WOMEN IN TECH: THE INSIDE SCOOP OF AN OUTSIDER
As a woman in tech, you may feel like you have to compete with men because you are the one being pushed aside. You are outnumbered and you feel like no matter how capable you are for a role, someone else will take it from you for just being a dude.
So how do you break into a world that is predominately male? Well, I’ll tell you... it’s not a walk in the park, but it’s also entirely up to you.
To start off, my knowledge was limited but my perseverance wasn’t. Before I joined an infosec role I asked a lot of questions, did my own research, and practiced with free tools online. I tried to transition to an infosec role at an IT job I held, only to be treated as the secretary. I was failing at trying and almost gave up.
I decided to join a boot camp to learn more. I ended up being one of three women in the classroom. It was strange and again I felt like it was going to be pointless and that I would be pushed aside. However, I focused on my learning and kept moving forward. My teacher was very inclusive and even mentioned that we should follow Infosec women on Twitter to hear more about their stories. Reading about these women and seeing their success made me feel comfortable and I knew that I would do well. Of course, there were obstacles, but that’s expected. For example, networking outside of school led to creepy stares and awkward conversations with men so I avoided that.
But how do you get the interview? Never give up. I felt like a failure when I couldn’t transition into infosec while already being in IT. After graduating from the boot camp, jobs were ignoring me left and right. All I wanted was an interview. So, I kept applying to everything I knew I was qualified for. That famous “what is for you no one will take” quote (which sounds better in Spanish) was always on my mind. And it finally happened.
I got an interview! The hardest part of my journey was in fact getting an interview. Having someone see your name and qualifications and giving you the opportunity to talk is amazing. However, in the back of my mind, I was worried that the interview would be like my experiences networking.
On interview day I had two approaches: show them that I can fit in with “the boys” or be myself and talk about my qualities and capabilities. It all came down to the video call and the type of person who was on the other end. (Sadly, I’m probably not the only woman who thinks like this. We always have to put up a persona to get a certain job.) Back to the interview, there were two men on the other end of the video call and I instantly felt outnumbered and pushed aside, but I didn’t show it. The conversation began and I dropped the persona. It was such a comfortable conversation that it was easy to be myself and talk about my qualities. Maybe I was lucky, but I was also definitely prepared.
Fast forward to today, I got the job, hooray! How does it feel? Honestly, it feels great, I knew I was capable. I also felt the comfort that the role would be fulfilled by someone with the capabilities and qualities to perform the job and not some John Doe. However, the only weird thing is that I am the only woman on my team. So, it circles back to being outnumbered, nonetheless this time it’s not a competition. I am not pushed aside and honestly, I don’t notice that I am the only woman. I also don’t feel like “one of the boys”. We are a team of qualified individuals and we respect and help each other out.
So, what should you expect being a woman in infosec? Like everything in life, there will be obstacles, but you have to move forward. If a job feels uncomfortable because you are the only woman, continue to look for the right fit. Face it, women have it tough when it’s not their world but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. Success is up to you and the opportunity you are willing to settle for. I could have easily accepted to be treated as the secretary for that infosec department, sure I would have had an “infosec” role, but it would have felt like I was there because of a quota or because I was only capable of secretarial work. However, I moved forward, and I worked hard to be a qualified individual on an infosec team.