Women in Business Q&A: Roxane Divol, SVP and GM, Trust Services, Symantec

05/22/2015 03:47 am ET | Updated May 21, 2016

As the General Manager (GM) of Symantec's Trust Services, Roxane Divol is responsible for the end-to-end optimization and growth of the Trust Services business. This business offers industry leading SSL certificates, code signing, and certificate management offerings.

Roxane joined the Symantec leadership team in 2013 as Senior Vice (SVP) President of Alliances, where she drove thought leadership and actions across Symantec's products and services organization on matters related to long-term strategy, technology alliances, partnerships, and operations. Her responsibilities included leading and growing the Internet of Things offerings, Technical Services organization, and Products and Services Strategy and Operations, as well as leading the long-term strategy review for Symantec.
Symantec is the world's largest security-software maker, providing security, storage, and systems management solutions to help customers secure and manage their information-driven world, across their environment.

Prior to joining Symantec, Roxane was a Partner at McKinsey & Company for more than 15 years as a leader of its Marketing and Sales Practice on the U.S. West Coast, as well as the Technology, Media, Telecom Practice. In that role, she helped clients develop effective organizations, increase return on their investments, and develop go-to-market approaches that delivered the most value. She also created and led McKinsey's West Coast Executive Women's Roundtable series.

Roxane holds dual French and Colombian citizenship. Her cross-cultural experiences have helped her to assess and transform global organizations. She is a director at Wolverine Worldwide and currently sits on several non-for-profit boards (Lycee Francais de San Francisco, Global Fund for Women, and the Battery Foundation). Roxane is passionate about women's rights, including access to education, healthcare, jobs, voting rights, and other inequities facing women and people across the globe.

How has your life experience made you the leaders you are today?
I'm half French and half Colombian, and have lived in France, Colombia and the U.S.: being a global citizen has had a big influence on the leader I am today. For instance, I constantly consider diversity of thought on my teams - this can come from various educational, professional, cultural or gender backgrounds.

During my upbringing anything less than excellence was considered not good enough - this set high aspirations for me and taught me to be ambitious, which translates to what I expect of my teams and how I lead. I also became sensitized early on being one of few women pursuing a STEM career. I think that plays into my leadership style as well.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Symantec?
I was a management consultant for 17 years before coming to Symantec. The nature of that work was project-driven, so having the experience of constant new projects and new things to solve has been helpful in what Symantec is going through with its own change and transformation. In management consulting you're exercising all the muscles given it spans such a wide roadmap - marketing, sales, profit improvement, etc. - and you're also tasked with asking a lot of questions to understand the problem and quickly provide a solution. My role at Symantec has changed five times since I started, but my consulting background has given me the flexibility to actually enjoy this change!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Symantec?
There have been many highlights! I have embraced my changing roles. I've had a fantastic time with it because there are some big things Symantec needs to resolve and to be a part of that - accelerating towards the answer - is really fulfilling. My current highlight is the GM role, accountability in the business and what that entails. I am very motivated by the responsibility I have over a highly functional team and the way to take that to the next level.

In terms of challenges, I have faced some skepticism. After 17 years, I was assumed to be a lifetime consultant; people feared I would be paralyzed by my desire to analyze, too demanding, not practical enough. This was also exacerbated by how I came across, demanding yes, but with a different tone, style and voice - driven by my background and my gender. This created a double disconnect sometimes, that I needed to overcome. I have also had to learn how to operate in a world where you - and your team- are running the Sahara Ultra-marathon, as opposed to a sprint to the corner store. It is a different operating model, where you need to blend sense of urgency with sustainability.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in information security?
The ideal combination is meaning and opportunity, and there is huge meaning and opportunity in this field: I would definitely encourage women to consider this field. Indeed, we're living increasingly digital lives and in that context information security is a critical component of progress - a career in this space provides many opportunities, especially because we have a big talent shortage. And in addition you're doing something good. My advice for succeeding in this field is to find people and sponsors who believe in you. If you are interested in this topic there's no reason not to go for it.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Grit and resilience. Among successful people, I think the single thing that stands out is resilience: be tough and hang on. This has manifested in multiple ways for me -- for example, after I had kids, I made the choice to come back to a career with a lot of travel - it was all about grit. Soon after, the economy went down and I had to reinvent myself - I had to push through and stay tough in the face of adversity. At the end of the day it's about resilience, and grit...

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think the core of leadership work is a job that you derive meaning from, so I continually get fulfillment from my career. I try to minimize time spent on things that aren't fulfilling or aren't what I want to take on. Another huge factor is who your spouse or life partner is: in my case it takes two to make it doable. Manage what gives you energy. My situation works because we have a family construct and we set expectations with our children.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
It is all about biases. The first and most insidious one was that people didn't ask me if I wanted to take on hard assignments when I came back from maternity leave. They just assumed I'd say no because of my increased maternal responsibilities. This was extremely disempowering because people didn't even ask - they just assumed. I know they were well-intended but at the same time blinded by their biases. In addition, it is frequent for groups in high tech to question women's competencies. That goes away in groups where the talent pool becomes more balanced.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Well, for starters, I'm not good at asking for help! But there have been people looking out for me who created a safety net without me even knowing. When I first joined Symantec, a former colleague gave my boss advice on working with me and said to give me challenging assignments - a week later the scope of my responsibility was increased. I can think of a handful of individuals who created real tangible opportunities for me during my career, because they had seen me rise to the challenge.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire the decision Sheryl Sandberg made to be an activist on women's issues. I've spent a lot of time on this topic and she's taken it to a whole new level. I also admire Christine Lagarde's, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), journey. As a French woman in an American-based institution, watching her success has been inspiring.

What do you want Symantec to accomplish in the next year?
Symantec is in the middle of a split, so executing that successfully is a business priority, as well as the momentum gained coming out of the split. I don't just want to meet deadlines during this process, I want it to create momentum for the company. Our renewed focus on improving the diversity of our workforce and the inclusiveness of our culture will help us better meet our customer needs and rise to this challenge. Our multiyear diversity strategy will help us better compete for global talent, especially those women who see information security is a field for them to thrive.