Are you a woman thinking about getting into cyber security? We hit up four female grads and asked them how they got there
Women represent half of the population, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at your average tech office. Only 28 per cent of IT workers in Australia and 23 per cent in New Zealand are female, which is crazy considering that by 2023 there’s predicted to be 3.5 million job openings in cyber security alone.
Lucky companies are hiring increasing numbers of diverse STEM grads – and the opportunities for online security positions are huge! Everywhere from finance, retail, government, defence and more are hiring computer science experts trained in cyber crime fighting. Here, some of the coolest women in cyber share their career pathways.
Christine Vinaviles, cyber security graduate
Christine Vinaviles credits her mum, a senior SAP (Systems Applications and Products) consultant, as the biggest influence on her journey into STEM. She has always been inspired by her work ethic. The fact she got to visit her mum’s workplace when she was little and pretend to work and type random gibberish on the keyboard also helped!
This early interest led Christine to a 2016 mentorship program run by tech giant Cisco, and then to graduating with a Bachelor of ICT Engineering at University of Technology Sydney a few years later.
Now, Christine says her cyber End User Experience (EUX) role at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is her most fulfilling yet. She explains her job as “helping reduce malware and cyber attacks by analysing the applications used and creating the group policy that gets deployed”.
Christine’s career path has helped her over her biggest hurdle – finding her voice and confidence to speak up. “It’s not uncommon to feel imposter’s syndrome and doubt what you know and your abilities,” she says. – Jonathan Nalder
- Cisco Mentee, Cisco Mentor Program
- Bachelor of ICT Engineering (Software Major) / Diploma in Engineering Practice, UTS
- Technical Support Officer, Studiosity
- Cyber security graduate, CBA
Drashti Patel, pen tester
Drashti Patel has her mind set on a career in the space industry. “Cyber security related to space, that would probably be my dream job,” she says. Studying computer science (advanced) at the University of Adelaide – which she describes as “a great university, where you meet amazing people, great lecturers and you get all the support” – has brought her a big step closer to making that dream a reality.
Her well-structured course has provided Drashti with the foundations to branch off into any area of computer science. At the same time, it has given her more specific cyber security knowledge. “I learned about different attacks and participated in a few ‘capture the flag’ hacking competitions,” she says.
But it was through the ECMS (Engineering, Computer & Mathematical Sciences) Internship program that Drashti really got her feet wet. Spending a semester at Simbiant, a defence and space company, she became a ‘penetration tester’ and was given one task: hack into the company’s systems and network.
“I was basically acting as an ethical hacker, to make sure their system doesn’t have any loopholes or backdoors where anyone can enter,” she says. “It was quite tough at times but it matched well with my skill sets and I really enjoyed it.” – Ben Skuse
Daisy Wong, cyber culture and engagement lead
Daisy Wong is the cyber culture and engagement lead for the Victorian Government. She got into cyber awareness after studying marketing and behavioural studies.
Daisy’s role is to educate public servants on how to best protect themselves and their organisation. “A lot of staff still believe that cyber security is an IT problem,” she says. “We need staff to be accountable, so we provide them with tools that make it easier to become more cyber safe.”
According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, only one in four Australians feel that they have a good understanding of cyber security risks. Security awareness training can reduce the risk of an attack by 70%.
Plus, Daisy says, changing people’s behaviour for the better is a great feeling. “Nothing gives me more joy than when people tell me they’ve changed their passwords to make them more secure.” – Chloe Walker
- Master of International Business, Monash University
- IT Security Project Scheduler, NAB
- Cyber culture and engagement lead, Victorian Government
Amy Stringfellow, Cybersecurity researcher
In an effort to boost her employability prospects, Amy originally enrolled in a dual degree – a Bachelor of Mathematics and Electrical Engineering at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – however mid-way through her studies, Amy realised that tertiary maths qualifications alone were enough to land her work.
Amy picked up business and accounting alongside her maths units and ended up enjoying every aspect of her degree – yep, even taxation law. But it was the part-time gig she rocked on the side as a book-keeper for a local hardware firm that seriously prepped her for seeking out employment and internship prospects during her final year.
Amy took on a bunch of vacation positions, enjoying summer stints at KPMG, Defence Science and Technology (DST) and QUT’s on-campus research department. And despite being offered a permanent role at KPMG, she turned it down to kickstart a STEM cadetship in defence.
After graduating, Amy’s cadetship with DST evolved into a permanent full-time role which meant a move to Adelaide and an exciting new job title – cybersecurity researcher.
These days she spends 9 to 5 protecting the country with her awesome maths, stats and machine learning skills – working on state of the art defence applications, like natural language processing, and playing with a lot of data.
“Our work remains focused on providing useful outcomes for the defence of Australia. Engaging with military clients and being able to see how our research can be impactful is particularly awesome!”
- Bachelor of Mathematics (Applied and Computational) and Business, QUT
- Summer research position, KPMG
- Cadetship, DST
- Cyber Security Researcher, DST
Wanna give your pathway a major pep talk? Our free Technology & Cyber Security Webinar is a great opportunity to ask real-life cyber security grads about their roles.
- Meet a senior cyber innovation engineer
- Hang out with a graduate cyber security test engineer
- 5 minutes with a third party cyber incident responder
Author: Cassie Steel
As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.