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What the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber wished they’d known before starting out

Women in Cyber Awards 2024

ARTICLE SUMMARY

From the importance of seeking guidance and community support to debunking the myth of needing technical expertise, some of the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber provide valuable insights for aspiring professionals in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is an industry full of possibilities and opportunities, but it can feel impossible to know where, when, and how to start.

We asked experts, recently named as some of the industry’s ‘Most Inspiring Women in Cyber’, from across the cybersecurity industry what they wish they knew when starting out their careers in cyber, from the myth of needing to be ‘technical’ to learning to speak up.

On Speaking Up

Dr. Iretioluwa Akerele, Co-Founder of Cyblack, says: “I wish I was able to approach some of the seniors I looked up to for proper guidance. I am encouraging every young woman not to be afraid to speak up and to seek help if you need career guidance. It can help shape your career and transform your journey.”

Andrea Cullen, CEO and Co-Founder of CAPSLOCK, says: “I wish I knew how much support there is and what a great community exists within it. Sometimes knowing it exists is the first step and then knowing where to look is the second. I wish I had known that there is a lot of great people who are willing to give their time to supporting others. I also wish I’d known how broad the sector is and to not feel second best if the path you chose is not seen as ‘technical’.”

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On Not Being ‘Technical’

Rebecca Taylor, Threat Intelligence Knowledge Manager, at Secureworks: “You don’t have to be technical! You offer more than that! Joining Secureworks as a Personal Assistant it was hard at points to think I could do more than book meeting rooms and order lunches. But it was positive leadership, pushing myself and digging deep that got me to where I am today. I am not from a technical background – and I don’t need to be. Cyber Security isn’t all about being ‘technical’, as that diversity of thought and experience is what helps us keep the bad guys at bay!”

Lisa Ventura MBE, Founder of Cyber Security Unity, says: “I wish I realised sooner that not having technical skills was not a barrier to my getting into the industry. There is a huge myth that you need to have a technical background or technical skills to get into cybersecurity, which is not true. There are many non-technical roles available and opportunities to get into cybersecurity, and your soft skills can be and are just as important.”

On the Skills Gap

Lianne Potter, Head of Security Operations at ASDA and Cyber Anthropologist at Compromising Positions, says: “There is a lot of talk in the industry about all the jobs that are available in cybersecurity which is misleading for people joining the industry. The truth is, while there is an increasing need for cybersecurity professionals, most organisations are still struggling to prioritise cybersecurity and as such there is still a lack of investment, and therefore roles, in this industry.”

On Career Changers and Transferrable Skills

Zinet Kemal, Cloud Security Engineer at Best Buy, says: “Reflecting on my journey from an immigrant mother with a background in law to becoming a multi-award-winning cybersecurity practitioner, 4 x published author, Tedx Speaker & a LinkedIn Learning instructor, I wish I had known when starting out in cybersecurity is it’s okay to be a beginner.

As a career changer who ventured into a space which I have no background, I often felt the pressure to catch up quickly, to be overwhelmed & to know everything immediately. This field is vast and constantly evolving; it’s impossible to know everything. Having a beginner’s mindset, being open to learning, and accepting that it’s okay to ask questions and make mistakes are crucial for growth. This mindset encourages continuous learning, which is essential in cybersecurity.

I also wish I had known the importance of building your brand in cybersecurity sooner. Whether you are a student, at entry level or a seasoned professional start building your brand in the industry to be known for what you teach, inspire, offer for others to attract opportunities for yourself while serving others.”

Nikki Webb, Global Channel Manger at Custodian360, says: “I wish I had known how much critical thinking and teamwork are non-negotiable. Challenges will demand out-of-the-box solutions, and success hinges on collaboration across all departments. Soft skills elevate you from good to great, transforming technical experts into leaders. So do not just focus on the technical—develop your communication, problem-solving, and teamwork abilities. Cybersecurity is a team sport.”

Stephanie Luangraj, CEO and Founder of WomenWhoSecure: “A piece of valuable advice I wish I had known when starting out in cybersecurity is to take it easy on myself. The field is dynamic, constantly evolving, and incredibly vast. Recognising that not everyone, including myself, can know everything is crucial.

Cybersecurity is a continuously changing landscape, with new technologies, threats, and solutions emerging regularly. It’s essential to embrace the learning journey and understand that no one is expected to have a comprehensive mastery of every aspect. Being open to continuous learning, seeking guidance when needed, and acknowledging that it’s okay not to have all the answers at all times can alleviate the pressure and foster a more positive and growth-oriented mindset.

So, to all the aspiring women entering the cybersecurity industry, take it easy, embrace the learning process, and remember that the ability to adapt and learn is a valuable skill in this ever-evolving field.”

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