In August 2019, I started an epic #FF to promote amazing women from the cybersecurity industry. The list kept growing, and I decided to collate all the names in an article to make it a little bit more accessible. Now it’s time to sit down with all these amazing women and learn more about their experiences.
Ayesha Khine is an experienced cyber security consultant currently working for Bridewell Consulting within the aviation sector. As a security specialist her main areas of expertise are cyber risk, business continuity, project planning and end-user education awareness.
Before getting into a cyber role, Ayesha worked as a service delivery engineer, a CRM administrator and as a SharePoint consultant, across a variety of industries.
In her spare time she enjoys attending cyber conferences and meet-ups. She is also studying for her CISSP.
How did you get into the cybersecurity field?
Fresh out of school and unsure of what my path was going to be, I came across an ad in the local newspaper offering to pay a wage of £100 a week to study computing as well as gain industry qualifications. I wasn’t a complete novice at the time but it definitely had never occurred to me that this might be something I could do for a career.
17 year old me was instantly intrigued. I applied and just a couple of weeks later, I was on the course. For 6 months I trained at the academy where I proved to be a natural with computers — pushing myself to be top of the class and even winning an award for being an outstanding student in the South London area. This gave me the confidence to start applying for my first job in IT, taking on a role as a service desk analyst where I was finally able to put what I had learnt into practice. My confidence was boosted further in seeing the number of females working the top jobs alongside the guys in the Tech department. I pictured myself being where they were in 10 years’ time.
Inspired and wanting to push myself to their level, I applied to study for a degree in Computer Science and although going back to school was a little nerve-wracking, I dove into it head first and with an open mind. It really wasn’t until my final year of study, that I knew I’d made the right choice — a module called ‘Social, Professional and Ethical Issues in Information Systems’ got me instantly hooked and I absolutely relished in writing papers on cyber warfare, data privacy and cryptocurrencies amongst others.
After achieving a first class in Computer Science, I applied for a MSc in Network and Information Security — gaining a scholarship and getting to study under some amazing professors. Despite the Masters, entering the field of Cyber didn’t prove easy. I applied and interviewed for many, many different jobs, always to the same result — “you’re good but we’ve hired someone with more experience”. In the end, I opted for a non-cyber role but kept searching for that chance to get my foot in the door. I joined Meetup/Eventbrite groups, did security interning, reached out to security professionals on Twitter and even asked to help out with the in-house security team at the company I was working for. With much perseverance I eventually landed my first cyber analyst role and have continued to work my way up ever since.
What are the main challenges in this field?
The cyber landscape is ever evolving. To keep ahead of the game, you really need to keep on top of what’s new in the field from security frameworks to technological advances and particularly where the next big threat is coming from. This is a challenge for anybody, whether you’re brand new or have 30 years’ experience. It is a highly fast paced environment and you can’t really sit in a corner — you have to be very proactive. Put yourself out there and speak to and learn from as many different people as you can.
What are the things you’ve learned being a woman in cybersecurity?
The industry can still seem quite male dominated in places and there’s always the temptation to try and be one of the boys to fit in. It’s important to value yourself and your opinion and understand that we’re all individuals and all bring a different perspective to the table. The support of other women has been invaluable to me. I think that it’s important that we all pass that support on to those who are new to the field, who may benefit from another females perspective. We all need to look out for each other if we really want to see the profession get to that point where there’s more of a balance.
What advice would you give to women who would like to join the industry?
Be confident in the work you do and don’t be afraid to be a part of the conversation and make your ideas heard. The boys definitely aren’t! If you say something wrong or make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. You’ve likely just learnt something from it so take it all as a positive.
Who are your role models?
Toni Sless — founder of the Fraud Women’s Network. She guided me through the industry from the very start, introducing me to so many amazing women in the field and always being there to listen and offer sound advice — an amazing mentor!
Tony Monachello — Head of Security at Statpro. A previous colleague of mine, Tony went out of his way to help me out, allowing me to help out with security projects such as RFP’s and DR testing, when I wasn’t even part of the security team.
Enkeleda Ibrahimi — founder of MeetCyber. A friend of mine who has made a real difference to my career in the short time I have known her support and encouragement have been invaluable to me.
If you could go back in time to your first days in the industry, what would you do differently or tell yourself?
I would tell myself not to worry so much. The person next to you might know more than you right now but you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. Concentrate on yourself, try your best and keep working hard. Eventually good things will come.
If you are a founder or a member of a community for women in security, can you introduce it?
MeetCyber — a global network of passionate cyber security professionals where you can connect and grow.
Fraud Women’s Network — providing women with networking opportunities, educational programs and mentoring opportunities.