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Let’s Empower Women In Cyber Security – #IWD2023 - Talion

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women of all backgrounds and their powerful presence in the workplace.

Cyber security is known for being predominantly a male-orientated industry, so as two female members of Talion (Natalie and Alice), we wanted to showcase the thoughts of the amazing women within our company and empower more women to enter the industry!

We’ve asked a series of questions about beginning a career in cyber, skills needed to enter the field, the value of diversity and role models, plus much more.

We hope you enjoy hearing about these inspiring experiences.

For more information about IWD 2023, see here.

Or follow us on LinkedIn as we share IWD content throughout the day.

 

What have you learnt and enjoyed most as a woman in cyber security during your career thus far?

“Connecting with other women in this space. There aren’t many of us and those whom I have had the pleasure of meeting have all been very inspirational.” – Anita Philips, Project Operations Manager at Talion

“What I enjoy the most about working in cyber security is having the chance to learn something new every day. There may be similar tasks I have to do but the logic behind it is different. As a woman in cyber I like that I had an equal chance to enter the field. Even if we are still outnumbered, I always see lots of projects promoting diversity. Also, I never felt that somebody treated me or talk to me differently just because I am a woman. As a woman I experienced this a lot in other situations and not having to deal with it is an amazing feeling.” – Andreea Tudor, SIEM Content Developer at Talion

“I would say that what I enjoy most is acting as an interpreter between technical and non-technical parties. I often find there is a communication struggle between practitioners who can be very focused on achieving the best security outcomes (thank you!) and, for example, business leaders who can have quite different goals and objectives. Helping them to understand one another is particularly interesting to me.” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

“That things are starting to change, you see more women in the industry and they are starting to be in higher positions in companies. Within Talion when I started there were only 3 women and now we are in double figures. It’s been nice seeing everyone join and move up the ranks. Talion would not be where it is today without some of these strong women holding things together and getting it done.” – Jennifer Dolby, Principal Analyst at Talion

“I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of entering a completely new industry I previously knew nothing about and learning how it works, new terminology and staying on top of the most recent and influential cyber attacks. As cliché as it sounds, I genuinely feel like I’m learning something new every day and a lot of that is down to the research that goes into writing articles and producing email and social content. There’s always something new to talk about – cyber security never stands still.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

“I’ve learnt about security leaks in the cyber world, how important it is to protect our data, about MDR, MPDR, etc. and I enjoy having first hand news of incidents and solutions from the cyber world. I feel it is so cool that I am classified as a tech women who works in the cyber security domain.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“The moment I really began to enjoy my career in cyber was when I began collaborating with those around me. Coming into a SOC, you’re surrounded by amazing, super intelligent individuals and initially I did find that quite intimidating. Specifically as a female in a male dominated sector, it can often feel as though you need to prove yourself and I certainly worried about asking questions and the idea that I might look stupid. The truth of the matter is that I was surrounded by a team who thrives off questions, challenges and collaboration. By beginning to reach out, not only did I find working with others to solve problems was much more efficient, it accelerated my career and I began to enjoy my role so much more! There is nothing more fun than when an issue arises and it’s all hands on deck, these are the times I enjoy the most in the role I do.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

 

 

What do you feel was the defining moment that started your career into cyber security? (big or small)

“I initially struggled to get into the sector, so my defining moment that started my career into cyber was to change up the jobs I was applying for. To do this, I utilised skillsets from previous non-cyber roles that had cross overs with roles I had not applied for previously within cyber. I had previously worked admin roles and realised that a SOC service desk analyst utilised a similar skillset. This was my way into a SOC, which within a year, led me to my current role as a Threat Intelligence analyst within that same SOC. Since this, increasing my own network has also been a gamechanger. COVID-19 meant I was unable to do this in person, so instead I did this online via LinkedIn. By doing this I have been exposed to so many different roles within cyber that I had not known about previously.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

“I never intended to enter the field of cyber security after university. I’d completed a degree in English Literature with Creative Writing and through my passion for writing, found a love for marketing. After my first job at a marketing agency, I was more focused on looking for a role that built my skillset rather than honing in on a specific industry. It was only after interviewing for a job in cyber security, I decided to give it a shot!” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

“I think that the decisive step into my career was applying for the position I am currently occupying, even if I was still finishing my degree and didn’t have any work experience in cyber. The company was very flexible, they provided me training and from there, thanks to the team I am part of, I improved a lot.” – Andreea Tudor, SIEM Content Developer at Talion

“I’d have to say that the defining moment for me was the 2007 attacks on Estonia. I was doing a PhD at the time and really wanted to look at the intersection of geopolitics and cyber security but it was pretty uncharted waters back then. I was struggling to convince my department that I had a good idea and then Estonia happened. Suddenly (and sadly) everyone realised that this was about much more than technology and I never looked back.” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

 

 

How much did you know about cyber security before you entered the field? And do you think it’s necessary to understand the technicalities of cyber security before applying to jobs or are transferrable skills more important?

“I was a QA from the telecommunication industry. I had very limited knowledge about cyber security. I entered this field when a cyber security company were looking for a technical tester. I think it’s not necessary to have a deep knowledge about cyber security but it’s the technical skillset that’s required for the role that you are applying for. You will be able to gain more domain knowledge from your day-to-day tasks and exposure.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“Having a computer science background helped me just because my job requires to know some programming and gave me the basics to understand networks and security. I had a cyber security module during my degree but it was way too rudimentary compared to how broad cyber security actually is. Now that I understand how security is done, I can say that the ability to learn quickly and adapt to different situations, just to name two, helped me more than my technical skills.” – Andreea Tudor, SIEM Content Developer at Talion

“Before entering the field, I had studied Criminology which led to a masters in Cybercrime. When entering the SOC, I was quick to realise that I still had a lot to learn. I was able to apply previous knowledge, but I really had to get stuck in and learn on the job. During my career and through hiring new Threat Intelligence analysts for my own team, we are a very interested in soft skills. For an analyst to excel on our team, we look for someone with a critical and inquisitive mindset, who is able to collaborate and work well under pressure. Technical knowledge can be learnt, but soft skills often come down to personality and cannot always be trained, as a result, I personally do believe these transferable skills are more important.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

“I knew some things, but not a huge amount about cyber security before entering the field. I think it’s good to have a broad understanding, but if you work in the right environment, you will find that you pick up a lot of learning along the way.” – Anita Philips, Project Operations Manager at Talion

“I knew a lot less than I thought I did! But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d learned from working in other sectors that there is a place for specialists and a place for generalists. Even specialists rarely (if they’re experienced enough) feel that they know everything there is to know in their field. And for generalists like me, part of the attraction of a field like cybersecurity is the continual learning. I don’t need to know a tremendous amount about the technical dimensions of cyber security but I definitely think it helps that I genuinely find it interesting and always want to know more.” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

“I did my degree in forensics so I had a decent knowledge base when I joined the industry. However, I think as long as you have the foundations down then you can move into the cyber industry – all you need is the core understanding and a problem-solving brain. Everything else can be taught or picked up.” – Jennifer Dolby, Principal Analyst at Talion

“In all honesty, I didn’t know much about cyber security before entering the field. It’s something I definitely felt nervous about once I secured my first role in cyber at my previous company. Would I understand it all? Would I be able to market something that isn’t necessarily my “passion”? But I needn’t have worried because a lot of that knowledge is built over time. The more I spoke to other people and did my research, the more I learned. I think if you have the right attitude to work, a willingness to learn and a decent skillset, then industry knowledge is not a be all and end all.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

 

 

What do you believe is the value of diversity in cyber?

“Diversity builds a stronger, more resilient team. In the most-equal and diverse cultures, an innovation mindset is 11 times greater than in the least-equal and diverse cultures. Where new threats are constant, innovation within cyber security is paramount, meaning diversity is equally as important. Women bring unique skillsets – they prioritise relationships and communication and encourage a stronger sense of belonging and well-being within organisations, resulting in a stronger security team performance.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

“With diversity in cyber, women should have equal opportunities in cybersecurity, because people from different races, age, gender, culture might have different opinions and contribute to organisations in different ways and roles.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“I think that different people with different ideas benefit cyber security a lot. Having different views for the same problem helps making the best decisions.” – Andreea Tudor, SIEM Content Developer at Talion

“Everyone brings their own knowledge. If you just have one type of person who works for you, you will limit your company and won’t look attractive to others who might want to join. If you have a diverse company, the community values will be better than if it’s just all males, or all females. Balance is good – you need a good balance to have happy staff.” – Jennifer Dolby, Principal Analyst at Talion

“There are way more men in cyber than women. In technology in general. Having more women involved would add a different perspective to problems and solutions as women tend to think differently to men.” – Anita Philips, Project Operations Manager at Talion

“There is value in diversity no matter what the industry – we need differing backgrounds, skillsets, cultures and opinions to raise well-rounded ideas and make better business decisions.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

“It’s absolutely critical. Digital technologies and systems and the necessary security of those, are so integrated into our personal lives, culture, politics, economics – they’re impossible to disentangle now. And so how those devices, systems and solutions are conceived, developed and implemented has real, tangible impact on our lives. There are two reasons why having a diverse workforce makes a huge difference to these outcomes. First, different people see the problem in different ways. For parents, being able to track your child’s phone may be a safety feature. For domestic abuse survivors, it can be a terrifying tool of abuse. So having those diverse perspectives and experiences is necessary to problem identification. The second reason why diversity is so important in cyber security is because it takes a lot of creativity and lateral thinking to come anywhere close to competing with the ingenuity of malicious actors. Having too homogenous a group of people can lead to the adoption of  ‘accepted wisdom’, ‘best practice’, ‘convention’, etc. which (while they obviously have a place) can also be a form of real weakness. Innovation requires a lot of dynamism and that’s quite hard to achieve without diversity of thought, experience, background, and approach.” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

 

 

What do you think organisations could be doing to both attract women towards cyber security roles and also retain these women once in these roles?

“I think a lot of it comes down to education – laying out cyber security as a career option for women alongside the more typical, common routes. Having cyber security talks or workshops at schools would be beneficial, plus empowering women to believe that they can do it and are just as welcome as anyone else. The more women are seen in the cyber security spotlight, the more inclusive it’ll feel. As for retaining women once they are in these roles, I think it’s about making sure women’s voices are heard, even in an environment where there are less of them; understanding that their needs may differ and giving them equal progression opportunities.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

“Definitely ensuring the workplace is a non-gendered environment, doing a lot more work at conferences and conventions – which still tend to be very ‘bro culture’ – and ensuring there are equally attractive career pathways for female staff will be important. My understanding is that the main problem with women in cybersecurity is retention – and that points to workplace and promotion problems.” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

“Treat women equally and have women as role models so that there’s more awareness in society. Whenever there’s a vacancy, we can approach tech ladies instead of waiting for them to apply for a job. We can also have seminars/talks about women empowerment and cyber security to student groups.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“Just be open to hiring women and then been flexible with employees. If you enforce 9-5 Monday to Friday, you will not be attracting single mothers for example who need to work childcare around that. If you say 8 hours a day but are flexible with start and finishing times, that is more attractive and will appeal to more people. Companies need to constantly work on their diversity and not just publish things every year for the event. What is the point in elevating women just to let it go back to how it was the day before. Either commit or don’t do anything.” – Jennifer Dolby, Principal Analyst at Talion

“Equal pay and equal opportunities for progression within the company. Show that leadership is made up of both male and female representatives.” – Anita Philips, Project Operations Manager at Talion

“Regarding hiring, posting jobs in areas where women will be exposed to these roles. For example, many universities have women in cyber & STEM societies – these are a great area to post roles and expose more women to available positions. Secondly, if we are going to make any progress on filling the 3.4 million additional workers currently estimated needed to effectively secure the sector, we need to encourage talent from untraditional backgrounds, both female and male. Being a SOC analyst entails a lot more than just technical knowledge – soft skills such as a critical and inquisitive mindset, collaboration, and having a good judge of human behavior are all imperative when working in this sector. As long as the necessary training and support is provided, I believe hiring from non-traditional backgrounds is an imperative solution to hiring more females in cyber. Regarding retaining women in cyber, it is very important that businesses take time to understand their female workforce. Women can bring different qualities to a team, and it is important that leadership understand not only this, but how they can support these qualities. By doing this, we enable women to excel and if you are not only being supported in this way within your workforce but also excelling within your team, surely you would be less likely to leave? To that end, mentors for women in cyber are also crucial in ensuring women excel, someone to bounce ideas off of and to provide career development support. Women often don’t want to be in the spotlight but once they build confidence, the magic happens and this is where mentors for women in cyber can assist.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

 

 

If you could go back to the beginning of your career in cyber, is there anything you’d do differently?

“Read more about cyber security.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“The only thing I would do differently would be not to doubt myself. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed entering a new industry – especially cyber security, where there is a lot of terminology to learn – and I think this can be off-putting for many. But I’ve had a lot of supportive people on my journey that have helped me learn and take on these challenges.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

“Going through university was overall good for my personal growth, but I don’t think it’s necessary to get into cyber security. If I’d have to start from scratch, I would just get some certifications instead of the degree and get into cyber as soon as possible. I think working in cyber helps learning more than just doing the theory of it.” – Andreea Tudor, SIEM Content Developer at Talion

“I would tell myself to be tough and not let people’s opinions affect me so much. I feel like holding onto those comments has held me back from experiences and progression as I have not believed in myself when I should have done.” – Jennifer Dolby, Principal Analyst at Talion

“Yes, I’d have moved to UCL Computer Science sooner than I did. It’s a happy place to work!” – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

“To believe in myself, to put myself out there and also to realise that you’re not expected to know everything. I think it is very easy in this sector to feel overwhelmed due to the huge variation in areas of learning and the pace at which the sector moves, and because of this, it took me a while to fight off the imposter syndrome and realise that I was not expected to know it all. By believing in myself more, putting myself out there more and asking more questions, my career progression began to move much more rapidly.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

 

 

Who are your role models?

“Mainly female politicians because they are such a great example of women who will not be stopped – even by the most disgraceful displays of misogyny, bias, and abuse. They’re incredibly smart, tough, and determined. And I’d love to be PM one day ;-)”  – Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity at UCL

“I came across lady superiors/directors in each company that I joined so far. Their success stories inspired me and they’re always my role models.” – Li Ling Tay, Test Manager at Talion

“I have some amazing female roles models within my family that I have always been inspired by. The best piece of advice I have received from one of these women is to remember that through all of the hard times you may have to face as a woman, do not give up, because by getting through these challenges you are making improvements for the next generation of women.” – Natalie Page, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Talion

“I like to think that anyone who has impacted my way of thought and helped me to see something in a different light has in some way contributed to becoming a fused-together role model, whether that be my family, friends or work colleagues. Women who go out and make their dreams happen, despite significant setbacks, inspire me the most because they’re proof that you can go beyond what you ever thought you could do.” – Alice Davies, Marketing Executive at Talion

 

 

We hope you found these mini-interviews interesting, insightful and perhaps even relatable in terms of your own journey.

As we’ve mentioned above, International Women’s Day is all about appreciating females and everything they bring to the table, so let an inspiring woman in your life know how much they mean to you today.

Looking to boost your job prospects? Check out our careers page.

 

 
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