26 September 2023

If everything goes well, Chetna Pancha’s work will go almost entirely unnoticed.   

And while that’s mostly a good thing, it can mean her team and profession don’t always get the credit they deserve.

“We do excellent work behind the scenes, and sometimes it’s a shame that we only end up getting attention when there’s a breach,” she says. 

Chetna works in cyber security, and since February 2022 has been Cyber Security Assurance Manager at Hīkina Whakatutuki Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

There she leads a team of cyber security professionals whose job is to keep MBIEs’ data safe and secure  a big responsibility, and one that Chetna and her team take extremely seriously.  

“There’s always pressure, but taking responsibility is one of my key strengths, so I’m comfortable with that.” 

It’s also a responsibility that is shared across a vibrant and engaged network of Public Service Cyber Security professionals.  

There’s really good cross-government collaboration in cyber security, and from what I see we’re quite a mature function in that respect.   

“We have a strong community of practice, and people are constantly sharing information across the network to learn from and help each other.”

Chetna joined the Public Service in 2014 via a graduate programme at Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

She had recently finished her Bachelor of Commerce and was chosen along with three others for the 18-month programme. In that time Chetna worked in seven different teams and got to try out many parts of IT.

Following the programme, Chetna joined MSD permanently, where she worked with project teams to help deliver safe, secure products and services.

“It’s important that people realise that IT security teams aren’t trying to block people, we’re trying to help deliver a safer, better product.” 

In December 2019 Chetna joined MBIE and found herself almost immediately working on the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) project – a programme she was dedicated to for the next two years. 

“I worked with the people who were working with MIQ everyday to make sure that the technology they put in was secure.” 

In 2021, Chetna was a finalist in the Spirit of Service Awards, which recognise public servants and initiatives that exemplify the spirit of service and demonstrate an outstanding commitment to New Zealand. 

In her citation she was praised for her “clarity and calmness under pressure”.  

“Chetna provided outstanding leadership in a demanding environment to ensure MIQ could respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing assurance that the data and information of travellers was secure and accurate.” 

Since then, Chetna has taken her calm, clear approach into her first people-leading role. She describes the move as a big step that required a new mindset, but says the transition was made easier by training and plenty of internal support. 

In a nutshell she describes her leadership approach as “supportive”. 

“My job is to help my team succeed – so I think of myself as an enabler, an unblocker. Ultimately, I’m here to make things easier for those around me.”