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SheCanCode Spotlight Series: Laura Kankaala, Threat Intelligence Lead, F-Secure

Laura Kankaala, Threat Intelligence Lead, F-Secure

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Laura Kankaala works as a threat intelligence lead for cybersecurity provider F-Secure.

Her role involves analysing current threats and trends that circulate online and investigating cybercrime. She graduated from the University of Applied sciences with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and went on to work as a security consultant for many years, helping companies build more secure and reliable systems.

Laura’s career in the cyberspace industry spans across a decade and during that time she has become a driving force for encouraging more people to consider the cyber security industry as a career choice.

Passionate about making the internet a safer place. In her spare time, Laura has run several cyber security related podcasts in the past and the rest of her time is spent playing video games or watching YouTube.

SHECANCODE CAUGHT UP WITH LAURA TO TALK ABOUT HER ROLE IN CYBERSECURITY, WHAT AN AVERAGE DAY LOOKS LIKE FOR HER, AND HER ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN IN TECH.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED? 

It wasn’t really planned; however, my interests naturally took me to where I am today. I had been working in the enterprise security space for many years when an opportunity to work with F-Secure, on more consumer related security threats, came to me. I decided to apply for it and the rest is history! I’ve been working at F-Secure for many years now and have experienced so much.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE? 

Cybersecurity offers a variety of different career opportunities. All of which is interesting.  I’ve worked as a technical Security Consultant, Security Researcher and now as a Threat Intelligence Lead.

These are just examples, there’s so much to this industry whether it’s in-house defensive capabilities you’re interested in, or working on hacking organisations, there is a role for everyone who has the right skillset.

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL?

Growing up I didn’t really know much about the IT industry, and even less about cybersecurity. Then, when I began my career in security, I started to really look up to my peers who had enjoyed successful and long careers, who had helped me along the way. I really admired those colleagues who would present on the stage at big conferences to share their knowledge with large audiences. That really inspired me.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR? 

I am most proud of understanding that efficient work is about good time management, and without that, at least personally, it can be tricky to enjoy reward and satisfaction in your career.

Let me give some context. I used to be the person that would say ‘yes’ to everything and then it became so overwhelming that just looking at my computer would spark a degree of stress.

Learning to set clear limits and boundaries has been a gamechanger for my career.

It’s changed the way I approach things and as a result I am so much more focused, clear minded and able to take on the challenges and enjoy them.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

I get the day started with an oat milk coffee, then typically I’m off to meetings. I schedule time for keeping tabs on what’s happening online, read the news and conduct more thorough research on issues that need delving into. I also share ideas with my colleagues on research topics and discuss them collaboratively.

My day will also involve preparing presentations and reports on current cybersecurity threats and trends, together with my colleagues, which is interesting.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD? 

Aside from having cybersecurity knowledge and understanding, I believe companies are looking for people who show effective communication skills. Collaborating and sharing knowledge with others is crucial

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE? 

In general, I have found people around me very supportive, especially now that I’m slightly older. But as a junior, I remember I did get some comments about whether I’d ever be taken seriously because of how I look and how I sound. I would be lying if I said those things didn’t hurt back then, but I have taken what positive I can from it and am confident that I would intervene if I ever saw anyone experience the same disrespect.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

The cybersecurity industry can be quite competitive and there’s so many interesting things to explore and learn all the time. I have occasionally felt a bit of Imposter Syndrome; that I’m not good enough, especially if I’m multitasking many things. However, I have learned to manage this and when that happens, I switch my focus to the tasks that are of most interest to me. It’s also helpful to turn to others for help when needed. No one person needs to do everything alone.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The important thing is to learn how to manage that feeling. When I step outside of my comfort zone, I feel overwhelmed and scared. But I just try to give myself a pass, allow myself to feel uncomfortable in that moment and then work hard to ensure it doesn’t get the better of me.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY? 

A couple of things.

First is to never underestimate yourself and your efforts.

And the second is, find what really drives you and go for it, because that will help you learn everything and best of all, you’ll enjoy it.

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