By: Pratima Aiyagari

After many, many years working at Cisco Corporate Development, I recently joined Paladin Capital as an Investment Director, leading European investments in early stage companies. The fund invests across three interrelated categories – cybersecurity, enablement and monitoring & management. Our investment thesis is underpinned by a belief that organisations can only achieve digital resilience through investment in a full spectrum of solutions that enable, manage and defend their assets.

The practicality of starting a new job during this pandemic has been, in equal parts, challenging and humorous – including a new work laptop not arriving by my start date due to delays at customs, kids joining my zoom call during on-boarding, leaving myself unmuted while I “shouted” at my child to “keep it down”. But, for the most part, it has been smooth.

Now, more than ever, cybersecurity is at the forefront. Organisations are thinking about how to protect their employees, now working from home. Technology that can protect us from harm, be it bullying, coercion or mis/disinformation, is increasingly vital as we move our lives online [1]. Companies are also concerned about how to serve customers – they are questioning how to demonstrate products to a prospective client or how to close a deal/win a customer while working remotely. These actions increase their cyber risk. With an expanding threat surface, it is critical to have a systematic approach to keeping the business up and running, operating core services securely and keeping bad actors at bay. The new normal has opened up many new vectors along which cyber-attacks can be originated. Innovators and entrepreneurs are trying to understand how our response to Covid-19 has changed our behaviour, perhaps for the long term. This will present an opportunity to build new businesses. It is my job to consider what technologies will be needed to keep ourselves safe in the future.

While I have been grappling with starting a new job in this strange new time, I found myself facing the competing priorities of care-giving (for my young children), house work and being the CFO/COO of my family unit.

Women have made great strides in the last decade, entering many previously male-dominated professions, gaining financial independence, leading global corporations and being elected to many public positions. We call this gender equality. One place this equality is lagging is in their own homes. In spite of archaic terms like “bread winner” and “home maker” having fled from the vocabulary of the current millennial generation, the majority of housework still falls to the women in a heterosexual couple [2].

Enter 2020, in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries have instituted a shelter-in-place and working from home requirements. Most dual career couples with children have worked very hard to find a balance that allows them to care for their children and continue to have a fulfilling career. “The coronavirus smashes up the bargain that so many dual-earner couples have made … We can both work, because someone else is looking after our children[3].  Suddenly, they are faced with a real challenge of juggling childcare and professional expectations. Add to this mix, the expectation of homeschooling. Women who bear the brunt of housework and childcare, now find themselves stretched thin with the added burden of being a teacher. Need I add, with no training, no resources and no time, sometimes, while juggling a full-time job.

Last week I arranged for my daughter (age 6) to read “Back to Earth with a Bump” on her computer, while I reviewed the European Government Aid programs for startups affected by Covid-19. The same day, I had 30 second bursts of productivity reading a board note from a colleague about one of our portfolio companies, while I set challenges for my 4 year old who is learning to read the clock. Every day, my personal and professional lives collide, most abruptly and with no warning. Some people claim we are all “working from home”. I am not just “working from home”; I am trying to keep everyone safe, fed and out of harm’s way, while contributing meaningfully to my paid work.

As I sort out the dichotomy in my own life, I am meeting amazing founders working on problems that homeworkers and parents are facing. Safety tech has great potential to protect us from online harm and I am regularly inspired by the innovations that I’m introduced to. If you have an idea you are working on and would like to share it with me, please reach out. I would love to hear more.

P.S. I have a spectacular husband, who works full-time like me and has the kids on as many “meetings” as I do. We tally the meetings daily.

About Pratima Aiyagari

Pratima Aiyagari is an Investment Director at Paladin Capital Group UK and a member of Paladin’s investment team focusing on new European opportunities for Paladin’s Cyber Fund.  Pratima has 18+ years of professional experience. She is a software developer by background and spent several years in Silicon Valley working on developing intelligent network services in the network management domain. Prior to Paladin, Pratima led investments and acquisitions at Cisco Corporate Development in Europe with a specific focus on ML/AI, Enterprise Collaboration and Silicon. During her time at Cisco, Pratima led an investment and held board observer seats in Aimotive, Adbrain, Evrythng and several fund investments. She also managed investments in several companies including Behaviosec, Italtel, ip.access and Corvil. Pratima received her MBA from INSEAD in France and an MS in computer science from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the US. Pratima is a co-author of a US patent in the area of network device clusters and high availability.

About Paladin Capital Group

Paladin Capital Group was founded in 2001 and has offices in Washington DC, New York, Silicon Valley, London, and Luxembourg.  As a multi-stage investor, Paladin focuses on best-of-breed companies with technologies, products and services that meet the challenging global cybersecurity and digital infrastructure resilience needs for commercial and government customers. Paladin has over $1 billion in committed capital across multiple funds. For updates, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[1] Report of “Safety Tech” by UK Government

[2] Economic Dependency, Gender, and the Division of Labor at Home

[3] The Coronavirus is a disaster for Feminism