Michelle Price – The heart of cybsersecurity
Michelle Price – The heart of cybsersecurity


Michelle Price – The heart of cybsersecurity

May 13, 2021

It could be said that some of the most successful people are also those most comfortable with risk. It’s certainly true for Michelle Price (BA 1999), CEO of AustCyber, Australia’s Cyber Security Growth Network, who has made a career out of it. Well and truly in her stride, Michelle leads from the centre and is proving that even in one of the most technical and technologically driven industries, for her, it all comes down to the impact she can have on people’s lives.

Michelle Price is a dynamic, committed leader. Heading up the non-profit organisation AustCyber, she sees the best and worst of society as she straddles a spectrum of domestic and international priorities from innovation to crime prevention under the umbrella of cybersecurity.

‘The cybersecurity landscape in Australia is highly dynamic; it’s an exciting space to be,’ she says from AustCyber’s headquarters in Canberra. ‘We work on the economic/opportunity side of cybersecurity alongside a range of people who deal in the threat and downside risk, which is what you hear about in the news.’

According to Michelle, ‘Growing a cybersecurity industry for the country involves working with companies to help them increase the sophistication of their products and services, as well as helping them develop in size and scale. We also help them have a voice and make sure they’re considered for contracts and investment.’

But the scope of the organisation reaches much further, helping businesses of all sizes understand what cybersecurity is and what their cybersecurity needs are, and then facilitating products and services to respond to that need.

‘In the process, we’re creating some amazing jobs, which are not just located in capital cities, and we get to be on the journey with a range of founders and entrepreneurs who are inventing products and services that are now available worldwide.

‘AustCyber is an organisation unlike any other,’ she says. ‘We provide advice to multiple governments across the world, as well as to the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, who have a significant influence on how our world responds to some very serious threats.’

She goes on to explain, ‘Australia is being targeted by malicious actors, both domestically and internationally, who want to steal money and identities, and manipulate this information. As a proportion of the global economy, the dark side of the internet is worth more than the legitimate side; it’s a multi-trillion-dollar business.

‘Part of our job is to make sure there are great products and services out there so that individuals, businesses and organisations like non-profits, schools, universities and government agencies can protect themselves against these kinds of malicious activities.’

It’s not a career that can be entered without the dovetailing of accumulated experience, and the thread running across Michelle’s 16-year government career – which has included governance, change management and strategic planning – has been risk management.

It’s a skill she gained early in her career running family businesses in food safety training and auditing, at the time a very new field, and her degree from Macquarie University in economics and law. Trailblazing even back then, Michelle remembers, ‘I was part of the first cohort of only 12 students to study environmental economics; there was just one lecturer.’

Still, her seemingly disparate experiences have all led her to where she is today. ‘It sounds strange, but there are a lot of similarities in the way you manage food safety risk to how you manage cyber risk. The degree of technicality is very different, but the overall nature of risk and how humans engage with those types of risk is very similar.’

Being able to relate to small business has also been invaluable in her roles with Customs and the Australian Border Force, as well as Prime Minister and Cabinet, where she moved when a colleague recommended her to the prime minister at the time, Julia Gillard.

‘At Prime Minister and Cabinet, I was working on a national security level, running the national security budget and designing the country’s first national security strategic risk framework. Within that, cyber was identified as a strategic risk.

‘Around the same time, I did the risk assessment for the country’s first cyber white paper and when Tony Abbott became prime minister, I was asked to focus on cybersecurity, becoming known as the cyber person,’ she says simply – and characteristically – without any ego.

Speaking with Michelle, she is articulate, straightforward and clearly dedicated. Given her skill set, it’s no wonder she’s been promoted to such positions of responsibility, but you sense she brings something different to her game. Something she’s happy to discuss head-on.

‘My leadership style is to lead from the centre. I take a very collaborative approach in my work and try to take the bullet for others on the sensitive situations we deal with in workplaces.

‘At the same time, I like to push others to the front and provide mentoring and coaching so they can find their way and have a stronger voice. Shining a light on issues that others don’t necessarily have the confidence or ability to raise is also important.’

Part of the cohort of women over the last 10 to 15 years who have leaned in and broken some of the stereotypes that particularly young women were experiencing in senior positions, Michelle says, ‘It’s taken a while to navigate, but I’ve had some great people around me to support and help me.

‘In many ways, the most difficult situations in my career have made me the most resilient, and made me focus on leading with empathy. I put myself in the position of others to identify what’s holding them or situations back.

‘It’s a high-risk strategy because it means I’m leading with heart, and when you put your heart out there, it can get broken. So I do get accused all the time – quite happily so from my perspective – of being very passionate about what I do.’

For Michelle, being part of the success of a company as it goes from idea to export and the impact that has on the founders, their employees and their families is a privilege. But there’s more to the depth of impact AustCyber has – in general and on Michelle.

‘Every year, hundreds of women and children in this country are subjected to domestic violence situations that are facilitated by their information and location being sold on the dark web. We work in partnership with state and territory police forces to intervene and stop perpetrators from committing the most awful crimes.

‘So we work across the full spectrum,’ she says. ‘But when you bring it all together, it’s about the impact we have on people; that’s what drives me.’

 Words: Megan English







Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>