My career as: an Information Security Engineer
The call for gender parity in the workplace is stronger now than ever before. The aim is clear – having women of all backgrounds participate to their full potential at all levels, leading to better business, better decision making and better business results.
To mark this day, we spoke to one of our candidates, Sarina Lal*, an Information Security Engineer, about her experience and career in IT, and her words of advice for women entering the sector.
Who or what inspired you to get into the industry?
For the first 5 years of my working life I worked in retail. However, I felt there wasn’t much progression for me at the time and I really wanted a change in my career. I searched relentlessly for new opportunities, but I wasn’t qualified for most roles.
This was when I came across Netcom Training Solutions, where I studied the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) course, which could open up opportunities in the IT industry for me. It was a risk I was willing to take and can confidently say that it paid off. A few months after passing the course I landed my first IT role as a Support Technician.
How and why did you choose this career?
Not long after my first role I was working as an IT Support Analyst. After a while I felt that I wanted to progress my career and decided to research more IT courses which were suitable for me and which would open further doors in IT. I came across the syllabus for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) course and I was sold straight away, as it sounded really interesting! This was when IT Security landed on my lap and since I’ve started, I’ve loved every minute of it.
What is a typical ‘day in your work life’ like?
I’m responsible for monitoring and reducing any cyber vulnerabilities. In fact, I’ve just recently implemented a new anti-virus upgrade.
I also deal with 3rd party vendors regarding pen-testing, security output and reporting. Other than that, I also manage most BAU activities and work with other teams in IT and give them Security related advice when needed. In a nutshell, I try to keep my company safe.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Knowing that you’re good at your job. It’s when I reflect on my work that I actually realise that my role isn’t as simple as I may have thought.
Most importantly, knowing the fact that my employers value me as a member of the team, can rely on me and trust me to manage my own work – that’s a feel good factor.
What education requirements, college degrees or licences are needed for your career?
The CEH qualification is a great way to get your foot in the door for IT Security roles. I was initially a little reluctant to apply for Security roles even after I passed my course. Most companies require a degree which I don’t have, but ultimately it didn’t hinder my chances. When I applied for my first role as a Junior Security Analyst, my employer required 5 GCSEs from C and above, which I did have. I ended up getting positive feedback from my CV and interview and was then offered the role. A few months later I was promoted to IT Security Engineer.
I think honesty is the best policy. If you are able to showcase your skills and experience a degree isn’t always needed.
What are the most important skills and abilities required in IT Security?
I would say having the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines. The IT Security industry is rapidly growing. You’ll therefore need to be able to keep up with the latest threats and learn how to protect your company from them.
Good communication skills and being a team player are also key, as you’ll be required to liaise with other teams in IT for configuring and rolling out new software.
What do you wish you knew (but didn’t) when you first started this career?
I wish I actually sat down with a few other engineers to understand systems more and learned how to apply all principles to a working environment, rather than just revise to pass an exam. Sometimes I struggle with certain technical conversations as I haven’t been exposed too much, other than reading textbooks.
The real world isn’t an exam and sometimes the theories and examples that you study also aren’t always relevant to real world scenarios.
Any ‘words of advice’ for women entering this sector?
As a female in a typical ‘male role’ I would say don’t let anything hold you back, as it’s not as hard as you may think. I’ve been the only female in the IT team in my last two roles and found that it can actually be an advantage. I’ve always been respected and got on well with all my team members.
Also, don’t be afraid to apply for a role even if you feel you don’t have the necessary qualifications – your personality counts too.
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*All information is based on Sarina’s personal experiences and may not be factually correct or applicable to current qualifications and requirements.