Position: President and chief operating officer of SafeNet Inc., an information security firm in Belcamp, Md.

Career highlights: Senior vice president and chief financial officer, SafeNet Inc.; chief financial officer, Optelecom Inc.; vice president for finance and operations, Byk Gardner; audit manager, Deloitte & Touche.

Age: 43

Education: BS, accounting, University of Arizona; MBA, business administration, Loyola College of Maryland. She is a certified public accountant.

Personal: Lives in Baltimore with husband, Stephen, and their children Michael, 11, Peter, 8, and Alexandra, 7.

How did you get to where you are? It starts with my parents, and specifically my mom. She instilled a strong work ethic. She's amazing. She always encouraged us to take risks, work incredibly hard and there were no boundaries. In essence, that is what has shaped who I am in the world, certainly in the business environment and in my personal life. I've been fortunate to have a family that gives me the room to grow and a husband that is very supportive and encouraging. Along the way, I have found that I've always been attracted to challenges and I've always managed to find people that have been very good mentors and influences, both in and outside my work. People that I think are balanced, smart and have a lot energy, I emulated them.

This career wasn't so planned. My first major in college was architecture. And at the end of my first year, at my first major review, I thought I had done an amazing job. Then my professor asked me what was my second choice as a major. I was devastated and went to my adviser and accounting happened to be the first major on the list. And that's how I ended up in the profession. When I went into it, there was a lot of discipline and analytical thinking. Accounting is about figuring things out. And as I started working in the business environment, it turned into: "How does a business run and how do we make it better?" So, figuring that out is what motivated me -- how to make things run more efficiently so you can grow faster, more profitably.

I had my biggest break working at Deloitte. They had a very large client that was going through some labor discussions and I was new to the company. We lost the lead person who was supposed to be managing the account. And I was able to convince the partner that I should do it. That allowed me to get on to the mergers and acquisitions team at Deloitte, then on to Byk Gardner.

You shouldn't feel like you have to know everything. This is one of the things that has set me apart. One of the things that I've found is that you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions.

Anyone in this position is going to be strong. You have to be strong, have high energy, a strong work ethic. People would describe me as someone with high standards. I'm demanding of people but extremely fair. You have to be able to build a good team because you can't do everything on your own.

In the last few years our industry has been going through a period of consolidation. We have gone through two incredibly large acquisitions while growing our business organically. The company is twelve times the size in revenue than we were three years ago. We have seven times more employees and have a strong operating presence in 25 different countries. So, to manage that growth and manage it profitably has been a challenge and also a lot of fun.

-- Judith Mbuya