The IT Security Guru’s Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aims to shed a light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on just one of the many phenomenal women put forward for the 2021 awards. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability.
This year, the awards are sponsored by KPMG and Beazley.
Eleanor Ludlam, Senior Associate at DAC Beachcroft LLP
What does your job role entail?
I am a data protection and cyber lawyer, advising companies on their legal and regulatory obligations following a cyber or data risk incident and managing the crisis response process for the business. I also advise businesses in respect of defending compensation claims which flow from cyber and data risk incidents.
How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?
I qualified into the commercial litigation department at DAC Beachcroft LLP and practised for around five years before subsequently taking a career break as I struggled to balance work with raising my young children. After a three year career break, I was approached by DAC Beachcroft to see if I would consider returning to work. I was very keen to reignite my career and agreed to join the Information Law team, undertaking data protection advisory work in the run up to the implementation of the GDPR. As part of this new role, I was sent on secondment to a global insurer, joining its privacy team. Whilst on secondment, I undertook a mix of data protection advisory and cyber work, through advising the insurer in relation to its internal cyber and data risk incidents. It was at this point that I became passionate about cyber and the reactive, crisis management nature of this area of law.
When I returned to DAC Beachcroft, I spent some time working in our cyber team. After a few months, it became clear that I wanted to specialise in cyber and data risk work so I transitioned across to the cyber team, bringing with me my background knowledge in data protection and commercial litigation.
Since specialising in cyber, I’ve responded to dozens of cyber incidents and data breaches, acting for clients in a wide range of sectors including finance, technology/IT, health, education and charities, and have enjoyed every moment. When you are thrust into the middle of a client’s crisis, there is a real opportunity to make a difference and to guide them through an incredibly challenging time for their business. I particularly enjoy managing the breach response for the client, including coordinating forensics and PR, whilst ensuring legal and regulatory obligations are met.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?
Whilst not exclusive to my time in cyber, the biggest challenge I have faced in my career has been around managing others and overcoming perceptions that I know less than my male peers because I am a woman. I deal with these challenges by ensuring that I deliver technical excellence and exemplary service to clients. Where I come up against misperceptions of my abilities as a woman, rather than respond with conflict, I respond to those individuals with support and education; showing that I am there to aid their development as opposed to being a threat to them achieving their goals.
What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?
My top accomplishment has been helping DAC Beachcroft to establish Reconnect, a programme designed to help lawyers return to their legal careers after a period of more than two years out of the industry. We have successfully supported a number of women back into their careers, including into cyber, and I have mentored large numbers of other women who are seeking to make their return to the law. For many candidates, they have had a significant number of years out of work (in some cases 15 years, for example) and their confidence in terms of what they have to offer professionally is very low. Helping those individuals back into their careers, and knowing that it will help swell the number of female lawyers in the industry, is hugely rewarding.
Another of my greatest accomplishments is being selected as a finalist in the Women in Law Awards 2020, for the category of Outstanding Returner of the Year in 2020. Given the amount of time I dedicate to supporting returners, and changing the industry perception of people who have had a career break, it was humbling to receive this recognition.
Finally, whilst not a standalone achievement, it is always hugely rewarding to come to the end of managing a cyber or data risk incident for a client, and to receive their thanks for helping their business weather what is an immensely challenging time for them. There are few areas of City law and cyber security where you know you have made a genuine difference to individuals, but with our cyber response team, there is the opportunity to change the experience of cyber and data risk incidents for the better, for those individuals who manage a business in the midst of an attack. I recently received the following feedback from a client which is hugely gratifying: “Eleanor Ludlam has proved to be our guardian angel in cyber law. Her knowledge of the legal strategies far outweighs everyone else and her passion and commitment to her profession and towards her clients puts her at the very top of her field. She has guided us through every step of the process with impeccable skills.”
What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?
I am a Back to Law Ambassador for the Law Society, through which I have mentored a significant number of women, including those seeking to join the tech/cyber industry. I regularly speak at events, challenging misconceptions and stereotypes around returners, and actively encourage returners to consider a career in cyber. As part of DAC Beachcroft’s Reconnect programme, we have recruited women into the cyber team. I have also advised other law firms, including privacy and cyber teams at those firms, on how to establish returners programmes.
In addition, I have helped champion DAC Beachcroft’s cyber team’s participation in Aspiring Solicitors, which aims to promote diversity within the legal sector. Through Aspiring Solicitors, we have recruited a number of individuals into the cyber team which has further diversified our make-up.
Finally, I participate in the Mentoring the Market programme, an innovative mentoring project for the insurance claims sphere, through which I mentor a BAME candidate who is a claims handler at a large brokerage and who is actively seeking a career in cyber.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?
Be confident and don’t let others tell you that cybersecurity is not for you. It is a fantastic and rewarding industry to work within, with a diverse mix of people.