Who saves the world? Girls!teamsecconsult
The image of the hacker sitting in a dark room programming code is no longer true. The job profiles and opportunities in cybersecurity are as diverse as the field itself. Nevertheless, this image, which is still wrongly anchored in people's minds, contributes to the fact that too few women choose a job in cybersecurity.
Barbara Lenz is a Team Leader and Senior Project Manager at SEC Consult. In an interview, she told us about her perception of women in the cybersecurity industry.
Barbara, with your job at a cybersecurity company like SEC Consult, you work in what one would say is a "classically male-dominated" profession. When you think about your personal career, does a woman need a certain "mindset" to feel comfortable in such an industry?
Barbara Lenz: "First of all, I think we have to get rid of the stereotype that the industry consists only of male hackers who program their way into "somewhere." Of course, programming can also be a component of individual job descriptions in our industry. But the reasons of cyberattacks in companies often run much deeper. They can occur because of a lack of awareness of the topic in general or due to a problem in the company's processes. Due to the variety of problems you need specialists with a wide range of skills - from technical skills to organizational-planning skills when it comes to controlling processes, but also rhetorical skills when we try to "translate" a highly technical language in an understandable way to the customer.
To answer the question: I don't think that you must have a certain "mindset" as a woman to feel comfortable in the cybersecurity industry. In my experience, people - both women and men - want professions in which they have fun and where they can reach a certain level of self-fulfillment. A job in cybersecurity offers exactly those opportunities. Now, however, we must find a way to communicate this to young people, but especially to women."
What do we need to do to increase the number of women in cybersecurity? More education starting already in school?
Barbara Lenz: "Currently, our society in general is still too little concerned with the topic of cybersecurity; this is not a gender issue. More transparency and education would be very desirable. Most people are unaware of the dangers of disclosing their data on the Internet or on social media. And because there is simply still too little awareness here in general, it naturally does not yet find the appropriate space in school education either. Children are often given their own cell phones from the first grade or, now during digital school lessons, their own laptops or tablets, and neither parents nor children are aware of the dangers lurking on the Internet. There is still a lot missing here in terms of education and integration in the classroom and in the media in general to make this topic more present.
Subsequently it does not come to the mind of children (and parents!) what possibilities and opportunities there are in a professional context. Cybersecurity and the job opportunities are still too little perceived by women, but also by men. We should definitely work on that."
What skills do you need if you choose a career path in the cybersecurity industry?
Barbara Lenz:"I think the most important basic requirements are a fundamental interest in technology, but above all it requires a great deal of curiosity and an interest in looking behind the facades. Newcomers to the industry should be curious about how things work - for example, they should ask themselves how certain devices work and why something is the way it is. It's important to like to question and enjoy learning what's behind it. We only know the tip of the iceberg from the Internet. Everything below it lies in the so-called "darknet". If you work in cybersecurity, you can look behind the scenes and learn about this area as well. And that’s pretty cool and interesting."
What are your top 3 reasons for starting a career in cybersecurity?
Barbara Lenz: "Personally I think that it is a nice aspect of the job to make the world a bit safer and thus contribute something meaningful. Because cybersecurity is still a new field, I always get a lot of interest from outsiders when I talk about my job, due to the perceived complexity of the topic. I like that, too, because I enjoy exchanging ideas. Finally, salary and financial aspects also play a role, and here I have to say that - in contrast to many other industries - women also earn well and are not worse off than men."
What is your own perception as a female employee – in a leadership role - in the cybersecurity industry and specifically at SEC Consult?
Barbara Lenz: "Yes, the cybersecurity industry is a very male-dominated field. That's exactly why it would be great to mix up the male world here a bit (laughs). At SEC Consult, I've had nothing but positive experiences, both in working with my male colleagues and in my role as a team leader, I'm fully respected and recognized. If you want to develop your career, it really doesn't matter at all what gender you are. You just have to have the attitude to take on a leadership role."
What tips can you give women who want to make a career in cybersecurity and take on a leadership role?
Barbara Lenz: "For me, there is generally no area in which women can't excel - regardless of the industry. The best tip I can give: if someone notices that there is a certain interest, and someone is up for it... just do it! Have the courage and do it! For myself, I want to be the team leader for my employees that I have always wanted for myself. I think that women can actually be often the better supervisors, because they usually have greater empathic skills and can therefore respond better to their team."