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.
Rea James, Global Cyber Strategic Threat Intelligence Lead at Vodafone
What does your job role entail?
Working in Threat Intelligence teams to:
- Aid in improving maturity and encourage innovation
- Build and maintain relationships with stakeholders
- Identification, contextualization and analysis of threats, exploits and vulnerabilities that pose a threat to organisations
- Providing threat intelligence analysis and reporting to aid in technical and non-technical stakeholders at all levels and areas
- Providing coaching and development for those starting their cyber careers
How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?
I originally got into the cybersecurity industry whilst I served in the Royal Navy and was taught cyber security during my training course; although, I had already demonstrated a keen interest in the sector as a hobby. Shortly after my course, I fell sick and refused to feel sorry for myself so I took a degree in Intelligence and Security whilst serving. I completed my degree between work and surgeries and was working in Cyber Security until I was discharged. Between my Navy experience, degree and my general love for computing, I landed my first civilian role in the industry in 2017.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?
Confidence, there are many people out there who are helpful at putting you down when you are already quite capable of beating yourself up. Being a woman and ex-military when I left, I had very low confidence. The stereotype of being a “strong” woman because you are ex-military when you are trying to navigate a new world meant I was actually extremely vulnerable. The stereotype meant that people saw me as a threat or someone to compete with whilst I was trying to rebuild my confidence. I was accused of being too aggressive when barely speaking, people talked over me in conversations when I did get the confidence to speak, and there was the assumption that as a female, I would take on certain roles such as note-taking and report writing instead of technical cyber security. This lead to my already low confidence being shattered further. It took mentoring, some amazing managers, courage and leaping off that “edge” out of my comfort zone to stand up to people, lead conversations in a way that made people look at me as an equal and allow me to rebuild my confidence and belief that I could achieve things regardless of my background or gender.
What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?
- Transitioning from the military to civilian life
- Having the courage to start a new role straight from maternity leave
- Being told that I was someone’s role model and that I gave them the confidence to get their dream job.
What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?
I help ex-military women with their transition into civilian life, I aid them with resources and help them believe in themselves in what is the hardest transition some people will make in their lives. I provide mentorship, networking opportunities, skills-building, links and have begun writing all my tips and tricks into an information pamphlet to share with others. I help women navigate the difficult task of pay, CVs, language used in civilian life, presentations and interviews. I have supported women outside of the military sphere such as graduates, those who have had extended career breaks and those seeking employment within the cyber security industry who were not typically from a cyber security background. In my day-to-day work activities, I support all those in the team to help further their skillset and their knowledge as well as offer 1-1 training support and helping analysts find their specialization. Since returning from maternity leave, I would like to support women in cyber security to stay in the industry to prevent losing fantastic talent as many feel as though they do not want to stay in the high paced environment for various reasons such as having a baby.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?
When you hit a wall, when you think you can’t go on much further, take a deep breath, believe in yourself and take that step out of your comfort zone to move forward. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to move forward in your career.