By Nidhi Kannoujia, ISC2 Candidate
The cybersecurity industry is a dynamic and promising field that welcomes diverse perspectives. It requires individuals who understand the intricacies of other industries since security is a collective responsibility. While the security industry is embracing diversity, unfortunately, it still faces a significant gap in terms of gender representation, particularly with women being underrepresented. Women account for only 25% jobs in cybersecurity, according to a Women in Cybersecurity report by Cybersecurity Ventures. There is an opportunity to leverage our skills to close this gender gap. Several years ago, I began exploring this exciting field and have continued to dive deeper into it ever since, discovering new areas to learn and grow. I am delighted to share my experience finding a unique space within this industry.
But first, who am I? My name is Nidhi Kannoujia and I am based in San Francisco. I have been working in product management for more than 15 years with companies, such as AWS, Nutanix, and Oracle. I also contribute to the community by educating the next generation of product managers through an organization called Product School and serving as President of a non-profit organization – the IIT Bay Area Alumni Association – focused on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. For the last five years, I’ve been working on developing my skills and understanding around cybersecurity. As an ISC2 Candidate, I am working towards taking the CISSP exam later this year. I find it fascinating that there is always an opportunity to raise the bar in security. In the security industry, we are never done!
Discover Your Purpose, Know Your Why
Discovering your 'why' is crucial in leaving your mark. In my case, my interest in the cybersecurity industry inspired me to pursue a career in the sector. However, passion alone cannot suffice when venturing into a new industry. My eagerness to learn and explore every aspect of the industry led me to seek out new sources of information, including industry reports, business news, and innovative product ideas. This allowed me to approach a cybersecurity career unconventionally, with an application-oriented perspective.
That said, reading or researching cannot replace hands-on experience or a defined purpose to guide your journey. The support of industry leaders who can offer mentorship, provide opportunities to engage and guide you on your path are immensely valuable. I was fortunate enough to engage some industry leaders who welcomed conversations, mentored me and extended opportunities to participate, which helped me expand my perspective.
Ultimately, finding your 'why' is about identifying what truly inspires and motivates you. When we can tap into that inner passion and drive, we will be better equipped to face the challenges that come our way and there is no limit to what we can achieve.
Build Upon Foundation
Making the move to a cybersecurity role can be intimidating, especially if you are career changing. However, it's crucial to realize that your skills are transferable, and you don't have to start from scratch. I considered my career pathway, I looked at my transferable skills, and mapped them to the cybersecurity industry. Skills such as product ideation, understanding customer requirements and problem solving are highly transferable to a cybersecurity role. Your skills are your primary assets. Learning to apply them in the context of cybersecurity means you can take a step in a new direction without abandoning your previous career experience.
Getting help and guidance from individuals who have walked a similar path can be instrumental in successfully career changing. I searched for a mentor who could understand my objectives and obstacles and offer practical advice based on their real-life experiences. Although I acquired input from multiple sources and successfully navigated my journey, I believe that having a female mentor would have simplified my path.
All Experience Counts
To make a significant career transition, gaining experience and learning from others is crucial. I have learnt a lot by committing to voluntary work and contributing to meaningful projects. Using your network can also provide opportunities to engage in real work, such as volunteering for organizations or securing an internship. Remember, experience is experience, whether it's paid or not.
Through my efforts to gain more experience, I have come to realize that the cybersecurity industry is in extreme need of more visible and accessible women role models. The perception of it being a male-dominated field is still prevalent. However, it's essential to acknowledge that women have a vital role to play in this industry. For women who are just starting in cybersecurity, it can be an intimidating journey. However, by actively seeking out relatable role models, establishing connections and receiving invaluable support, we can empower ourselves and unlock a world of limitless possibilities.
Any change can be challenging but change in the right direction holds significant value. The cybersecurity industry needs a diverse perspective to shape the better future. We must strive to make it more inclusive and open to fresh ideas and opinions. We need to see more women as role models, we need to step up and become role models and mentors ourselves, we need to break down any barriers that stand in our way.