I have recently started my adventure on the STEM ambassador path (more information here). I was wondering what would be a good introduction, right before I’ll go around convincing young and old people on why a career in STEM is a good choice. Then eureka! I knew what I could do first. I could interview women I know that choose to go into STEM careers and are doing well in it.
Today – we have Elizabeth, the Graduate Apprentice Security Analyst at Quorum Cyber.
Hey Gustaw, thanks for having me. Good to be here!
What do you currently do?
I am a graduate apprentice security analyst at Quorum Cyber. I started my career in cyber-security about 2 years ago. I really enjoy it, as it reminds me of detective work.
A security analyst deals with monitoring of the clients networks for anomalies. We then create reports or raise alerts to the client to review the suspicious traffic patterns. I also run some white-hat phishing campaigns to provide evidence to the clients, where they need some employee cyber-security awareness training.
For the last couple of months, I am also training new joiners for the company in regards to cyber-security. This is a lot of fun.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey? How did you get where you are now?
Back in my Uni days, I was studying Hungarian. I really love learning languages. Though to really get into it, one would need to move to Hungary for a while. I wasn’t up for it. I moved to the UK and took a variety of different jobs in customer services, customer advisory and factories. Then came the kids and I wanted to spend more time with them.
I was a stay-at-home mum for 5 years.
Afterwards I slowly went back into the job market. First to part-time jobs, then took a full time job for the City of Edinburgh as an administrator. I always enjoyed working with people. I got into financial auditing and controlling. Though this industry is getting more and more automated and there is less and less work for … people. In fact a lot of my work was related to setting up procedures for further automation. I thought to myself – how could I get into the IT industry?
The initial problem was lack of jobs on the entry level. You need to be either an engineering graduate or be a junior with at least a couple years of experience. I also got initially demotivated because on many apprenticeship programs I wouldn’t fit the age limit. I was too old. Giving up a job to study full time wasn’t an option for me either.
I was persistent though and eventually found Skills Development Scotland and here is where my career started. I also switched my apprenticeship mid-way. I’ll tell you this story later. It is very easy to switch apprenticeships. The government funding is tied to the apprentice, not to the company. From an employer perspective, there was just one form that needed to be filled in and sent to Skills Development Scotland.
What drew you to the tech industry?
What I experienced working for the City of Edinburgh got me thinking on how to move onto an IT career. I read a lot of articles, based on which I could sense a lot of my skills could be transferred. Like people skills and attention to detail.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
My whole team is always very helpful. The seniors on the team are the people I will look up to for help first. Google is a big security analyst friend. It’s the easiest way to verify if someone else had a similar problem in the past. There are also Microsoft forums (I currently mainly work on Microsoft technology stack).
What was amazing is that clients can be good mentors too, when they explain certain anomalies we have identified are actually natural use patterns within their systems. They are eager to share their knowledge with me.
How do you keep yourself motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
I am determined by nature and really enjoy this detective-like work of an analyst. I’d say motivation comes to me naturally. I am not afraid of challenges.
What are your current goals? What are you currently working on?
I am working to understand cyber-security best I can. Also to explore different roles from analyst, through incident responders to engineering. Incident responder really appeals to me. And probably would be my next career choice. These are the people, who work like real security detectives, trying to unravel what happened and how things could be prevented in incident post mortems.
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
I am proud of the fact that through my determination I got this far in my career. If someone would tell me 2 years ago, I would be where I am today, I wouldn’t have believed it.
What is the favourite part of your job?
It’s not just about taking in another ticket or browsing the logs. There is the team and a lot of contact with real clients. It is very interactive. I am working a bit like a tech-detective. I take an active part in incident post mortems too.
What has been your greatest challenge from working in the tech industry?
Fighting the imposter syndrome. I had no experience and no education in cyber-security. And here I was looking for a job in this industry. I always thought I should learn more and know more. Though I had to apply harsh prioritization of my time. On top of looking for a job I had 2 kids to look after.
Through this I have learned that a human being can learn whatever they want, as long as they are sufficiently determined. My previous work experiences (customer services / administration) taught me the courage to speak up and talk directly to clients.
All that helped me to eventually cope with the imposter syndrome.
How do you continue to grow and develop?
I am currently studying cyber-security and digital forensics at a university in Edinburgh. I am also learning a lot from Microsoft-provided training. I am attending a lot of seminars. Seminars are really important for networking and gaining practical understanding.
I am also being actively mentored by senior people at my organization.
Other than that, there are multiple smaller groups that gather regularly and online communities, which have people more than happy to share the knowledge. I benefit hugely from that.
Do you have a memorable story or an anecdote from your experience you’d like to tell?
Once in a seminar (I am studying now), I met a company, which I really liked. I built up my courage and asked them if they have an open role. I was doing an apprenticeship with a different company back then. That conversation led to me being hired by them. They didn’t even know about the apprenticeship scheme! They got to know the apprenticeship process through my story and started to apply it more widely.
Finally, do you have any advice to aspiring engineers who want to grow in the tech and security industry?
- knowledge is something you can learn
- don’t worry if you don’t know everything
- stay determined
- keep a natural thirst for more knowledge
Thank you very much for the interview Elizabeth! Please watch this space, as I keep on interviewing.