The Diversification of the Cyber Security Industry

On Episode 5 of The Cyber Security Matters Podcast we spoke to Sean Blenkhorn about his experiences in the Cyber Security industry. Sean has worked in cyber for over 20 years, and during that time he has held a variety of strategic leadership roles, from heading pre-sales to taking on Chief Product Officer and Chief Experience Officer positions. Sean is currently Worldwide VP of Sales Engineering for Axonius, where he takes a proactive role in encouraging diversity in the sector, both in the upcoming technologies and in his teams. 

Do you see the diversification and expansion of the security market as a trend is set to continue?

The macroeconomic conditions we’re seeing today will have an impact on that, undoubtedly. We’ll continue to see companies tighten their belts and have to make tough decisions from time to time. There may even be tightening around companies that are getting investment from the VC or private equity firms. However, the industry will continue to grow. Even given all of the macro economic conditions, we’re still seeing good growth compared to businesses outside of technology or security. It’s not as fast as what we want to see, but it’s still crazy growth. You have to keep things in perspective. Tech is the future, and people will want to protect that.

There are still so many opportunities and technologies out there to look at and get involved with. Innovation happens in the startup world, which is where you see diversification come in. People from all over are having these ideas and disrupting the market with their new tech. Typically the model is that the smaller companies innovate, then the larger companies acquire that innovation and take it to the broader market, hopefully in a way that doesn’t destroy the innovation. That’s the way the industry evolves.

How can we diversify the people within the cyber security profession?

It’s going to happen by continuing to break down the barriers. Organisations need to put a real effort into creating diversity. It’s people like myself who are in managing roles and leadership roles that need to focus on diversity. You need to look at your team and understand what’s going to be valuable, and having that diversity of opinions, views and experiences is really important. It’s not just limited in terms of women getting into the roles, but also enabling them to climb the ladder within an organisation. Diversity thrives when leadership organisations put commitment into diversity in that way too. 

We need to build the future generation and we need to have the teams and resources ready to come up behind us. We’re working with educational institutions and working with our teams to make sure that when we’re working with recruiting firms and internal recruiters that we put real emphasis on looking for diversity in our candidates. It starts from the top down, but there’s also the bottom up route of making sure that we’re supporting the next generation of kids. We need to be showing them what those opportunities are in this industry, and that there’s opportunity for everyone. We have to promote diversity at the grassroots level as well.

To hear more news and insights into the cyber security industry, tune into The Cyber Security Matters Podcast from neuco now.

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Including Women in the Cyber Security Industry

Diversity is at the forefront of discussions in recruitment, and in Episode 7 of The Cyber Security Matters Podcast we spoke to Karla Reffold about how we can diversify the sector. Karla is the General Manager at Orpheus Cyber, a Board Advisor and American Cyber Award judge. She has also founded and sold two award winning businesses in the cybersecurity industry, hosted her own podcast, and was one of the top three finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year category at the Cyber Security Women of the Year awards in 2022. Read on to hear her perspectives on improving representation in the Cyber Security industry. 

Do you think you’ve faced barriers in the industry that your male counterparts haven’t?

It’s hard to know when things aren’t explicit. One of the stories that I tell is from a couple of years ago, when I’d sold the business. I worked in the company that bought us and one of my new colleagues said, ‘You leave early every day to pick your kids up, it must be nice being part time.’ I worked every evening and I was in the office earlier than almost everybody else; I worked a lot of hours. That comment really annoyed me, and I called him out on it. I complained about it and he apologised, but the feeling was that it wasn’t a big deal, I should get over it. I definitely felt that from then on I was seen as a little bit difficult, and that’s really unfair. 

I’m glad I spoke out about it, because there are other people that weren’t in a senior position who wouldn’t have felt that they could say anything. I do feel a responsibility, given that I have a platform and some seniority, to call those things out, even when it’s uncomfortable or they seem small. That one stands out to me, maybe not as a barrier but like one of those negative experiences.

Do you think big vendors and individuals within cybersecurity do enough to tackle the lack of diversity in our market?

I’m not sure vendors do, I think teams do when their clients care about it. What’s interesting now is that you’re seeing a lot of the VCs and private equity firms ask about your diversity stats. They see it as a risk, that’s a really interesting change. Money drives these decisions. It’s relatively easy to stick a load of women in marketing, HR and maybe sales. That’s partly reflective of where the market is right? You can’t always hire people that don’t exist. I don’t see the drive coming from vendors as much as I see it coming from internal security teams.

How has the representation of women changed since you started your career?

It’s definitely improved. I joke that I don’t want it to improve too much because I don’t want to queue for the bathroom. It’s changed across the board. There’s a lot of young women who are studying something cyber related. I think the biggest change for me in the last couple of years has been how many men support diversity initiatives and how many men talk about things. If you’re a man, particularly if you’re a parent, you can now talk about picking your kids up or dropping them at school and I needing some flexibility. That really makes it safe for everybody to do that. I’ve seen some really big positive changes in that way.

What else do you think can be done to encourage minorities into the sector more broadly?

Consider what images you’re using. I haven’t used that image of a man in a hoodie in a dark room for five years, because it’s telling people what we are as an industry. Let’s not have that type of image. That makes a difference. Get rid of degrees as one of your requirements. If you’re getting 300 applicants, you are looking for ways to rule people out rather than rule them in, but white men are earn engineering degrees at 11 times the rate of black women here, so if you’re putting degrees into your hiring process, you are just building in economic discrimination. We know that affects different races differently, so get rid of that. Think about your culture too. Stop making this a recruitment problem. It’s not just ‘Hey, recruitment company, go find me a diverse list of candidates’. It’s actually considering what do you do with those people once you’ve got them. How inclusive is your culture? And how do you make everybody feel like they can be authentic at work? Those are my three quick takeaways.

To get more in-depth about diversity in the industry, tune in to The Cyber Security Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Creating Gender-Diverse Communities in the Cyber Security Industry

On The Cyber Security Matters Podcast we often talk about diversity. On Episode 8 of the podcast we spoke to Alexandra Godoi, the Information Security GRC Lead at Oxfam, about the work she does to actively improve gender diversity in the industry. Alexandra was named as one of the Top 30 Female Cyber Security Leaders of 2022, thanks to her work as a speaker and panellist at conferences and her role in increasing awareness around the need for cybersecurity in the world of NGOs. 

Read on to learn more about reducing the gender imbalance in our industry!

What do you think can be done to increase women’s voices and presence in a company?

Designs should influence a company’s decisions in developing products. It’s not just about listening to the women in your company, because they might not have a full picture. Go through that route of participatory design, which is where you go and ask the community, ‘What do you think about this? How would this impact your life? Do you have any concerns?’ Actually talk to people – that will help everybody move towards having security and privacy by design. We have a lot to learn from each other. 

What do you think it means to be a woman in cyber?

I don’t particularly see myself as a woman in cybersecurity, I’m just somebody that works in cybersecurity who cares about human rights issues. I don’t think we should focus on this disparity between men and women, because I’m not doing anything differently than my male counterparts. We’re all here to do our jobs.

What can be done to help address the digital gender gap and internet access imbalance?

There are different aspects that we can look at when we’re talking about the digital gender gap. One of the points that I’ve seen being made is the fact that there are not enough women in STEM, for example, but it runs deeper than that. It depends on the context and where in the world we’re talking about. A good example is that in India and Pakistan, access to technology like mobile phones is reserved to the man of the house. Because of this, women don’t have access to the digital space in the way that their male counterparts do. 

The way technology is designed also puts a lot of pressure on the end user. You are expected to know how a computer works, you’re expected to know what a virus is and how to protect yourself, you’re expected to know that you need to set up strong passwords. Not everybody has access to the same level of education around those topics. Putting that pressure on the end user is not a fair point to start with, because you’re making the assumption that everybody who uses technology has access to equal opportunities.

Diversity is being used as a checkbox by tech giants. How do you think they can better level that diversity playing field?

Creating industry standards for security could be a way to push diversity as a non-political agenda. It is slightly political, because we’re talking about human and digital rights, but it is a way to push for more inclusivity. If we come up with a standard that means security risks are taken into consideration from the get-go, we should push for that, because it removes the pressure from end users and makes the digital space more equitable. 

To hear more about the work that Alexandra and Oxfam are doing to promote human rights in the Cyber Security space, tune into the full episode of The Cyber Security Matters Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Diversity in the Space and NewSat industry

In episode #59 of The Tech That Connects Us, we were excited to be joined by Miguel Ayala, the CEO of Aphelion Aerospace.

We touched on his career so far, as well as his insight on Diversity and Inclusion as well as what his business is actively doing. 

We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did recording it. 

How do you think Diversity can be better addressed in the industry? 

“I look back at my own experience, and I’m not saying that, that everybody is like me, or thinks like me. But, one thing that I’ve noticed is that people follow people that they can relate to.  

What that means to me is that now that I have a growing platform, and that people are starting to listen to me, I intend to be more engaged with the community and more vocal with the community to raise awareness.  

I also want to find more young people that are looking for role models like them, that look like them. And at the same time, I invite other people of different backgrounds to have a say. I think there are many ways of doing things respectfully without offending anybody.” 

What kind of things are you doing at the moment to address this? 

“One of the things that we’re actively doing right now is we’re partnering with a non-profit organisation. This gentleman, who was part of a non-profit, put together this CubeSat project; a three-step project for high school students.  

The first step is for high school students to get grouped in teams, and build CubeSat simulators. Then, the next step is for them to build fake cube sets that are launched with the balloon, and then eventually, the next the third phase will be to build actual or real cube sets, get launched on a rocket. We have high schools here in the US, in Canada in the UK and Ecuador. 

We’ve seen so much interest from all these different high schools all over the world. So then all these kids regardless of financial status, they can get engaged, and they can learn how to build the cube sets.” 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the industry? 

“Talk to people and build a good relationship with your boss, make sure that your boss and your manager are aware of your interests, your strengths and your weaknesses. And, be completely candid about your strengths and weaknesses as well. Make sure that your boss is actually your advocate. Unfortunately, a bad boss, especially early on can damage your career.  

Also, make sure you have a good relationship with your co-workers and with other leaders in the company and industry. Finally, maintain high integrity,  not just because you should, but also because you just don’t know who you will cross paths again with in the future.  

You can catch the full episode here.

Every Wednesday we sit down with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Diversity – we all have a part to play.

On Episode 53 of The Tech That Connects Us Tegan Valeny and Tim Meredith were joined by Carrie Wooton Managing Director at Rise – a group for Women in Broadcast.

With over 20 years of experience in the industry and being number 9 on TVB Europe’s The Watch List for 2021, Carrie is changing the Media Broadcast Industry!

We take a deep dive into issues surrounding Diversity, Inclusion and all that comes alongside. Read on for a few of Carrie’s insights into this topic.

How can we all be encouraging young talent into the industry? It’s got to start at a grassroots level. How can we all be addressing this? 

“It’s through exactly that, we’ve got to be spending time going into schools without a doubt. Individually and also collectively. As organisations make their commitments to diversity they have to allow staff to have the time to go into schools and work with, sponsor and champion these young people. 

We’ve worked with over 400 children in a three week period with our workshops, so let’s say 50% of them were interested. So we’re talking about creating a funnel and we have to commit to investing in those young people whether it’s going in to talk to them about job opportunities and pathways. 

The great thing is we live in a hybrid world, so it doesn’t always need to be face to face. Schools are crying out for workshops like this. They need engagement from us as an industry. So, company leaders need to make sure teams have time to go in and work with schools. But also have commitments to sponsor young people who are perhaps in lower socioeconomic areas and might not have the funding to come to London for a job, interview, workshop or event. But make those commitments. The opportunity is there, the possibility is there, and we can make it happen, we can change the dial without a doubt.” 

“The opportunity is there, the possibility is there, and we can make it happen, we can change the dial without a doubt.” 

What other recommendations would you give to these senior leaders as they build teams, as they recruit, as they seek to make their teams diverse and inclusive? 

“There are so many different things aren’t there? It’s about making sure that your recruitment process as a whole is fair and transparent. It’s about making sure that those processes also have diversity in them and that you go out to diverse communities with those job adverts. You also need to ensure that your HR teams are doing that, and not just going to the same usual places. One thing we’ve done is launch our own job board at Rise. Which has been brilliant, and it’s an amazing place to make sure you’re reaching a diverse community. 

Working with schools as I’ve already mentioned and with this for leaders, it’s all about the proof is in the pudding. As the leader are you going to be the one going into the school? Are you going to do it yourself because you feel passionate about the change you want to see in the industry? I don’t think as senior leaders you can say to your teams to go out if you’re not willing to step up and do it yourself. There has to be a demonstration of that commitment.  

One of the most simple things companies can do is make sure that gender diversity and ethnic diversity is represented on their website. If you don’t do this then how are people going to feel like this is an inclusive place to work in. 

From policies and procedures through to their recruitment processes through to their commitment to diversity, ensure the younger generation understands that there’s a pathway available to them. 

It’s also important that you as a company are committed to investing in them and ensuring their talent and expertise, which might not always be academic but to make sure that they know and that they feel invested in. 

We know that diversity improves the bottom line, there’s so much research behind that. We also know that diversity improves product innovation and the innovation cycle. Therefore that investment is going to come back to you as a company and your bottom line.” 

What would you say to people suffering from imposter syndrome or potentially thinks that an industry isn’t for them because they can’t see other people like themselves in it? 

“There’s so much we need to do around this. In our leadership report, we released last week 75% of those senior leaders did say that they experience imposter syndrome. What imposter syndrome does is it impacts your confidence which in turn impacts your internal dialogue to make you think about whether you should be going for that job and whether you can actually make a difference or not. 

It takes leaders and teams to understand that people experience imposter syndrome. There has to be an inclusive culture within the organisation that allows people no matter their gender or ethnicity to be comfortable to speak up about their imposter syndrome. 

A good solution for this would be mentors, whether they’re formal or informal mentors, we know the value of those and the impact they can have on your confidence and therefore your imposter syndrome. We see that within the mentees too, not just having a mentor but having a group of women that you work with every year, who have your back, champion you and talk things through with you. 

There are tools and techniques to help you through imposter syndrome, but underlying all the tools is confidence. The confidence comes through working in a supportive and inclusive environment. We can also manage our internal dialogue, ‘what does it mean? and what is the fear that underlines that?’.” 

Every Wednesday we sit down with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

You can’t be what you can’t see

Joining Tegan Valeny and Jake Sparkes for episode 51 of The Tech That Connects Us was Kate Wendelboe.

Kate has had a fascinating career and held senior, influential roles at BT, such as Director of Media & Broadcast and sits on the Board for Rise – a group for Women in Broadcast.

We delved into how Rise is helping address issues of diversity and inclusion, as well as a few other questions around inclusive teams and fitting in, here’s what Kate had to say.

How are Rise helping address issues of diversity and inclusion?  

“One of the best things we do with Rise is making sure that there’s that pipeline of talent coming up. Because that is it; it’s educating children from the youngest of ages, about the opportunities that are out there for them to open their minds up to industries like media broadcast and cyber security. 

With Rise we have a whole series of programmes where we’re looking at the pipeline, all the way from school, up to supporting professionals who are decades into their careers. Our Rise Up programme goes into school and we get kit and link it to some of the science curricula and talk about how images appear on screens. Then we get them to set up a studio in their classroom, so it’s a hands-on experience. Then in the afternoon, they film a game show which brings the whole thing to life for them. 

We’re then finding ways to keep in touch with them as they progress through the education system. We’ve set up a mentoring scheme for people who are at university, we’ve then got a second scheme for people who are early in their career and then networking events throughout to promote the network and to allow people to feel supported.”

So how can we make our teams more inclusive? 

“We’ve just had a brilliant series of events at BT about race, diversity and inclusion, and it’s something that we’re talking a lot about internally. You can have diversity but without inclusion, it’s important to make sure there’s representation. So we’re making sure that we have enough of different groups represented. So that everybody in the team can look around and see somebody who is a bit like them in some ways. And that very much helps in gender inclusivity and makes diversity sustainable. 

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ 

This all comes back to culture it’s so important that we create a culture where these things can be discussed, and myths can be dispelled and people limiting beliefs about themselves can be worked through and dispelled as much as possible.”

What would your advice be to someone worried about fitting into the industry or concerned about being different? 

“Make sure that you’ve found as many different people as you can within the industry, to make sure you’re getting lots of different perspectives and find somebody that you can trust to talk to. It may be easier said than done but those conversations that you can have when you find somebody you can be open with will help you dispel some of the myths.”

Every Wednesday we sit down with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Is diversity and inclusion at the top of your agenda?

Diversity and inclusion is one of the most important ethical and strategic priorities for businesses in 2021, but is it top of your agenda?

Over the last month we’ve been busy collating some of the best answers from our amazing guests on The Tech That Connects Us podcast. Every week we ask the big question on diversity and inclusion and get insight into what they’re doing to make that positive difference.

In this white paper we’ve compiled 10 fantastic insights and tips business leaders need to think about if they want to begin the process of building a truly diverse organisation, filled with talented individuals from different backgrounds.

This white paper will provide you with some tangible actions, that will build momentum and have a positive impact on diversity within your business.

If you’d like to talk to us about what we have learnt or the experiences of others in your industry please get in touch.

Every Wednesday we sit down with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

A Generational change in diversity – How a diverse team helps decision-making.

John Clifton & Will Trenchard sat down recently with Margaret Davies for a fantastic and insightful episode of The Tech That Connects Us Podcast, in which we thought the conversation just flowed.  

Margaret has held a number of senior commercial roles in her career and is now CMO at Red Bee Media, having rejoined them 3 years ago. She’s seen a swathe of changes occur during her time in the video/broadcast world and remains hugely excited about what is still to come.  

Among other topics, we explore how she felt very early on that she was clearly “woman in a man’s world” and touched on her thoughts and feeling for diversity in the STEM industry. From ways it has changed but also what needs to be done to address the balance.  

We learnt a lot from Margaret that episode so we’ve shared our version of her thoughts below:

A Generational change in diversity – How a diverse team helps decision making. 

There is a generational change in progress, and it starts first with the importance of encouraging young girls to enter STEM fields. However, we must also make sure that boys are encouraged to do other things as well. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, the tech industry needs your skills. This is why recruiting from diverse backgrounds is so important. It doesn’t matter what gender you are; the tech industry needs all of our skills. 

Diversity helps with decision making. It makes us more open and creative in the decisions we make, which is good for both customers and commercial engagements. It helps make us more open and creative in the decisions we make, which is good for both customers and commercial engagements. 

What will drive the change is not just reaching targets, it’s about business leaders recognizing that to improve your business and drive more revenue, you have to invite diverse voices into the conversation. 

That’s why diversity is important because the female voices that come through cut through very clearly, because women that work in this industry have to be smarter because they had to work harder to succeed. 

There’s a phrase in relation to sustainability. And it applies to diversity as well, which is:  

‘Sustainability as an initiative within any business is not sustainable, unless it delivers business value, it has to contribute to the bottom line’.  

And while we have clear laws that protect bias against a raft of categories, the reality is diversity has to drive business value. 

And that’s where it comes back because diversity lends itself to more diverse, more challenging decision making. And that’s what ultimately should drive business value. And it comes with, quite frankly, the men who are business leaders, recognising that they have to let more voices through in business to be able to drive a different type of business value. 

Diversity is an important topic that we cover on nearly every episode of our Podcast. So don’t hesitate to go through our podcast archives and listen to some of our fantastic conversations with business leaders and experts.