Alumna Spotlight: Ariel on Breaking into a Male Dominated Industry
Only 11% of the InfoSec workforce are women. As a result, one of the most common questions women ask is “What’s it like working in cybersecurity as a woman?” For Women’s History Month, Evolve Security Academy partnered with SwitchUp to interview women working in the cybersecurity industry.
Evolve Security Academy alumna, Ariel, shares her experience working in cybersecurity after graduating from the bootcamp and provides advice on why more women should join the cybersecurity industry.
1.) Tell me about your previous roles.
My previous experience was not in IT or cyber security, in fact, my bachelor’s degree is in environmental science and geology. After finishing undergrad, I worked in an intellectual property law firm with the intent to attend law school.
2.) What made you decide to pursue cybersecurity as a career?
My boss at the law firm noticed I was good with computers, resourceful, and investigative, and she persuaded me to consider pursuing a career in digital forensics, which led me to cybersecurity. This was something I’d never even considered so I was initially very reluctant but also intrigued.
3.) What made you decide to enroll at Evolve Security Academy? Why was this program the right choice for you?
I was searching for a fast-tracked way to gain cybersecurity experience. I was exploring graduate programs and networking at meet-ups when I discovered Evolve Security Academy and it seemed like the perfect culmination of everything I was looking for. Lacking any prior experience in IT or cybersecurity, Evolve gave me access to coursework, technical training, and opportunities.
4.) Where are you working now? What is your day-to-day role like?
I work on the application security team at United Airlines, managing their Bug Bounty program. My day usually consists of working with Security Researchers from all over the world who participate in the program. I validate the security bugs they find and then work with our internal development teams to fix the bugs. We receive a variety of submissions to the Bug Bounty program so it is always a learning experience.
5.) How did Evolve Security Academy prepare you for life as a Cybersecurity Analyst?
Evolve prepared me for real life because it taught key cybersecurity fundamentals and gave me lots of hands-on experience... Evolve also provided me with opportunities to work with real clients…. Upon interviewing for jobs, I felt very prepared because I already had plenty of hands-on knowledge, familiarity with the tools and testing methods, and could immediately jump right in.
6.) Research shows that only 11% of cybersecurity professionals are women ( 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study). What challenges have you experienced entering and working in a male-dominated field?
United Airlines is fortunately an exception to this statistic and is a really excellent and inspiring place to be working as a female in IT. My director, the Chief Information Security Officer, and the Chief Digital Officer (CTO) of United Airlines are all female!
About 40% of the security department is female, which is way higher than the national average, so I don't usually think about my gender while at work. However, impostor syndrome still sometimes manifests, especially when I am working with entirely male development teams or attending a conference. However, as I gain more experience and confidence, I anticipate this feeling will lessen.
7.) In your opinion why do you believe that women should join the cybersecurity industry?
This is a rapidly growing field with lots of opportunity. There are many great job opportunities with high salaries and the work is always interesting, challenging, and meaningful. In cybersecurity you are safeguarding people while working on cutting edge technologies. Of course, women should get in on this! For example, when working at an airline where you prevent planes from getting hacked, you go home every day knowing that you are protecting millions of people's information, privacy and safety.
A strong security team will draw from a variety of backgrounds and diverse opinions, including women. Cybersecurity also has a variety of both technical and non-technical positions. It's not all about hacking; there are also cybersecurity roles in compliance, policy-making, project management, legal and audit.
8.) What advice do you have for women who are interested in making a career change into cybersecurity?
You can do this! First of all, consider cybersecurity as an option. I personally think this is the biggest hurdle. Many women just don't know that this is a career they can pursue. The actual act of switching from an unrelated field was the easy part for me, thanks in part to Evolve, but before that I had spent years agonizing over what to do with my life. Realizing that this is something I can do - that was the hardest part.
I hope that for the next generation of women this will not be an issue. For women already interested and hesitating to make the jump to cybersecurity, I think you should do as much research as possible. Network and meet people and ask questions-- and if you like what you hear, you will find your niche in this field.
Want to learn more? Check out “4 Reasons Why Women Should Pursue a Cybersecurity Career” on SwitchUp.
Evolve Security Academy offers online, live instructor led, cybersecurity training. Take the next step in your career by enrolling in the upcoming REMOTE/02 cohort by April 15,2018 and receive a 10% early enrollment discount. Have questions about a career in cybersecurity? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.