When someone brings up the topic of the cyber security industry there is a clear image that springs to mind: the stereotypical hacker in a back room – usually a faceless man in a hoodie, and binary code or occasionally padlocks and broken laptops. After starting a role within this industry, it became clear that whilst this imagery is still heavily used, it is not entirely accurate. Whilst in truth there are a lot of people in hoodies, they are rarely found in dark backrooms and so far, they all have faces.
My first real impression of the cyber security industry came from the International Cyber Security expo in London. This was the first time I met professionals in this industry outside of The Cyber Scheme, and it was the first time I realised how huge the industry really was. The expo was a bit of a baptism by fire, with several talks spread over the two days and hundreds of stalls.
Whilst there I attended two talks, the first a talk by Professor Victoria Baines on cyber security’s ‘image problem’ and the second a panel on diversity in cyber. This was a very interesting introduction to this side of cyber, it was apparent that the industry was aware of its shortcomings with this particular issue, and the lack of diversity and accessibility in cyber was indeed being discussed amongst those in the profession.
Following on from this, The Cyber Scheme was also an exhibitor, so I also spent a fair bit of time on the stand. This was the best introduction to the industry for me, talking to established professionals really helped shape my view of the industry. I have a background in journalism and public relations, so for me the world of cyber security is a far cry from the type of environment I have become accustomed to.
As an outsider to the industry, you hear horror stories of toxic work environments and a workload resulting in burnout. I expected this reputation to be reflected in those I met. However, in my experience this has been far from the reality. Whilst this issue definitely does exist in some areas, the people I have met so far have all seemed to have a genuine passion for the industry and enjoy what they do.
It seems to me in an area where so many people involved are aware of the industry’s biggest faults change will occur, if not naturally, with a little push. This is an exciting time to join the industry and to become a ‘woman in cyber’. I was exposed to a lot of different aspects of the industry at the expo I attended and look forward to learning even more.
My one piece of advice I have for fellow newcomers to the industry is this: always bring a pair of flat shoes with you to expos, heels are no fun after 6 hours.