diversity in work environment

“Inclusion and diversity within cyber security are far from a negative picture”, says our Chief Commercial Officer, Charly Davis, during our interview, reflecting on what is still left to achieve about gender diversity and inclusivity in the field. 

“Cyber security is in many ways a trailblazer in its recruitment of neurodiverse, female, and multicultural talent as more than any other profession, I know it recognises the intrinsic value of diversity in the effectiveness of the business. However, work remains to improve equity, continue attracting all talent, and ensure that anyone with responsibilities such as caring can see flexibility in the sector. Cyber does not always have the perceived barriers to entry, and more needs to be done to make accessible entry points and career pathways visible”, she adds. 

“I’m particularly passionate about focusing on equity to achieve equality. Women (and others in traditional carer roles), and in particular, women from minority backgrounds, deserve to have their circumstances understood and, in turn, be afforded the resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome to their male counterparts. As a Chief Commercial Officer, I work hard to ensure people are seen as included and individually empowered to pursue their preferred career choices. Having taken an indirect route through university to raise my daughter as a single parent, sales, and later cyber security allowed me to progress in my career without the typical barriers to entry for roles with equal earning potential.” 

Charly Davis continues, “I take great pride in being involved in women’s charities and wider events, all with the aim of helping develop careers. I recognise that no two women’s stories are the same, and support, therefore, means different things to different people.” 

“Frequently speaking to younger generations, it’s clear that things are changing. Cyber stereotypes are fading, and girls are being encouraged to enter STEM subjects and career pathways more than ever.  I am slowly seeing a transition to genuine enthusiasm and understanding of cyber security as a career path. Girls are now, in fact, beginning to dominate classroom discussions and often approach me to talk about their passion for coding and other technical aspects. It’s clear that cultural and gender-based barriers are starting to crumble, she explains.” 

Davis emphasises that “however, in cyber, we must be aware of cognitive bias and look out the window regularly to ensure we aren’t feeding our own confirmation bias regarding how well we are doing. Having joined an industry that was once heavily male-dominated, I see the improvements every day, but we must continue to improve. It is important for all of us within the sector to play our part in this and help lift women to boost their success. I long to see even more women in the rooms I find myself in”.  

Despite all of the progress, there is still so far to go.  

At Sapphire, we believe that bringing and working with people of all backgrounds can help us generate ideas or perspectives that aid the delivery of our innovative services. During this moment of reflection for women in tech, we interviewed two female colleagues to tell us about their journey into cyber security. Dive in! 

Lisa Ingham – Business Services Manager 

How did you get into the cyber security field? 

I started Sapphire back in 1996 as a web designer. I joke that this was before the internet began and cyber was a thing. I have always been interested in IT off the back of my Graphic Design degree as the creative output was computer generated. In the early days of Sapphire, we were at the forefront of the .com boom and were instrumental in designing, developing, and publishing local websites. This service evolved into more web-enabled applications as the business shifted from Information Technology to cyber security. In my early days at Sapphire, I was seen as a mentor in IT and even featured in a North East educational video to inspire schoolgirl leavers that IT was achievable. They just had to believe in their ability. I also ran work experience within Sapphire to encourage local young people to enter our industry. 

What attracted you to cyber? 

It was brand new! Television adverts had just started promoting more information by visiting a web page, and I thought I could do that. Little did I know it was completely different from what I had learnt in the past, and I had to adapt my skills to work within the industry. I am still here so I must be doing something right. 

What do you enjoy about your role? 

The variety. Every day is different, and I am involved in the end-to-end life cycle of projects. I enjoy working with customers to solve their security concerns, from scoping their requirements to managing their projects and delivering their final technical reports. Conversely, working with our sales team to explore and create an opportunity and then supporting them to win the order certainly gives me a buzz. I am a doer who loves to work on daily challenges and activities. 

What are the main challenges? 

Although University was essential for me to get my first step on the working ladder, it also hindered my expectations. The reality of the real world very much differed from what the University told you to expect, especially from a salary perspective. When the opportunity came up at Sapphire, three of my fellow male students were picked for an interview. I wasn’t happy with that, so I contacted Sapphire directly to ask for an opportunity to be interviewed. The interview lasted 3 hours, and by the time I got home, I had the job.IT was and still is in certain industries male orientated and the salary certainly favoured that way. 

What would you say to encourage people with different backgrounds and skill sets to cyber? 

I am the perfect example. Sapphire gave me the opportunity to move from a designer to a manager. Nothing is impossible; you just need to want it and be willing to put in the effort. Sapphire has an inclusive culture, and we will provide people with the support, learning, and training opportunities to be successful. 

If you could go back in time to your first days in the industry, what would you do differently or tell yourself? 

Don’t give up. If you want it enough, then good things will come your way. Being assertive (or my younger self would say cheeky) is not a negative trait, it shows self-confidence. 

Chinyere Chinekezi – XDR Security Analyst 

How did you get into the cyber security field? 

I have always been interested in technology and computer science, but not in cyber security. My journey into cyber security began when I was appointed as the business continuity champion in the IT Application department at my previous organisation. In that role, I was responsible for identifying potential risks and implementing strategies to ensure the continuity of business operations in case of a security breach. This experience opened my eyes to another aspect of technology I could explore: protecting sensitive information and critical assets. I became fascinated with the constantly evolving threats and the innovative ways security professionals worked to protect sensitive information, especially when we are on incident calls. At that point, I became determined to further develop my skills in this field, leading me to pursue additional certifications and training in cyber security, ultimately solidifying my career path in this dynamic and ever-evolving industry. Now, I work as an XDR Security analyst. 

What attracted you to cyber?  

It was my curiosity to know the reasons for certain occurrences and possible ways of preventing them, especially in the digital space. I was always fascinated by how technology could be exploited for malicious purposes and wanted to understand how to prevent and combat these threats. Additionally, the constantly evolving nature of cyber threats, the challenge of staying one step ahead of cyber criminals, and the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and collaborate with like-minded professionals are inspiring and motivating. There is always something new to learn and discover, keeping me on my toes and pushing me to improve my skills continually. 

Lastly, the sense of responsibility and satisfaction that comes with utilising my expertise to ward off potential attacks and breaches is genuinely fulfilling. Knowing that my work makes a difference in safeguarding valuable data and systems gives me a sense of purpose and motivates me.  

What do you enjoy about your role? 

As an XDR security Analyst, I enjoy using my skills and knowledge to defend against cyber threats and safeguard sensitive information. Most importantly, I enjoy the challenge of constantly staying one step ahead of evolving threats and the opportunity to collaborate with a team to identify and mitigate potential risks, which adds a layer of excitement to my job.  

I also appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow continuously, as there is always something new to discover and improve to better protect our systems and data. Overall, I find great fulfilment in the meaningful impact I can make in cyber security as an XDR Security Analyst. 

What are the main challenges in cyber security, among others? 

To answer this question, I will take three dimensions: 

  1. The challenge faced in cyber security. 
  1. The challenge faced as an XDR security. 
  1. As a woman in cyber security. 

The challenges faced in cyber security include the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats, the need to constantly adapt and update security measures to stay ahead of attackers, and the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks.  

As an XDR security Analyst, one of the main challenges is ensuring that all systems and networks are adequately protected and that all potential vulnerabilities are identified and addressed promptly. This requires constant vigilance, proactive monitoring, and a strong understanding of emerging threats and technologies. Another one is the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats and the need to constantly adapt and update security measures to stay ahead of attackers.  

As a woman in cyber security, I would say cyber security is both a challenging and rewarding field. Being a woman in cyber security brings unique challenges, including overcoming stereotypes and biases in a male-dominated industry. However, it also offers opportunities for a different perspective and skill set. Being a woman in cyber security has allowed me to bring a fresh approach to problem-solving and a strong attention to detail that is often overlooked. Women in cyber security need to support and uplift each other and continue breaking down industry barriers. Being a woman in cyber security has pushed me to strive for excellence and resilience in adversity constantly. It has reinforced my belief in the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and I am proud to be a part of paving the way for future generations of women in this field. With perseverance and determination, women in cyber security can continue to thrive and make valuable contributions to the industry. 

What would you say to encourage other people with different backgrounds and skill sets to use cyber?  

I would say, ”Don’t be intimidated by the technical aspects of cyber security.” And “Don’t underestimate the value of your skills and knowledge in the fight against cyber threats.”.  Cyber security is a field that welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Whether you have a background in IT, engineering, mathematics, or even psychology, there is a place for you in the world of cyber security. The industry constantly grows and offers endless possibilities to talented individuals who can bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. So, if you have a passion for problem-solving, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to make a real impact in the digital world, then cyber security might be the perfect fit for you. 

If you could go back in time to your first days in the industry, what would you do differently or tell yourself?  

Reflecting on my journey in cyber security, there are certainly a few things I wish I had known or done differently in the beginning. I would tell myself not to be afraid to ask for help and seek mentorship from more experienced professionals in the industry. Experience has shown that collaboration and networking are critical components of success in cyber security, and I now realise the importance of building strong relationships with others in the field. Additionally, I advise my past self to prioritise training programs rather than certifications. I am not saying pursuing certification is bad, but focusing on gaining practical skills and experience through mentorship would be more beneficial in the long run.  

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