Deb Kawamoto: Humanizing Cybersecurity as Vanta’s Head of Design


We’re delighted to announce in this exclusive that Deb Kawamoto, Design Executive Council Founding Member, has joined Vanta, a cybersecurity company as Head of Design.  Learn more about Deb’s journey into Vanta and the opportunity for strategic design leadership in a domain not traditionally known for beauty and usability.

Humanizing Cybersecurity

In the traditionally rigid world of cybersecurity, Deb Kawamoto brings a refreshingly human perspective as the newest Head of Design at Vanta. They are a rapidly growing Series B cybersecurity company, with over $200 million in funding backed by Sequoia and Craft Ventures and a valuation of $1.6 billion, is clearly turning heads.

Career Milestones

With a 13 year track record resulting in 3 successful exits at Yammer (acquired by Microsoft), Credit Karma (acquired by Intuit), and her recent involvement at Affirm's IPO as VP Design and Research, Deb is far from your average design executive. "I am excited to go beyond FinTech and be joining a company called Vanta as their Head of Design," she announced. Her mission? To 'secure the internet,' through design that makes cybersecurity more approachable, usable, and aesthetically pleasing.

Bringing Consumer-Focused Approaches to Cybersecurity

Transitioning from fast-paced startups to taking a sabbatical, Deb Kawamoto had the time to reflect on her next move. "I just love making and building," she says. While she was passionate about fintech, she felt it was time to explore new areas, and cybersecurity caught her attention. "Why Vanta? I wanted my next opportunity to align with my core values, leverage my experience, and match the organizational needs," she explains. Vanta's focus on design as a strategic advantage was a huge draw for her. Coupled with a strong, diverse leadership team led by a female CEO, Christina Cacioppo, Vanta seemed to tick all the boxes.

Her interest in cybersecurity was also sparked by her past experiences at data-heavy consumer companies. "It got me wondering—how secure is customer information? What would happen if the internet becomes a point of vulnerability? That's where I saw an opportunity to contribute to securing the internet," she says.

As for her mandate at Vanta, Deb aims to bring a consumer-focused approach to building security products. "My mission is to set a new bar for design quality and to be a true partner to engineering and product," she states. The opportunity for design leadership at Vanta is immense, according to Deb. "I believe that design can be an orchestration layer across the company, unifying disparate groups that touch the customer experience," she adds. During her first month, she met with nearly the entire leadership team across various departments, underscoring her belief that design could be the glue that brings the organization closer together.

Unifying Compliance and Security with Design

"The biggest challenge is breaking the traditional mold that cybersecurity can't be user-friendly or visually appealing," Deb mentions. This challenge excites her, particularly because Vanta's product spans both compliance and security—two areas that haven't traditionally intersected in the world of design. "I don't think anyone's really tried to figure out how to bring those two things together and make it easy to use.

We'll be investing in significant improvements in design quality through design systems and operational workflow," she adds. But Deb's vision goes beyond just immediate tasks; she's eyeing a future where design and security are inextricably linked. "I'm excited for the day where design and security live hand in hand so smoothly," she says.

To achieve this vision, she's actively looking to build her team, focusing not just on expanding its size but also its leadership. "I currently manage a growing design team, and am going to need design leadership support," she acknowledges.

Leadership Philosophy: Kindness Through Truth

Deb's leadership philosophy, "kindness through truth," isn't just a catchy phrase; it's a deeply ingrained practice that she has carried through her career, notably at Affirm and now at Vanta. "I believe that it's worse not knowing where you stand either way with no feedback. If the goal for all of us is to improve, when you don't get that feedback, it's like sitting on an island with nowhere to go," she explains.

Deb feels strongly about providing this sort of candid feedback to her team. "I care enough that I'm going to give you feedback, and I'm going to spend time thinking about what the right feedback is for you," she says. Her approach is direct but thoughtful, aimed at facilitating personal and professional growth. "Transparency builds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork," she emphasizes. This principle guides her in everything from design critiques to team interactions, fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement.

Working with Deb at Vanta

As Vanta continues to grow, so does Deb's team. "We'll be recruiting for those folks next year as well, continuing to grow out the ICs on the team," she notes. If you're intrigued by the exciting challenges and opportunities at Vanta, Deb encourages you to reach out. "Would love to have your audience reach out to me or Vanta if they're interested in learning more about us," she adds. As for her final words on the journey and the conversation, "This has been super fun. It's been great to watch DXC grow into its little seedling since our early conversations.”



Deb Kawamoto

Debbie's 25 years of experience in product design spans from early stage, hyper growth, to scaled design organizations. Her track record includes three unicorn exits at Credit Karma, Yammer and Ten-X. She was the VP of Design at Affirm post IPO 2021 and now the Head of Design at Vanta. Debbie is passionate on establishing supportive environments to enable high performing design teams to do their best work. She enjoys building the teams to ensure individuals have a chance to lean into their superpowers and find opportunities for their growth for their long term career or life path. This brings positivity to the individual which allows people to be their true self for successful business impact. She brings a holistic perspective from her experience from advertising to product by leading teams to build compelling experiences that connect the product and brand.

About Design Executive Council

Design Executive Council (DXC) is the premier membership community for senior design executives. Its mission is to advance strategic design leadership to the highest levels of business and society.

The Council focuses on fostering effective design leadership, conducting groundbreaking research, and fortifying the relationship between design and business. Our prestigious membership is composed of Chief Design Officers, SVPs, and VPs of Design from the world's most significant corporations.

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