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 Ayesha, IT Security Manager at Buildility AB.
Hey Gustaw, thanks for having me. Good to be here!
What do you currently do?
I’m currently an IT Security Manager. My role involves developing security programmes, proposing them to the directors and then helping with the rollout, once approved. Within this role, I’m also actively using the experience I have acquired over the years from cyber investigations, business continuity, pen-testing, incident management as well as working with frameworks and regulations such as PCI DSS, ISO27001 and NIS-Directive.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey? How did you get where you are now?
At the age of 17, I decided to leave school after reading a £100/week advert for an apprenticeship in IT, for which I was one of the very few female applicants. Through this, I was able to get a job in technology as a Service Desk Analyst, gaining invaluable industry experience and meeting lots of successful women, who inspired me to continue down this path.
I decided to start a BSc in computer science, and later went on to study for my MSc in Network and Information Security. After graduation, I looked for work in Cyber Security but finding a role proved extremely difficult. Everyone wanted experience and no one was willing to give me a chance. I persevered, taking any IT job I could get and began to network heavily. Two years later, my persistence was finally rewarded when I was offered a job as a Security Analyst for a Fintech bank.
What drew you to the tech industry?
I’d never really even considered tech as a career before I saw the apprenticeship ad.
I feel like being a woman had a lot to do with this mindset. But once I started, I realised it was something I was capable of. The feeling of finally finding something I was good at, that challenged me and that I enjoyed really was the biggest draw.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
My grandmother is a massive inspiration to me. She’s a very confident woman who has worked hard all her life and provided invaluable guidance and support to me throughout my childhood and beyond. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be.
How do you keep yourself motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
By always challenging myself. The security landscape is ever changing and there’s always something new to learn. I look to the people around me to pass on their knowledge and I do the same for others. If you don’t know, ask! It’s not a sign of weakness. Learning from each other only makes our tool chest stronger for the next big threat around the corner.
What are your current goals? What are you currently working on?
My big goal, which is ongoing, is to encourage more women to join the cybersecurity industry. I work hard to extend my network and meet people from the industry with a similar mindset, getting involved in programmes that aim to improve female representation, as well as doing interviews such as this one to show that we’re out there and you can do it too!
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Doing a BSc and then a MSc was not something I ever really saw happening for myself so I’m incredibly proud of that. Finally getting my first Security role was also huge for me. If you want something, keep at it.
What has been your greatest challenge from working in the tech industry?
Managing to stay confident and making sure my ideas are being heard. It’s still a very male-dominated industry and there are a lot of loud voices in the room. I still remind myself everyday not to let it phase me.
What’s the most important risk you took in your career and why?
Not finishing school was a big risk but it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Equally, every job move felt highly risky at the time but I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t make those leaps.
How do you continue to grow and develop?
By going to industry meetups and conferences, and making the effort to stay up to date by doing things such as researching and writing articles on the latest cybersecurity threats.
Finally, do you have any advice to aspiring engineers, designers and artworkers who want to grow in the tech industry?
– be confident and stay focused on what you want
– know your worth and don’t compromise that
– give it some time and keep on trying, it will come to you eventually
Thank you very much for the interview Ayesha! Please watch this space, as I keep on interviewing.