Women in Cyber – An Open Letter
Written by Katie Howe on 06/03/2020
The past sixteen years have witnessed a staggering growth in the cybersecurity industry. With a global market worth of $3.5 billion in 2004, this figure mushroomed to $120 billion in 2017. It is now predicted to surpass $1 trillion by 2021. Alongside this growth is the upsurge of demand for cybersecurity talent, of which there is a severe shortage with an expected 3.5 million unfilled positions in a year’s time.
While, in theory, this presents the perfect opportunity for women to enter the field and resolve the industry’s gender inequality, this has not been reflected in the data. In fact, between 2013 and 2019, the proportion of women in the global cybersecurity workforce merely increased from 11% to 20%.
In light of this, we have sat down with three extraordinary women at Bulletproof to help shed some light on the good, the bad and the ugly of being a woman in a male-dominated environment. For those thinking about sending in an application for a cybersecurity role, they also share some of their words of wisdom.
The women behind the Bulletproof brand
Milica Sucevic, Nicky Whiting and Julia Ambury are three different women at different stages of their careers. Beginning her career as an IT Technician in the public sector, Milica later became an infrastructure engineer before joining Bulletproof almost nine months ago as a DevOps Engineer.
Focusing on the SIEM Platform, Milica and her team configures as well as deploys infrastructure and applications to have a whole platform up and running within roughly half an hour. In contrast, as Head of Consultancy, Nicky is responsible for managing a team of compliance consultants and overseeing compliance projects covering ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS etc. Finally, there is Julia, who has joined Bulletproof as a Security Operations Centre (SOC) Analyst following her graduation.
While the prolific use of acronyms in these women’s role descriptions may read similar to hieroglyphics to the untrained eye, the world of cybersecurity is not as frightening as it may seem. In truth, all three women concur that it is an exciting field to be in. As Julia maintains, “it’s a field that is constantly changing so you never stop learning interesting things”. In other words, if you enjoy a challenge and are an ambitious individual, cybersecurity is the place to be because the potential for career progression and to develop new skills is endless. On top of it all, in Milica’s words, you get to be a “digital defender hero... helping companies stay safe by fighting against cyber-crime”.
On the whole, entering the industry is not as difficult as you might imagine either. For instance, both Milica and Nicky’s transition into cybersecurity transpired rather organically. For Milica, as she learned more about cybersecurity, she grew increasingly motivated to explore different technologies and fields, such as DevOps. Today, there is no other field she would rather work in. Julia, however, makes the observation that the key deterrent for many women really comes down to feeling intimidated by the dominance of men in this line of work. As long as you can get past this, the world is your oyster.
Is being a woman in cybersecurity a career roadblock?
Nevertheless, their experience encountering gender-based hurdles seem to differ significantly. On the one hand, Milica has “never” faced any challenges brought about by her gender. Rather, she firmly believes that because of the inequality, there is “a great opportunity for all the women out there who are passionate and hungry to succeed in the world of IT”. On the other hand, Nicky has felt that in some of her previous roles, there was a need to prove herself more. While “male colleagues just ‘wing it’ and get away with it”, “women are sometimes judged more harshly and, as a result, we have to be better than our male colleagues to succeed and be noticed”. Thankfully Bulletproof has a zero tolerance policy against any sort of discrimination, and all staff are only judged on their performance.
With that in mind, if you believe that you are that determined individual looking to work in the dynamic field of cybersecurity, here are a few pieces of advice from Milica to help you get started.
Truly understand the field you are planning on getting into
“Technology is one of the fastest growing industries, and as it grows so does people’s interest in it too.
It is such a broad sector with plenty of opportunities for everyone offering career paths in many different fields.
From coding and programming or technology advisory services through to systems infrastructure design - the career paths available to someone interested in technology are varied. It's worth researching what a career in technology will involve in order to understand the different options available to you.”
Gain experience in your field
“Work experience is a great way to show a potential employer that you are motivated and interested in the industry. And of course, building your network in the tech industry is a great way to get ahead.
Identify individuals in your network who might be able to put you in touch with someone in the technology industry.
Attending industry events is another great way to meet individuals who may have hints and tips for you.
Finally, talk to other women who have carved out a career in technology. Don't be afraid to ask key questions and discuss concerns with them. Ask for their advice, because they were once in your shoes too."
Women should support each other
“Giving women the opportunity to network with one another throughout the organisation and talk about their challenges and solutions with others is a great way to enhance communication, creativity, thought leadership and even productivity in their own job responsibilities.
One of the most valuable components to a women’s initiative is being given the chance to meet and talk with women across numerous roles and functions within the company. We always learn from one another, but if we don’t get the chance to set aside time in our busy days to talk, new ideas could be missed.”
Be passionate and have confidence as women working in cyber
“If you are considering a career in technology, I believe it is highly important to show that you are truly passionate about this topic. Not only because this will come across in your communication (i.e. in the job interview), but also because the field itself is changing and developing so fast. Therefore, you should be prepared to learn daily and to continuously invest in your knowledge. And most importantly, this is something you are choosing for yourself. We typically spend 1/3 of each day at work, so make sure you choose a career that you will truly enjoy and that will be worth your time.”
So, there you have it. If you have made it this far in the article and you’re still waiting for a sign, this is it. Just do it already! Take the leap. Nicky promises that you won’t regret it.
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