Key qualities for a woman in tech: adaptability, self-belief and inspiring the next generation

By Catherine Boddy, Head of Vulnerability Operations Centre, Orange Cyberdefense.

  • 3 months ago Posted in

In recent months the media has been dominated by discussions relating to artificial intelligence (AI), with commentators variably predicting that the tech will transform our world while also presenting risks that need urgent regulation.

Another theme underpinning the topic is a concern that the development of AI is being hindered by gender bias. The theory is that if there are not enough women contributing to the machine learning required to develop AI systems, there will be gaps in its knowledge and bias will occur. It is just one example of how men have historically dominated the tech sector, and why I am such a passionate advocate of the role which women play in the industry.

My pathway into tech has certainly not been conventional. I didn’t go to university and spent my early twenties temping and travelling before securing my first tech job at the age of 25. I initially developed an interest in the tech industry through a family friend, who worked as IT director for a fashion brand. I began to look for roles in the sector and soon found one as a technical administrator, which required admin experience but not IT experience so sounded perfect for me. During the first three years, I gradually expanded my remit to manage the entire ticket system as well as administrative work, and got my ITIL qualification.

I started at SecureData – which Orange Cyberdefense later acquired – in February 2020, just four weeks before the UK national lockdown hit. My role then was as CyberSOC delivery coordinator, so I was heavily focused on project management and had no previous experience managing a team, as I do now.

I’m proud of the speed I’ve progressed through the company so far and also pleased that I was able to discover my passion for people management when I was given the chance to temporarily manage the Vulnerability Operations Centre (VOC) team alongside my existing role and was, fortunately, able to take this on in an official capacity shortly after. My time at Orange Cyberdefense has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, managing two job roles simultaneously while creating a new global service for our VOC, all through the sudden shift to remote working.

Lessons learned

One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the past six years is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get your voice heard. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, you need to have the confidence to speak up. Despite knowing nothing when I first started, I now feel comfortable ensuring my opinions are heard and valued, which has been helped by the people that I work with and for.

I have also learned that you should not let your fears stop you from succeeding. Despite having little tech knowledge, I have demonstrated that through determination and adaptability – as well as with the help of a supportive company – women can thrive in IT roles. And yes, the majority of people who work in the industry are still men – according to a ISC2 study on women in cybersecurity, just 25% of the workforce in this sector is female. However, the industry is working hard to try to shift the balance through female-focused awards schemes and support groups.

One of those initiatives is Women4Cyber, which has more than 30,000 members and aims to create a network of men and women committed to the challenge of cyber skills. At Orange Cyberdefense we have partnered with Women4Cyber to form a mentoring scheme. The programme aims to help women at each stage of their careers by putting them in contact with experienced mentors who have successful careers at leading cyber companies. The aim is to help women to develop their skills and progress their careers in cybersecurity.

The tech industry is constantly evolving and the range of roles and opportunities for someone interested in a tech career is growing all the time. When I speak with young women about to embark on their careers, I urge them to find a role they are passionate about to ensure they flourish in their professional lives. And when you find that role, tell the world – I hope that my own story will inspire others to take their first steps on the path to a career in tech.

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