By Tracey Edwards
12 years of schooling, followed by 4 years of university study and then the decision of what to do with my life…..
As a woman who has spent close to 30 years working in Technology, with the past 10 years being in the field of cybersecurity, the question of what to do with my life remains, not because I don’t work hard in the industry I chose, but the question of what value I bring to the industry is an ongoing inner battle that faces many.
Cybersecurity is predominantly a white male arena. In my first leadership role in cybersecurity I sat in a room with 8 white, middle aged, ex-military security leaders who were now my peers, with the prevalence of the “Imposter Syndrome” I wondered about what value I could bring to this room of strong, opinionated thought leaders and just why I was here, apart from enabling them to meet a “diversity” target. Finding the answer to this became my underlying mission.
The issue of diversity has become increasingly more topical and political, , but rarely do we meet champions who are in positions of influence and who then use that position to make a true difference. I can look back on my career and be proud of many things that I have changed, delivered and influenced. However, my proudest achievement to date was also the easiest of my career, choosing to use my position to champion a neurodiversity program.
Diversity comes in many forms, gender is just – one element. As per the leadership team in which I found myself challenged, with this procession of white men with technical backgrounds, although there were some great technical discussions had, there was a just no diversity of thought and feeling. Cybersecurity deals with complicated issues, many of which are technically based. However technical solutions are only one part of the solution, leadership, creativity and having the capability to solve problems through various lens is also vital. This was my answer to “what value do I bring to this room”.
Finally understanding the value, that I, as a non-technical female, could bring to the field of cybersecurity, opened my eyes to the value that everyone who had enough passion for the industry could also bring. The industry needs that talent to address ever changing and increasingly difficult challenges, both technically and the human element. Diversity also facilitates the representation of different global perspectives and different experiences who will come at problems differently.
The old saying “diversity breeds diversity” has merit, so the more diversity we have the more that demonstrates successful role models and sends a message that “you can do it too.” Opportunities should be open to all capable individuals and our professional environments must adapt to enable uniqueness to thrive in a challenging and rewarding field such as cybersecurity, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, neurodiversity or any other factor that makes someone unique and valuable.
Given the right supports at work, it is easy to see how an autistic person’s positive traits and characteristics can be fruitfully applied to solving problems in cybersecurity.