As we celebrate women in tech week, a week which gives us the opportunity to showcase our wonderful women working in technology and highlight the opportunities that are available within the industry, it’s a good idea to look at some of the reasons why women do not get into tech in the same numbers as men. There are various myths and misconceptions surrounding the technology industry, particularly when it comes to working in it. I’m here, writing this blog, to bust one of the most prevalent myths – that you need an IT background to work in technology.
Whenever someone new asks me what I do for a job, and I tell them I work in cybersecurity, I am always met with the same general comments and queries:
“Oh that’s interesting, so you’re good with computers, and you can code?”
“How did you get into that? You must have a computer science degree?”
Whilst part of these statements may be true in some cases, it doesn’t apply across the board:
- Yes, I’m good with computers.
- No, I cannot code.
- No, I do not have a computer science degree, or even a degree related to technology.
My background is far from usual. I didn’t study for a STEM degree. I studied an English undergraduate degree from home. Later, I went on to do a master’s degree in Philosophy. My degrees clearly have nothing to do with the technology industry – I studied them purely for my own personal interest. I enjoy learning, and when I started my degrees, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do for a career.
Aside from my study, I always had an interest in technology. I was always fixing computers for friends and family, I also played video games and I loved problem-solving in general. It dawned on me after a few years of doing this that my passion lay in technology, and cybersecurity was a relatively new concept that interested me. When I began my cybersecurity career, I applied for an entry-level position with my very limited technical background, without a technical degree or certifications. I took the chance because I knew it was something I was passionate about, and something that I wanted to learn. The employer at the time ended up choosing to employ me over someone who was fully qualified purely based on my passion, my enthusiasm for the subject, and my willingness to learn and adapt. Though I was lucky, this is not the case with every employer, but it does show that it IS possible to kickstart a technology career without a comprehensive technology background.
My journey, however, was not without its struggles. Throughout my career, as a young woman in a male-dominated field, there were times I didn’t feel listened to or heard. I had to work harder to gain the respect of my peers, and I felt I had to “prove my worth” so to speak. The culture is improving as time passes, but I really believe diversity of thought is so important, and every company can always do better at encouraging it.
I’ve worked in the cybersecurity industry for 7 years now, gaining experience across various roles. Within these roles I decided to pursue and obtain professional certifications to further evidence my knowledge and I am now a cybersecurity manager within Capgemini. But I began my career with humanities degrees and without a fully-fledged technical background. This busts one big myth proving that one does not always need to have a purely technical background to begin working in technology. It is important to remember that one can cross-skill at any time in their life. While, having a STEM education would help, it is your drive, the passion for the subject, and a willingness to learn and develop yourself – what takes you far in life.
So my advice would be: Don’t let preconceptions such as this stand in your way.
I’ve also realised that many people misunderstand the cybersecurity industry, and this can put a lot of people (particularly women) off applying for roles. When people hear that I work in cybersecurity, they always assume I just do coding. But this is far from the truth. There are so many varied opportunities in cybersecurity, from very technical coding roles through to risk management, governance, training and awareness, threat intelligence, and solution development to name a few. It’s important to take the time to research an industry, learn about the myriad of opportunities available, and find out where your interests lie.
Author Mollie Chard