Blog and News

Bixaler Spotlight: Paola Garcia Cardenas

April 02, 2024

An Interview with Paola Garcia Cardenas

Meet Paola Garcia Cardenas, our senior staff cybersecurity engineer at Bixal.

As a leader in cybersecurity, Paola has played a role in transformative initiatives, such as with Bixal’s collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Colombia Mission. She exemplifies a dedication to enhancing digital well-being and safeguarding against cyber threats.

In our latest Bixaler Spotlight, we delve into Paola's personal and professional journey here at Bixal. Her reflections provide valuable insights into the meaningful work she undertakes and the positive impact she strives to make.

Can you tell us about your professional background and how you joined the team at Bixal?

I graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College with a computer science degree in 2012. Soon after entering the workforce, I earned my first master’s degree in computer science to further my understanding of the field. As an aspiring web developer, I started in junior positions in web design, but I knew I wanted the opportunity to delve into content management systems (CMSs) and website development.

I made the decision to pursue my second master's degree in cybersecurity at New York University shortly after entering the workforce. Being an international student from Costa Rica, the concept of giving back to the community has always resonated deeply with me. I found a meaningful way to contribute by working as an adjunct at my local community college teaching website development classes. It felt incredibly rewarding to empower others with the knowledge and skills to thrive in an evolving field.

In January 2015, I connected with Bixal’s co-founder Carla Briceno through LinkedIn. At the time, Carla was organizing a training for Latinas in STEM and she reached out to ask if I would participate. Our initial connection grew strong, and we remained in close touch for years.

In 2019, Carla reached out once again, offering me the opportunity to join Bixal in a remote position. Recognizing Bixal's involvement in the government space, I saw this as a chance to continue serving my adopted country while using my web development expertise. Joining Bixal allowed me to blend my passion for technology with my aspiration to inspire and create positive impact.

Could you share an accomplishment that you’re particularly proud of since joining Bixal?

One of the most meaningful projects I had the privilege to be part of was our collaboration with the USAID/Colombia Mission. Together, we implemented a cybersecurity training program that empowered implementing partners and civil society organizations to enhance their digital well-being and safeguard against cyber threats.

Using a hybrid approach of asynchronous training and virtual learning, we trained nearly 300 individuals representing 44 organizations in Colombia, increasing their knowledge of cybersecurity and improving their digital health practices. This marked our first major accomplishment in providing international cybersecurity support for a government partner, and it helped us grow our cyber capabilities at Bixal.

What do you enjoy most about your work at Bixal?

When I first began working at Bixal, I realized our company principles and core values were fully realized in the work we do. We truly are an organization that cares about global impact. Even as we’ve grown to a company over 250 strong, we’ve maintained a philosophy of helping those who oftentimes get left behind when it comes to information and services, and that has motivated me every single day.

Bixal places great priority on recognizing the significance of our team as our most valued asset and strives to actively support our individual career growth. My experience here exemplifies this commitment. I joined Bixal as a web developer knowing that I really wanted to move into cybersecurity engineering. I received full support from Bixal’s leadership and have been able to grow into a role leading Bixal’s cybersecurity program, enabling me to continue to make significant contributions to the continued growth and success of the company. This growth would not have been possible without the support of the leadership of the technology team and many others at Bixal.

As a cybersecurity engineer, I love the fact that not a single day looks the same for me. Our security landscape is constantly changing and that makes the work super interesting. Our federal partners and agencies have placed cybersecurity at the forefront of their focus, and we observe highly emphasized initiatives and memos from the Federal CIO, Clare Martorana. As such, we wanted our teams at Bixal to mirror that same emphasis and prioritization, and that is further complemented by our partnership with Vaultes, a veteran-owned small business (VOSB) specializing in cybersecurity solutions.

What do you love doing outside of work at Bixal?

As a passionate runner, I have had the pleasure of participating in numerous races and marathons. It brings me great joy to engage with my fellow Bixalers in our Teams running channel, where I can share my running journey and connect with other runners. One of my life goals is to become a six-star World Marathon Majors (WMM) finisher by finishing races in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Tokyo. So far, I’ve run three out of the six, so I’m officially halfway there!

I also enjoy traveling, live comedy, and music concerts.

About Paola

Paola holds several certifications including CompTIA Security+, CompTIA PenTest+, CompTIA Network Vulnerability Assessment Professional, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, and Maven’s Securing AI-Powered Transformation—Managing Risk & Supercharging Productivity. She is also an adjunct professor for the Cyber Fellows graduate program at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. Her leadership and passion are a testament to the incredible talent within our Bixal community. We are honored to have Paola on our team as we collectively work towards creating a more secure and equitable digital future.