Forget what you think you know about a career in cyber security! These five real-life cyber security pros are spilling the facts… and there’s hardly a hoodie in sight!
1. Alison Kidd
Junior Cyber Security Analyst, CBA
MTYH: You have to know what your career path looks like
FACT: Cyber security careers are wide and varied – discover what you like as you forge your own career path
Technology was Alison’s favourite subject at school and she knew she wanted a career in tech, so she enrolled at Macquarie University to study a Bachelor of IT majoring in Software Technology. During her degree, a cyber security internship at NSW Health popped up – this was the first time she’d tried it out and she loved it.
Alison switched into the then-brand-new cyber security major at her uni. A Kamilaroi woman, Alison soon found out about another internship opportunity through Walanga Muru, Macquarie University’s pathway and engagement program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The internship was at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) – and Alison continues to intern part-time as a junior cyber security analyst while completing her degree.
However, Alison is still figuring out exactly where in cyber security she wants to take her career. She currently likes the idea of learning more about penetration testing (pen testing) – the cool-sounding cyber security gig that basically involves finding an organisation’s weak spots before someone else does. “It’s fun – you’re kind of like a hacker, but not really,” she says.
Alison expressed this interest to her team at CBA, and now she gets regular tutoring
on a Friday. “That’s something our team is really great for,” she says.
2. Annelise Ralevska
Information Security Consultant, Westpac
MYTH: Cyber security is always technical
FACT: They’re not all hackers and coding is not a prerequisite!
Annelise works in Westpac’s Security Assessment Services team, which she explains “is pretty much the red team”. In cyber security the red team tests the readiness of a company by looking for weak points in computer systems, networks, staff and/or processes. They attack systems, bad processes and procedures, and people’s bad habits (like opening fake emails).
For example, Annelise might try to uncover weakness in the bank’s security processes by requesting access to a building without the right pass, being as persistent as a real imposter.
Annelise, who started at Westpac as a Young Technologists Scholar, stresses that cyber security is a huge area – and it’s not all coding. “There are heaps of different roles in cyber security – you might enjoy more of the creative side, like creating a video campaign to explain what spear phishing is,” says Annelise. (Spear phishing is when an attacker sends targeted, fraudulent emails to try and gain access to an organisation’s confidential information.)
Annelise says she likes cyber security because it can be technical, but also creative and strategic, and because it’s such important work.
“You have that sense of purpose, you’re protecting Australians’ money, so it’s really important and you’re driven to succeed,” she says.
3. Joe Bindley
Security Analyst, NAB
MTYH: There’s no room for diversity
FACT: Diverse challenges require diverse solutions!
As a security analyst at NAB, it’s Joe’s job to manage the security of the accounts of employees with privileged access to internal software and programs.
“Different accounts have different levels of risk associated with them, so you have to be able to understand that and decide which set of procedures you use,” explains Joe, adding that this work requires someone who is good at looking at the details and investigating.
As a man on the autism spectrum, Joe brings these skills and more to NAB’s cyber security team as part of the bank’s neurodiversity program. “If you have people with different ways of thinking, you can often get different approaches to solving problems,” says Joe.
While studying a Bachelor of IT at Deakin University, Joe joined a company called DXC Technology as part of their DXC Dandelion Program, which is about supporting and celebrating the talents and skills of people on the autism spectrum, helping people like Joe build a career in IT.
Through the DXC Dandelion Program, the opportunity arose for a cyber security role at NAB. While Joe’s employment is through the Neurodiversity at Work program at NAB, it doesn’t define his day-to-day job. “People don’t care whether you’re autistic or not. If you’re good enough, if you’re capable to do the job, that’s what matters,” he says.
4. Alice McCracken
Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst, ANZ
MYTH: Cyber security is an antisocial boys’ club
FACT: You can seek out social spaces and support groups
Alice knew she wanted to study something tech-related at uni, but she also wanted to make sure her career had a deeper sense of purpose and job satisfaction. When she came across the Bachelor of Cyber Security at La Trobe University in Melbourne it looked like the perfect match.
“For me, cyber security has that deeper sense of purpose beyond your average networking and programming sort of stuff,” says Alice.
However at uni, Alice found herself to be one of only a few women in the course. “We started hanging out between classes, and we realised we all felt, if not exactly imposter syndrome, then a little bit out of place in a male-dominated course,” she says. So Alice and her friends started up a support network called Girl Code. “We wanted to create a safe space to have a study group or a Facebook support page where we could ask questions that we didn’t always feel comfortable asking in a formal learning environment.”
At the start of this year, Alice undertook a two-month summer internship at ANZ bank,
which turned into a regular part-time gig as a threat intelligence analyst while she finishes her degree.
When she graduates, Alice says she’s keen to be involved with similar support networks to Girl Code, but for cyber security professionals – such as the Australian Women in Security Network.
5. Benjamin Ferlauto
Security Threat Intelligence Analyst, BT
MYTH: You have to be fully qualified before you can work in cyber security
FACT: You can land a job while you study!
Benjamin says he’s had ambitions for a career in cyber security since he was very young. “I enjoy being challenged and I’m always willing to learn or adapt to change. Cyber security is an industry that is constantly evolving and offering exactly that,” he says.
Benjamin signed up for a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, majoring in Cyber Security at the University of Technology, Sydney. He’s still in his fourth year at uni, but is already working in the industry, playing a key role testing and launching the new Threat Intelligence Service at global telecommunications company BT, where he works part-time.
“I’m one of a number of people leading the Threat Intelligence Service which will be released as a global service offered by BT,” explains Benjamin. Under the new service, BT will provide organisations with information about the current and emerging cyber security threats and deliver real-time intelligence, helping them stay ahead of cyber criminals.
Benjamin first landed a cyber security internship at BT through the UTS CareerHub, which helps students find industry experience opportunities. The internship then turned into a part-time gig while Benjamin simultaneously finishes his degree.
When Benjamin’s not working and studying, he loves gaming. In fact, he spent two years working for US professional gaming company, eRa Eternity, before retiring from the pro-gaming world to focus on his study and cyber security career.
This article was published in partnership with the Australian Computing Academy (ACA).
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.