Upon becoming a founder, I was dedicated to creating a workplace that would allow the team to excel – regardless of gender or background. I am proud to say that over 65 per cent of our board members are female, with women making up over 30 per cent of staff as well – a number which I am working to grow in the future.   

Over the last three years, I’ve also had the opportunity to attend and speak at various events that champion women in tech. These opportunities allow me to connect with other women in tech – or individuals just starting out – to share my experience, provide support and build a network with for the long term. One example is the SheLeadsTech programme, which I had the opportunity to participate in and speak at this year in Singapore. Support for such initiatives and programmes are important in building an inclusive community to uplift women in the tech sector. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?

One piece of advice would be to banish your inner critic. Much has been said about self-doubt and confidence levels being a significant barrier to women entering the tech sector, I have seen this first hand too – but sometimes we just need to flip that switch and try. 

Cultivating confidence comes from accepting that taking risks and going outside your comfort zone comes with challenges and even failures. When we can embrace that as a part of the process, we can develop our self-confidence and trust. It may be easier said than done, so remember to seek a strong support system of women that you can lean on, learn from, and lift you up. 

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