Thriving in security

When Ava Turner Leone first entered the workforce as an officer manager for an import customs brokerage firm, she couldn’t have imagined where her career would take her over the next 26 years.

“Early on my career really was happenstance, it was completely kind of unplanned in terms of what direction that I was going, I didn't know what I wanted to do or where I was headed,” Turner Leone says.

Her first job at the import customs brokerage firm really sparked her interest in learning about trade compliance, a complicated and specialized industry.

“It was a pretty fascinating industry to me — international business, global trade — and it actually turned into another career opportunity,” Turner Leone says.

Turner Leone advanced through her career from a customs brokerage to working for an importer to eventually working at Boeing. Her career at the global aerospace company ultimately led from compliance as a Global Trade Control Specialist/Trainer to supply chain security as the Global Supply Chain Security Program Manager.

“My career essentially took off from there as my structured and experienced security approaches in a highly government regulated industry were highly desired in the ever-growing technology industry,” Turner Leone says.

From Boeing, Turner Leone continued her security career taking on the Corporate Security Manager and Prototype Security Program Manager roles with Amazon, Head of Intellectual Property & Confidentiality Protection, Global Product Security at Meta, and most recently Supply Chain Security Manager at quantum computing company IonQ.

“I'm the type of person that likes a challenge, security is one of those industries where I am always solving new problems and the landscape is always changing,” Turner Leone says. “I just love that aspect of security, embarking on something new, and being able to have the opportunity to solve real world, complex issues. Security to me is not always as cut and dry as some people may think it is. There's a lot of gray and I think I thrive in that gray, because it breeds flexibility, less monotony and great ideas are born.”

Security to me is not always as cut and dry as some people may think it is. There's a lot of gray and I think I thrive in that gray, because it breeds flexibility and less monotony.”

Turner Leone says her current role at IonQ is perfect for her as it blends her love for supply chain, new technology and risk management.

“ IonQ is using revolutionary trapped ion technology in computing to solve some of the world’s most complex problems and we have a competitive advantage when it comes to performance, scalability and manufacturability. With that advantage requires strong partnerships with our third parties in which we have an alignedand effective security culture to enable and protect this amazing work. We are in a new frontier of the productization of quantum computing; therefore, companies must ensure they have full knowledge of their hardware and software supply chains and they are aligned with, if not shaping, government regulation around requirements of this key technology,” she says.

Success in security

When thinking back on her success in the security industry, Turner Leone gives credit to emotional intelligence, adaptability, and being an integrator.

“Emotional Intelligence, I think makes all the difference in terms of how you're able to get things done in a way that's more productive, I think you will feel more connection to your work and the people around you,” she says. “The adaptability portion is that you have to be able to be flexible in this industry, you're going to get thrown so many curveballs and you're going to be forced to be in situations that you're going to have to solve problems that no one has ever solved before and you need to be able to move from one thing to another and prioritize very quickly. As an integrator, security requires bringing people together to help them understand their value, understand the importance of caring about protecting themselves and their work and helping to find the motivation to want a healthy security culture for themselves and each other because, ultimately, effective security enables strong business growth and provides a breeding ground for great innovation.”

Offering advice to other women looking to grow and advance within the security industry, Turner Leone says it is important to “protect your peace”.

“Always protect your peace and ensure that you're pouring just as much into yourself, as you are into the security industry,” she says. “It is important to ensure that you are continuously building up your own self-confidence and self-esteem in the process and always know and never forget your worth.”

Mentoring others is a big part of success within the security industry and Turner Leone thanks every one of the leaders that took the time to answer her questions and give her guidance throughout her career. Now, she’s paying it forward with security professionals within and outside organizations she’s worked for. One important lesson Turner Leone shares for other mentors is to be honest about the realities of the industry.

“You need to be vulnerable and share your mistakes and your lessons learned,” she says. “To me, if you're truly open and honest about the mistakes that you made, it just makes you more connected, and more relatable. The other aspect is listening and allowing them to open up and understand what they want for themselves. Don't try to project what you would do or what you necessarily would want them to do, but try to guide them in a way where you're trying to find what's best for them. And so that takes a lot of active listening and understanding who that person is and so you can help support them on the quest to find what their ultimate goal is and help them get there.”