How I discovered a career in cyber security was for me
This is a guest post written by Zoya Anwar, who was part of Cyber Discovery.
Imagine a time machine. Now imagine me in it with a cup of coffee in hand, strolling back a year to tell my younger self that I would like to pursue a career in cyber security. The first thing I would do is ask myself ‘what is cyber security?’.
My range of computing knowledge would be limited to the world of GCSEs: a sea of numbered grades; where coding, the backbone of traditional computer science, were to be replaced by written exams; where I could achieve the highest possible mark by copying out the definition of cyber security eleven and a half times, but never truly understanding what it is.
Now fast forward to present me that has finally linked cyber security and the world of protecting our expanding virtual lives, disbelief would be quick to follow.
What made me think I could purse a career in cyber security?
Of course, I was competent with computers, like most in my generation, but I’d also clicked on my fair share of links shadier than a pitch-black screen, and my password (the same for almost everything) was, well, guessable to say the least.
The image of cybersecurity that I had in my head was how most people see computer science I guess – a group of people who could recite all the mechanisms of a computer and all the peculiar abbreviations in all the useful software quicker than the alphabet, while I would be late to the game. And there it was: in a world-renowned for being mostly male, I would inevitably be as out of place as a blind panda at a game of cards.
I belong here just as much as anyone else
CyberStart, a cyber security learning platform for young people, hasn’t entirely changed this gender perception for me. I would be kidding myself to say the industry doesn’t still have a long and steep road to go. However, CyberStart did something far more effective than covering up problems. It showed me that, as a woman in the industry, I can do this just as well as anyone else, if not better. I belong here just as much as anyone else.
I assure you that you will understand more than you ever thought was possible
You don’t need to have any previous knowledge to participate, it is truly the perfect introduction of cyber security. Although, like me, it might take you a some time to build up your knowledge, never quit because the feeling of accomplishment is so satisfying.
By starting from the cyber security basics in a fun and interactive way, such as coding games (unlike current forms of formal assessment), CyberStart eliminates a previously existing wall. To get past the bricks, the industry relied on the newcomers to already have a grounding in practical cyber security and consequently an interest, a flawed concept in a nation with a shortage of cyber security professionals.
Whole days and nights were spent researching what then seems like the most basic of knowledge. However, once you reach that Eureka moment, I assure you that you will understand more than you ever thought was possible, from manipulating flaws in the URLs of websites, all the way to finding secret files in an image.
If you had asked a past me where I would be in a year, it certainly wouldn’t have ever been over here, in this industry, hungry for more!
It might not seem to come easy for you, and like me, you might have to invest a little more effort and patience than most. But despite this, the sense of achievement you will receive while completing challenges and solving problems you never thought you could, is incomparable.
Perhaps, if you’re similar to myself, CyberStart will change your perception of what you can do and who you can be.