Women of Tech Meets: Vina - an Information Security Analyst
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Due to graduate from University this year with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and currently working the internship of her dreams, Vina is very optimistic about her future in tech.
Today I caught up with Vina.
Vina had spent her younger years growing up thinking she was destined to be a Teacher of Math or Science.
Vina described to me how she was working in college at the time, where one of her friends always seemed so happy, so she asked him one day what classes he was taking - he was taking Computer Science. She thought that it sounded interesting, so within the next few weeks she made it her minor.
With only a few more classes needed to finish her minor, she wasted no time in undertaking a Computer Science 2 class. Vina admitted to me initially that when she first started out that she thought the class would be about ‘the history of computers’, she laughed “we didn’t learn about the history of computers, but I did think it was really cool.”
Vina went on to say “it was really different to anything I had done before. It was a bit back and forward for a little while, understanding something and then getting confused by something else in the field, it can still be like that sometimes.”
After her female professor suggested and Vina attended the Women in Tech conference in Cleveland Ohio, she felt inspired by the women speaking,and realised that unlike with teaching, with tech she “could help all people, children, women, guys, it doesn’t matter, I could help them all” and so she immediately switched her major to Computing.
“Computer Science is such a big field, I thought it was just programming and developing and I didn’t think that I could do those things.
Part of me just wanted to get through college. As time went on the bond with the guys on my course grew. One day I said to one of the guys on my course ‘oh I’m going to Graduate this year, Batchelor of Arts’, and he was just like ‘no, no you’re not, that’s not adequate enough, you can do better than Batchelor of Arts’ – I’d already even applied for Graduation by that point. It wasn’t long before the rest of the guys were encouraging me to finish with a Batchelor of Science”
“I am really happy that they pushed me to complete my studies, which by the end of this semester I will have done, Ill finally have my Graduation Ceremony!! I never expected that I would Graduate college with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.”
Vina excitedly told me of her Information Security Internship last year, (luckily at the same time she had classes with an inspirational Professor whom concentrated in Info Sec).
“I really liked the balance of education and real-world experience. I had a female boss at my first Internship which was so great. She taught me the importance of always, always, always, doing your research with everything. It really sparked my interest in the whole info sec area knowing I didn’t need to do any programming or development if I didn’t want to.
When the internship ended in the summer, that’s when I realised that’s what I want to do, Information Security."
So, what were your next steps from there?
“I went to a careers fayre at School. I didn’t really know what to expect from it. Towards the end I literally ran into to this guy, and he laughed and asked me what I’m studying. I told him I was studying Computer Science but that I know I don’t want to be a programmer or a developer, that Im really into Info Secand that’s what I want to do.
He asked for my resume, and then the next day I had a call from this companies HR department, we’d arranged an interview.
That’s super exciting!
“It was! On the day of the interview, once I got to the building, I’d had this feeling that this is just where I am supposed to be, this is what I wanted. I’d had been to other interviews before but never really felt that instant spark like I did with this.”
Im guessing that the interview went well?
“I thought it had gone really well, but the crazy part was that I didn’t hear back from them for around 2 months. When I did eventually hear back from them, turns out, they’d created a brand new internship for me. I was so taken aback – this was why they’d taken so long, they weren’t expecting another intern!”
“By the time that I had started in post, they had also created a Women in STEM programme that reached across all the departments, they have monthly meets and support in place for members of that programme.”
Vina and I agreed,that’s pretty bloody awesome!!
“I am SO happy that they took a chance on me and that they’re actively doing more to support women. Internationally they have created two scholarships as well, for women to come to America for 10 days to see what it is like for women at the HQ.”
Is there anything in particular that you think puts off women wanting to join the tech sector?
“Im not sure, I think where I am still at the start of my career Im not best placed to answer that one. One thing I kept hearing at a Ohio Celebrating Women in Computing (OcWIC) conference I attended recently, was that women in tech often don’t feel like they are respected, which I can understand, but it makes me realise how lucky I have been to be able to work for an employer that supports me to be the best that I can be.”
Which leads me to my next question, what is it that you love about your current role?
“I like that I have freedom to suggest ideas. I feel like I can speak up and like I am part of the team. Even if one of my ideas isn’t actioned, they will respect my ideas. I’ve never been made to feel like I’ve said something wrong. I’ve even been made part of the new hire orientation which is really cool. They’re giving me a lot of opportunities to improve myself and learn along the way. I think I have gotten really lucky with where I am”
Given we know that tech is often a male dominated world, would you say that you’ve had to work harder to ‘prove yourself’ in this industry, compared to say if you had perhaps continued following a career in teaching?
“Sometimes I have had to feel like I’ve had to prove myself because ima girl but more so to friends and family rather than employers. In school sometimes I felt like I had imposter syndrome being the only girl in class for quite a few semesters. But my employers and current boss have always been able to see the positives in me.”
The only girl for quite a few semesters, really?
“Yeah, I was nearly the only one the whole time. There was a girl that joined once for a few classes, she wasn’t around for long, disappeared as quickly as she had arrived.
She rejoined our class last semester. Regrettably I had kept my distance. I’ll be honest, I’d felt a bit intimidated, she was a much better programmer and coder than I’d ever be (despite that not being my thing) but then after a while I realisedthat all the things that made me nervous about being there may well be making her nervous too. We’d had a really hard class, and I used that as a chance to say ‘hey – would you mind helping me with this, maybe we could grab a coffee or something’ and actually she was pretty cool.
That was towards the end of the semester. I think it can be sometimes intimidating when there is another woman in tech and she’s more skilled then you but I do wish I had reached out to her sooner, we’re friends now.”
Is there any advice that you would give to someone thinking about starting a career in tech, or even thinking abutstudying something tech related?
“I had absolutely no prior knowledge of Computer Science – it’s not easy – but its okay to doubt yourself. Rise up and prove wrong to yourself and the people who think you can’t to it. I’d spent my whole life thinking I was going to be a teacher, so when I switched my majors my family were a bit surprised.
I think the best advice I could give would be – take chances!
By taking chances I have found a passion for something that I didn’t know was there."
I can appreciate you’re still fairly young in your career, but do you have any tips for women out there who may be seeking new job opportunities?
“Definitely, stick to your guns of what you want. I have big bold letters on my resume ‘INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYST’ – When I am speaking to HR people, that’s what I say I am looking for and Im politely not interested in roles that deviate away from that. Im not an Info SecOfficer, or an Info Sec Technician or anything like that, I am an Information Security Analyst.
Don’t let employers push you into the vacancies they need to fill, go for the vacancies you want”.
It was so lovely to catch up with Vina - her enthusiasm for having an enjoyable career in Information Security was so enlightening and I absolutely wish her all the best with her Graduation, with securing her first permanent role post education, and with everything else.