Why I'm Pursuing a Career in Cybersecurity and Other Women Should Too

In June, LogRhythm sponsored a team of students pursuing careers in cybersecurity from Colorado to Singapore enabling them to participate in a competition hosted by Defence Science & Technology Agency in Singapore (DSTA). In honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’re sharing Team Lead, Yoanna Akis’ experience at the competition and why she thinks other women should consider a career in cybersecurity.

This spring was the end of my first year studying cybersecurity, and it has been an eye-opening experience thus far. In addition to pursuing my formal degree, I am also Team Lead for the Red Rocks Community College Cyber Team and President of the Cybersecurity Club. On the Cyber Team, I have experienced a variety of learning opportunities, with the most recent one being the Capture The Flag (CTF) competition hosted by Defence Science & Technology Agency in Singapore (DSTA).

Thanks to LogRhythm’s sponsorship, my teammates and I had the opportunity to fly halfway around the world to compete with local students. It was an invaluable experience. Observing how other students approached the challenges presented, including reverse engineering problems and code analysis, helped us gain fresh perspectives.

Yoanna's team at the DSTA Capture The Flag Competition Figure 1: Yoanna and her team at the DSTA Competition

In preparation for the competition, we had the privilege of doing practice runs, including a jeopardy-style CTF with the LogRhythm team in Boulder, Colorado. This allowed us to glean insights from real industry professionals. Another awesome experience!

Not only did we get hands-on experience and have a great time at the competition, but my teammates and I also worked in-sync and placed at the bronze level!

Yoanna's team after the DSTA Capture The Flag Competition Figure 2: Yoanna and her teammates after earning the bronze medal at the CTF competition

What Led Me to Pursue a Career in Cybersecurity

As a millennial, I grew up with technology, but if you’re looking for an inspiring story about how I fell in love with cybersecurity, I don’t have one.

Cybersecurity revealed itself as an interesting field after I spoke with some students and instructors at Red Rocks Community College. I was also fortunate to have the support of Joe Murdock, then Red Rocks’ Community College Cyber Security Program director, who encouraged me to apply for a scholarship. With the scholarship, the choice was clear; and I haven’t looked back since.

Cybersecurity is not a popular degree of choice among my peers — especially among my female peers. Having participated at the CTF in Singapore, I witnessed the need for more diverse talents in an industry that is constantly evolving. I realized that people from different countries and backgrounds approach activities and problems in unique ways, which is crucial for cybersecurity, as you need high adaptability and quick responses when it comes to preventing and mitigating cyber threats. Diversity on teams provides better solutions and significant overall gains.

Almost Anyone Can Pursue a Career in Cybersecurity

To attract more talent to the industry, we first need to dispel the preconceived notion that “If you’re not good with technology, then cybersecurity is not for you.”

On the contrary, I’ve found that the soft skills I developed as a personal fitness trainer and musician have allowed me to thrive in cybersecurity. These skills include project management, analytical thinking, creativity, and communication. Moreover, cybersecurity is not as far removed from everyday life as most people assume it is, given how technology has permeated almost all aspects of our lives. By extension, cybersecurity should also play a major role in how we interact with technology. Cybersecurity is a culture for all people, not something only known and practiced by experts.

How to Close the Cybersecurity Talent Gap

We need to do more to increase the appeal of the industry, starting by introducing children to cybersecurity early in their education. Various organizations and governments are working to provide cybersecurity education at childhood through adulthood to help fill the gap of security professionals in the market. Programs and competitions such as DSTA’s Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp (CDDC) help make the learning process fun and social. Furthermore, I encourage adults to learn about cybersecurity as well, as I have done.

Cybersecurity has become a meaningful path to pursue, given its impact on all of us, including individuals, organizations, academia, industry, and governments. While we don’t see a lot of women in cybersecurity today, I truly believe that sharing our perspectives and experiences will bring value and help others prepare for the cyber threat landscape.

For those who are keen on pursuing cybersecurity, just do it!

Are you a cybersecurity professional who wants to work for a company with cutting-edge technology and solutions? Check out LogRhythm’s current openings.