Over the last four years, The Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards have celebrated some of most inspirational women from across the cybersecurity industry. From CISOs to students, the awards aim to celebrate everyone, no matter what stage of their career they may be at. In previous years, notable winners have included SVP Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4, Anna Collard (who has gone on to champion wellbeing in cybersecurity), Anne Woodley, Senior Security Specialist at Microsoft, and 2022 ‘One to Watch’ Illyana Mullins, who went on to found WiTCH (Women in Tech & Cyber Hub).
With nominations open for this year’s awards, we spoke to two very inspiring previous winners: Paula Page, Director of Operations at Cyndicate Labs, and 2022 One to Watch Tamzin Greenfield, Cyber Security Analyst at Cyber Security Associates.
What have you been up to since being named as one of the top 20 Most Inspiring Women in Cyber 2022?
PAULA: Since being named one of the top 20 Most Inspiring Women in Cyber 2022, quite a lot has changed for me. Having been in my previous role for 5 years, and having thoroughly enjoyed it, I was already thinking about what I wanted long term career wise but that all too common enemy of a lot of women that we know and love, imposter syndrome, was sitting on my shoulder, not so quietly chanting away. This award was really appreciated and genuinely helped to give me a bit of a push to listen to myself and to believe that I would know when the time was right to make the change. During the Summer of 2023, after lots of thought and consideration, I took a deep breath and started the ball rolling.
I was pleased to have a number of really interesting offers to join businesses of varying type & sizes, but one really stood out, not least due to the fact I knew the guys really well having worked together previously. More importantly, I believed that we were aligned in what we wanted to build and how we wanted to be different. So, in November I joined Cyndicate Labs as the third Director and have the most exciting opportunity ahead of me, working with people I admire and trust, with a very real work life balance that is at the top of the list of importance for me & my family.
It has been the perfect move for me both career wise and personally and am enjoying every moment of the journey.
TAMZIN: The biggest thing has definitely been my graduation from my apprenticeship. I sat my EPA exams in July and passed with a merit, and had my graduation ceremony in November, so it was a long couple of months waiting for the day I could officially take off my “apprentice” label! I also started working with groups such as the Cyber Helpline and was chosen to be Chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s apprenticeship panel for the last quarter of my apprenticeship. Once I graduated, I was promoted into a Senior and Shift Lead role in the SOC where I’ve worked, and it’s been great to take such a significant step forward in my career.
I’ve been taking a little break from being quite as active in the community just to get back in touch with the hobbies I put aside during the apprenticeship, and to make some space for myself, but I’m excited to sink my teeth back into all the community has to offer and use my new role to give back to younger people in the form of mentorship and support!
What did winning the award mean to you?
PAULA: The award really did mean a lot. I’m approached fairly often with ‘You’ve Been Shortlisted’ emails and you read them and there is always a pound sign attached. I don’t want to be recognised because I have paid, so the fact that my first award in my career was one which was via a real and genuine nomination process, followed by shortlisting, meant a great deal. I have the award on a shelf by my desk and it genuinely makes me smile when I see it. It may not be much in the eyes of some, but for me, it’ll always be quite special. Especially as our daughter was so excited by it and asked if she could take it to school for a project they were working on about female representation – this is why it matters.
TAMZIN: I was so surprised to be awarded One to Watch, it didn’t quite hit me until I was on the train home! It really was such an honour, and it reminded me that I’m surrounded by such a wonderful, uplifting community of women in cyber. Sometimes it can be hard for me to let other people in, and I like to be the one fixing and supporting, which can feel isolating. Just being in that room made me realise how much community action has changed the face of cyber, and that it isn’t something that one person can fix alone.
What do you think should happen in 2024 to further support women in the industry?
PAULA: I think there’s unfortunately a lot of talk and a lot less action around this topic. It’s like flexible working, it feels like it’s become somewhat of a ‘buzz word (phrase)’ which companies are happy to put on their marketing and shout about but don’t then actually put into play.
For me, promoting education and training is right at the heart. We shouldn’t just be looking at supporting women already in the industry, we should be looking to engage students during their education. I do a lot of work with local schools around this and have supported teams of girls through Cyber Centurion and ran Cyber Awareness Career days where students have genuinely gone on to choose subjects which will help them progress into a career in the industry. With a show of hands, it’s painfully clear how many girls aren’t aware of the options open to them in the Cyber world, so I think that’s a huge step we need to take.
For the women already in the industry, visibility and representation really matters. Keynote speakers and panel members, subject matter experts talking about their passion. But can it please not always be about being a women in cyber?! I get asked to speak on this subject so often I now barely even reply to them requests. Talk to us about our experience, our love of the industry, what we have done in our careers, don’t try and tick a box by wheeling us out like the token female show pony, it’s insulting.
Finally, although I could go on and on, the one closest to my heart is real, genuine, and supported flexible working opportunities. Again, it’s an easy win when you’re putting your job description together but think about how it actually pans out in reality within your business. Is it genuinely flexible? The number one thing I focus on when building a team is this, no matter the make up of the team, but given that such a huge number of women are still the ones which take on the vast majority of the unpaid labour that is done, be it childcare or housework or caring for a family member or friend, we are disproportionately affected by the traditional Monday – Friday 9 -5 working pattern. Culture is at the heart of everything for me, both for my teams and my clients, and the most repeated feedback I ever receive is just how life changing that freedom and flexibility can be for people. It’s not difficult to do if you’re committed to it and all too easy to complicate and define as impossible if flexibility is just a buzz word you throw around. Be honest, be open, trust the people you have hired to deliver quality work and have a personal life at the same time and you will see everyone benefit.
TAMZIN: I would love to see greater recognition from national figureheads about the importance of awards that highlight underrepresented groups, just like the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber awards. Many award groups (such as the fantastic National Cyber Security Awards) are recognised by important leaders and people such as Cyber Crime Leaders and the Prime Minister – it would be fantastic to see this reflected for awards and groups that are primarily composed of or support marginalised and underrepresented groups. Women have worked hard to make space in this male dominated industry, and I think it’s time that this effort is rewarded; especially with regards to women who spend so much of their time uplifting other women in the industry, such as everyone in Eskenzi PR!
Know an inspirational woman? This year’s awards (sponsored by BT and ThinkCyber) are still open for nominations! Deadline: 31st January 2024, 5pm GMT. Nominations open worldwide.
Nominations form for this year’s Most Inspiring Women in Cyber: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeys7cYAH66ZGKtajMJ2p7SsDFZrNBdKJHZP7gxFyoHXqCsug/viewform
Nominations form for The Paula Brici Cyber Marketeer of the Year Award can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSemylBi6TrrPkoBFKEaawD0_ep2e7erZNv9nlUggDkSJ6oJOA/viewform