• Natalie Wild

Women of Tech Meets: Sophia - Junior Security Consultant

Today I caught up with Sophia.

Sophia studies Cyber Security Management at Bournemouth University, UK, though is currently on a break from her studies whilst enjoying putting her knowledge to the test whilst working as a Junior Security Consultant on an internship.

Sophia described to me how Cyber Security is her passion, and she is thoroughly enjoying the way in which she is currently able to apply the skills and theories she has learnt during her initial two years at University to real life situations, every day is a learning curve. Describing also how the social responsibility that comes with her job can sometimes add pressures “for example, if you’re penetration testing for a client, you’re having to be really thorough in your testing. We don’t want a situation where a few weeks after completing testing, that a client’s database is hacked because of a weakness you failed to find, you have a responsibility to do everything right.”

In her spare time, Sophia enjoys enhancing on her skills and bringing side projects to life in addition to participating in Hackathons. She will proudly soon be leading Team UK in the European Cyber Security Challenge 2019 - a two day hackathon where the top cyber talents from each of the 19 participating countries will be competing to be the winning team and will be challenged in solving security related tasks from domains such as web security, mobile security, crypto puzzles, reverse engineering and forensics in a process to collect points.

Sophia’s goal when she Graduates from University is to work providing Consulting services and carry out penetration testing.

What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your work so far?

“A lot of the work that we do at University is based around learning the theory of how to do something with some practical work as well, whereas my internship has been a really good way to put those theories into practice and I feel it has helped me to develop and enhance my technical skills quickly, but it has also been very challenging, going from learning just about how to do something, then actually implementing it.

Before University I completed a BTEC in Software Engineering, so I had some experience of coding through that.”

Is there a particular achievement of yours that you are especially proud of?

“Being able to not only be a part of, but also leading the team at the European Cyber Security Challenge. It’s something that I’m really proud of and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Is there anything that you think is a particular deterrent for women wanting to come into the tech sector?

“I think there is still a lot of stereotyping and stigma that its only for guys or that you have to be a specific kind of person. My classes for my BTEC in Software Engineering was an all-male class apart from me. At University, there are around 10 women out of my year of 70 people. There are more women that have come in since.”

Is there anything that you think Universities and even employers could be doing more of to encourage more women into technology?

“Bring more equality, in the sense of more of a balance of men and women who are leading the classes or in the workplace. My university is really trying, there are male and female lecturers, at events they have male and female speakers or representatives, and it is making a difference. There are more women feeling like it’s an option for them, it feels more inclusive.”

What is the once piece of advice that you would give to someone who is starting out in their studies?

“Follow your dreams and do what you want to do. It can be easy to be put off of something, or have it suggested that you do something else, but you should do what you want to do.”

What is it that you love about working in tech?

“I’m a very logical person, so for me it made sense to work in a logical field. I love the dynamic industry that tech is and the way in which things are always changing, it keeps me on my toes. Each day is different, I am constantly learning and developing.”

Is there anything that you don’t like about working in the tech sector?

“I don’t really like the imbalance of males and females. There are women on my course, but less in my workplace. Sometimes University is unhelpful in that sense because it provides you with a fair and equal system which sometimes then isn’t carried over into the workplace, it can set up a false representation. It enables the stereotype’s in some ways.”

Why Cyber Security?

“I knew from my BTEC in Software Engineering that I didn’t want to do programming all the time. We learnt Python, which I find to be a really straight forward programming language to use, it has several advantages such as adaptability, a bit like Bash. I enjoy trying to find weaknesses in systems, so Cyber Security felt like a logical move for me. I get to penetration test and do some programming. It’s a nice balance.”

Is there any advice that you’d like to give to women who are thinking about studying towards a technology qualification?

“It’s never too early to start thinking about your longer term career and to some extent plan or outline what paths you might want to take. There are so many options its worth doing some research, think about what you enjoy doing.

I think it’s really healthy to work on side projects here and there. I was working on a project recently using sensors. Side projects can look really good on your CV, can help you to build up a portfolio of your abilities, and helps to keep you sane.”

Sophia will be graduating from University next year. Following her internship, she will return to Bournemouth University for her final year of studies, after which she will be seeking graduate opportunities in the Cyber Security sector. Good luck for your final year Sophia! You’re doing fantastically, keep doing you.


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