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SheCanCode Spotlight Series: Tamzin Greenfield, Cyber Security Degree Apprentice, Cyber Security Associates

Tamzin Greenfield, Cyber Security Degree Apprentice, Cyber Security Associates

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Tamzin is a passionate cyber security apprentice at Cyber Security Associates and is on a mission to inspire confidence in the next generation of tech users.

Over the last few years, Tamzin has seized every opportunity open to her – getting involved in the wider tech community, pursuing her formal education, and learning the ropes of the industry through full-time employment.

As a woman in STEM, Tamzin is motivated to encourage confidence in the next generation of tech users – from experts to every-day users which is why she co-founded Cheltenham BSides: a platform which provides the cyber security community in the Southwest with space to share knowledge and collaborate on innovative projects.

Throughout her apprenticeship, she’s spoken at multiple events regarding diversity and entry pathways, hosted by groups such as Women in Cyber Security, CyNam, the UK Cyber Security Council, and the NCSC. Through mentoring students, Tamzin has enjoyed witnessing the distinctly bold cohort that will lead the future of STEM and, as a keen volunteer is always looking for opportunities to support the local community and broader sector across England and beyond.

SHECANCODE CAUGHT UP WITH TAMZIN TO TALK ABOUT ENTERING THE WORLD OF TECH, WHAT SHE’S MOST PROUD OF, AND HER CAREER ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN IN TECH.

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

Not at all! I was lucky that the summer before the pandemic, I’d done some work experience at Cyber Security Associates. It was a great place to dip my toes into the cyber world, everyone there was (and still is!) very kind and focused on helping young people develop an interest in cyber security.

I hadn’t considered an apprenticeship before they offered it to me a month after my sixth form closed due to the pandemic – all the other job offers I’d received or looked at were full time roles. University wasn’t an option for me in the traditional sense, for financial reasons; a higher apprenticeship was almost too good to be true.

Luckily, it is true, and next year I graduate with a degree and zero debt, as well as three years of experience.

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

Cyber has a seemingly endless list of roles. As an apprentice, I’ve been blessed to get to know quite a few of them – SOC analysts, penetration testers, engineers, consultants – the lot!

When I joined, I started in the SOC, or the Security Operations Centre. It was a great fit for me as someone who enjoys time sensitive, high-pressure jobs, and having the responsibility of protecting clients really helped me to develop my confidence.

Now, I work in consultancy, and I think it might be where I will stay for the next few years. I find that I tend to stay with careers that have high expectations, and that utilise my tech skills directly. I really enjoy working alone and am quite a perfectionist, but also enjoy working as part of a team.

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

I certainly did have role models when I was younger. Unfortunately, the saying is always true – never meet your heroes! There are many people I’ve name dropped as inspirations in the past, who I later found out were quite unsavoury characters, so nowadays I keep my motivations more subjective than literal.

My core motivation, the thing that keeps me going, is my hope for the future. I hope that there will be a better future for everyone, but hope doesn’t make the change, people do. If I can do just one thing that is of use to the world, I’ll be happy.

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

I’m most proud of my contributions in volunteering. I try to volunteer as often as I can, especially with young people who sometimes need to see someone young and similar. It can be really difficult for young people and children to relate to people who are really established in their careers, but because I’m young and look a bit alternative, it helps young people to let their guard down and sometimes ask questions they might otherwise feel embarrassed about.

Since I started my career, I’ve probably hit a good few hundred hours of volunteering, and occasionally had people come up afterwards at events to talk about my personal impact on their lives, or the lives of their children. Those things make me glow with pride!

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

It’s pretty jam packed!

When I first log on, I check if anything important has been posted on our team channels overnight by my colleagues. Then, I get onto my emails and the internet and research overnight news. If it’s a Monday, I will plan my workweek in advance to keep things organised.

The rest of the day passes quite smoothly. Now that I’m in consultancy there is a lot of document managing as well as calls with clients, occasionally shadowing the senior consultants to learn how to provide the processes we use.

Back in the SOC, it was comparable to being an emergency responder, but for computers. That was really interesting, but I also really enjoy learning the client facing processes we manage in consultancy.

If I have a free hour, I devote it to university work. There are always assignments to be done, meetings to setup, emails to read, and getting them done ahead of time is the only way to stay on top of it.

After work, I make it a habit to do something totally different from work. Usually this means writing or digital art. Every November I take the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge – which I modify into a two month process, from November to December, because of how busy I am with my university and full time work.

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

Honestly, ego, or lack thereof. It’s never outright stated on job applications, but one of the most important skills is knowing how to be wrong, and to be fine with it! Everyone makes mistakes, everyone needs to learn things sometimes. You need to be able to take it on the chin and move forwards.

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

I had a very bad experience with some previous role models who I trusted a lot, and I found out that sometimes disclosing things only means that you get blacklisted – not the person who could actually be a danger to people. It was so demoralising, and as someone who had struggled to get into technology with a less than ideal personal life, I figured it was a sign that I just wasn’t cut out for the industry.

To this day, I maintain that if I didn’t have such fantastic friends behind me, and my incredible employer, I wouldn’t be in tech any longer. I put aside all the betrayal and upset from what had happened and focused on what I could do to improve cyber. What happened to me should never happen again – and I figured, being a young person makes me the future of cyber security. If I make the spaces, I’m in safe, secure, and make sure the people I know are held responsible, I’m improving the cyberspace bit by bit.

I’m happy to say that despite that one bad experience, the rest of my time has been fantastic. My employers at Cyber Security Associates and colleagues couldn’t be more supportive, and the people I’ve met in the past year or so have all been inspiring and kind.

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

Every day. I spend many nights up, staring at the ceiling, anxious about my future. I just keep faith in myself. I know myself, she’s the only person I truly do know. There are hundreds of times I’ve faced things I didn’t think I could do; GCSES, A-Levels, getting my first job, every single University assignment…and yet here I am. Everyone can do anything they put their minds to.

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

I have a Latin saying on my phone homescreen – ‘inveniam viam aut faciam’. It means ‘I shall either find a way, or make one’.

There will be a way for you into work. It may not be the standard way, it may not come at the standard time, but it will come. It’s fine to be overwhelmed – everyone gets overwhelmed. You, whoever you are, have been overwhelmed ever since you were a baby. I imagine, as little as we recall it, that taking our first steps must’ve been overwhelming, saying our first words must’ve been overwhelming, and yet here we are. Just think about yourself in a decade, where you’ll be overwhelmed by other things – but you’ve gotten through it every single time.

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

Career goals are there to be reached. Job roles are there to be filled. You will be there to fill those roles and hit those markers, because you are good enough. I can’t lie and say there isn’t an inherent bias against women in the world, and I won’t ever say that it doesn’t exist – I recognise that women in cyber security have to be twice as good just to get a crumb of the same opportunities.

Things won’t be the same forever. The future comes barrelling towards us before it becomes the present – so be a part of it. Become a part of the future, and a part of the change.

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