This event is part of the CyLab Distinguished Seminar Series.

Palma Buttles-Valdez 
Director of Special Programs
Software Engineering Institute 


To increase the effectiveness of organizational culture as an ally in cybersecurity strategies, programs, and practices requires shifting the cultural conversation from that of a small c to a capital C.  Culture is a complex system of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, norms, symbols, values, and ideas that humans acquire to become members of a society.  Culture is frequently cited as an important factor in cybersecurity; however, it rarely receives in-depth consideration.  Cybersecurity strategies, programs, and practices are implemented in organizations and organizations have a culture(s).  Cultural complexity is also represented by the people who are employed by these organizations.  To increase the effectiveness of cybersecurity strategies, programs, and practices in organizations requires a truly holistic approach that expands beyond people, process, and technology, to include the context in which “cybersecurity” occurs, the Culture. 

In this presentation I will introduce basic concepts of culture and demonstrate the role socio-cultural factors have in elevating or impeding cybersecurity strategies, programs, and practices.  The goals of this presentation are to increase awareness of the role of culture, provide a common language in which to talk about culture and lastly to illustrate how culture can be a partner in cybersecurity strategies, programs, and practices.


Dr. Palma Buttles-Valdez is the Director of Special Programs in the Director‘s Office at the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (CMU SEI) and a Senior Member of the Technical Staff.  In her role as Director of Special Programs, she finds and cultivates opportunities to enhance the understanding of and experience with software and cybersecurity in the communities we serve.  At CMU SEI, she leads the Diversity and Inclusion Program, guiding enterprise-wide efforts to conceptualize, define, nurture and cultivate diversity and an inclusive work environment.  For over 15 years, Palma has assisted organizations in successfully addressing their critical human capital, organizational culture, and behavioral issues. 

Palma holds a PhD in Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin. She has been active in the fields of Anthropological Archaeology (for over 25 years) and Business Anthropology, Change Management, and Process Improvement (for 15 years).  As a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, she conducts and publishes research and serves on doctoral dissertation committees. 

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