IVANKA KABRANOVA: MASTER IN CYBERSECURITY


The Identity Architect at KPMG IT Service, on finding her way in the IT industry, and thriving there

Ivanka-Kabranova-KPMG IT service.jpg

The success stories of women in the IT industry deserve more attention, as they are the example of how a challenging, exciting and demanding new field can grow and benefit from their presence. The story of Ivanka Kabranova is a case in point. She is currently Identity Architect at KPMG IT Service, a highly responsible position that is key for the company's clients' transition to cloud services. Before she took it, Ivanka Kabranova had quite a professional, and personal journey that sums up nicely the development of the IT industry in Bulgaria and abroad in the past three decades. Ivanka Kabranova got interested in informatics at a young age, an exotic field in Bulgaria of the 1980s. In the 1990s, she was among the pioneers of digitalisation of Bulgarian administration and services, and in the early 2000s she was already an expert who authored two specialised books. It was then that she decided to continue her career in North America, where she focused on helping client companies to improve their infrastructure or to implement better solutions. With the advance of cloud solutions, Ivanka Kabranova realised the importance of this new technology and became an expert in this field as well. In 2023, her life journey eventually led her back to Bulgaria, where she joined the team of KPMG IT Service.

How did you decide to work in IT? How has IT changed since you started?

I always liked math. I attended the High School of Mathematics in Vratsa. We had amazing teachers that inspired our generation to seek careers not only in math but also in informatics, an emerging field at the time. We studied programming languages, logic, binary math and at the end there was no doubt that this was the area I wanted to work in. I was admitted to the Technical University in Sofia. Thanks to the superb high school preparation, I breezed through it. I managed to get excellent marks. What I learned in high school and university was the foundation I stepped on and used in all my positions.

I loved all my jobs. I started in the government sector. At the time, I was the first one hired in IT. I was the IT department, so to speak. Information technology was getting its foot in the door, and I had the wonderful opportunity to plan and build the entire infrastructure and document management systems there from the ground up. It was an extremely rewarding experience. I had the chance to work in the banking and telecommunications sector after that. It is fascinating to look back on how the technology evolved during the years and suffice it to say that the bank servers at the time were less powerful than the phones each of us carries nowadays.

I applied to become an IBM Red Book author in California and was selected to write two books with co-authors on technologies that are long gone now. That experience showed me that there were opportunities in the field of technology outside Bulgaria and that our skills were quite transferrable. My family moved to Canada where we spent 18 years. I worked for a Microsoft partner there for almost eight years, and then for Microsoft Canada for more than ten years. I would say that the years from 2000 to 2013 approximately were the boom years for on-premises work, and after that customers started to gradually move to the cloud. What I noticed is that technologies come and go, and "change" was and still is the only constant in IT.

Why did you choose to join KPMG IT Service?

Canadian winters and aging parents in Bulgaria conspired, and we moved back. I knew I wanted a job like my last one, one that involved helping customers take advantage of the latest technologies, with an emphasis on security and privacy. I was looking for the possibility of remote work since we wanted to settle in the south of the country. My main goal was to find a place where I can apply my expertise and knowledge in a meaningful way, contributing to customers' success in safeguarding their digital assets and cloud journeys, and at the same time grow and develop new proficiencies in cloud and cybersecurity. I saw an Identity Architect position that matched my experience, applied, and got the job. I joined an incredibly talented team of professionals and experts in the field. In terms of work for me, it was a smooth transition: one day I was working for Microsoft Canada, focused on identity and zero trust technologies, the next for KPMG IT Service, specializing in identity and access management and security, and it felt the same.

What is the most interesting part of your job? And what is the most important aspect of it?

Once you are in the Consulting field you start to appreciate the dynamic and challenging environment. Dynamic, since each new customer is a new experience. It is like starting a new job in a way with each new project. Challenging, since you are solving customers' specific problems. It never gets boring. While there are unique aspects in each project it is possible to draw back from previous experiences and build upon them.

The most important part is to actively listen to the customers to better understand their needs as opposed to just suggesting new products and features. While it is mandatory to keep your technical skills current, it is equally critical to build relationships, understand requirements, and deliver solutions that meet or exceed expectations. KPMG IT Service in that regard has a great program, Super Speaker, which helps with honing the presentation and communication skills and a slew of internal trainings whose goal is to help develop those "soft" competencies.

Which project is the most challenging?

Each project is a challenge on its own; there are no less or more important customers. There is a problem the customers are trying to solve and the secret to a successful project is to give them the best solution within their budgets and limitations. Another essential aspect is always to remember that you are part of a team. If you do not know the answer, do not be afraid to ask for help.

What is it like to be a woman in IT? What would you say to your younger self who is just starting in IT?

I must admit, it can be a little daunting to work in a male dominated field especially in North America. In Bulgaria more women are in IT, although perhaps not enough in purely technical positions. I remember being the only woman on a team, or one of the two there. But I must say that gender does not really matter, what matters is that at the end you are judged on the merits. It is too late to talk to my younger self, but to all the young people and especially women considering the field, go for it. If you put your heart and soul in it the sky's the limit.

kpmg-its.bg

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