Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2022’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. 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 and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.
This year, the awards are sponsored by Beazley, BT, KPMG and KnowBe4.
Dr. Ana Ferreira, Information Security Specialist and Health Researcher at [email protected], Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto
What does your job role entail?
My job entails research, development and innovation in the area of information security applied to digital health research projects and solutions. It also comprises teaching in various subjects such as cybersecurity, health data science and health technology design.
How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?
My background is Computer Science and I did an MSc in Information Security in 2002 in the UK (RHUL). That was my first contact with the area, which I really liked! I then pursued my research path by doing a PhD and a Post-Doc in Access Control and Socio-technical Security, respectively, and these helped me to consolidate and evolve as a researcher, and as the creator of new projects and new solutions in this area.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?
My challenges in cybersecurity, as a woman, actually started much later in my career when I needed to manage a family and kids. This, still today, can commonly hold you back in taking chances and opportunities that would probably lead you to an increased payroll position and/or more responsibility and executive roles.
However, our work is just one part of our lives, we can still make a difference even if we are not in those high positions, by instilling trust in what we do, and doing it well! At the end of the day, you can be a good role model and give back what you have learned to the community, and still enjoy having time for other pleasures in life, including family and friends. I also believe this is all possible while embodying those high-level roles; however, a cultural shift is needed for this to really work as a society.
What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?
- Staying in this area, evolving and reinventing myself for more than 20 years now;
- Being able to give back to the community by participating in EU research projects evaluation, as well as mentoring and supporting and creating visibility as a role model for other women;
- Contributing more than 110 scientific publications in the area and bringing the much needed diversity and multidisciplinarity to it.
What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?
I am a co-founder of Women4cyber Portugal, an Association in connection with the European Women4cyber Foundation, aiming to foment and support the participation of more women in cybersecurity.
I am also the co-founder and vice-president of the (ISC)2 Portugal chapter, to promote and disseminate knowledge about international certifications in the area, as we have, internationally, a big gap in qualified personnel.
I have participated in the three editions of the Mentoring programme of the European Women4cyber Foundation, as a mentor, helping and supporting women in the area with my experience and know-how.
I have participated in several initiatives of recognition as someone that has been successfully working in cybersecurity, giving this way visibility and inspiring other women to pursue this path, e.g., participating in national and international conferences and debates, featuring in the “Hacking Gender Barriers: Europe’s Top Cyber Women” book, winning the Cybersecurity Woman “Barrier Breaker” of the year award 2022 and, obviously, winning this award as well!
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?
Ask other women (and men!) for support and help regarding doubts, fears or other questions. The main advice is: TRY! Try first and decide later! Even if it may feel unlikely, and if everybody else says it is not for you, you may still identify with some of the challenges in this area, and you may be surprised with what it has to offer. Cybersecurity is very diverse and tangential to many other domains, so there can be many options, challenges and different opportunities, and one (or more) can be just right for you!