With today being International Women in Cyber Day, what better opportunity to celebrate the impact of female cyber professionals in the industry? As we navigate through a world where data breaches and ransomware attacks are commonplace occurrences, the significance of a multi-talented and resilient cybersecurity workforce cannot be overstated.
Meet Kirsty Perrett, a skilled Lead Cyber Engineer at Thales, stationed at the Thales Ebbw Vale Campus in South Wales. Kirsty is not only diversifying the workforce for the better, but proves there is no such thing as a traditional route into the industry, having previously worked for the NHS before pivoting to cybersecurity.
Nowadays, Kirsty plays a pivotal role at Thales, splitting her time between engaging customer demos in the cyber labs, representing Thales by visiting global clients, collaborating with schools to teach essential cyber skills to students, and contributing to the development of the next generation of cyber security experts.
An atypical journey into cyber security
“I didn’t have what you would class as a typical route into cyber security – if such a thing as a typical route exists. I liked biology at school, so intended to study Biomedical Science – I dropped out after day one and took a gap year, which actually turned into 12. I immediately knew it wasn’t for me.”
“You don’t necessarily need a degree to do well, and it doesn’t make you an expert – there’s a lot to be said for hands-on experience that you glean throughout the years. Most of my friends don’t work in the field that they hold a degree in.”
“When I was at school would I have wanted to study Cyber? No. I thought it was too clever for me. I assumed you would have to be good at maths – and that wasn’t me. But I’ve always been fascinated by computers, and I got to experience the impact of computing from the ground up during my career in the NHS.”
“I’ve actually been studying for a PHD with the University of South Wales, which Thales is sponsoring. It’s been great to do this alongside my role at Thales – it helps that I’m working in the field in which I’m studying.”
A broad industry requiring diverse talent
“Cyber impacts every single aspect of our lives. We need to raise awareness of that, and encourage people from all walks of life into the profession.”
“Throughout my career progression in the NHS I got to see the real-world impact that technology and cyber security can have on our world. WannaCry being a prime example of that. That was my first experience of seeing just how cyber can impact critical infrastructure. I also got to witness just how much of a difference a good team can make in those scenarios.”
“Cyber is everywhere. It impacts us all, and as such there’s a variety of career paths you could get into – and that requires a diversity of talent.”
Women aren’t a ‘tick box’
“The industry is very male dominated still, and while it’s improving, we still need to see a shift in attitudes. If you ever feel like you are a ‘tick’ box – just know that you are there because of your own skills and merit.”
“It’s easy to see how women can develop imposter syndrome in these scenarios. We need to stop gender classifying certain job roles or sectors.”
“It’s been great to work with young children and girls at the NDEC centre (National Digital Exploitation Centre) at Ebbw Vale. In the space of one session, I’ve seen a few little girls decide that when they grow up they want to be an engineer. It just shows that sometimes exposure is all girls need.”
“To any women or girls who are passionate about a career in this sector – let that passion shine through and pursue it. Invest in yourself and seek out any training opportunities that you can. There’s also a large community of women in cyber groups where you can join, network and ask questions.”