Girls, Geeks and Cyber Security

22 February 2017

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Last Thursday, Karolina and I went along to represent Be-IT at a really interesting event organised by Girl Geek Scotland, entitled ‘Cyber Angels, Closing the Talent Gap.’ Among the keynote speakers were Alison Kennedy, who works with Isaca (which offers security certification), Claire Reid from PwC,Katie Lyne, Civ Tech Manager,Scottish Government and Jamie Graves, CEO of ZoneFox – the ‘rockstar’ of cyber security. 

We all know that a) there are (too many) areas of the economy suffering from a dearth of IT talent, and b) cyber security is massively important and getting even more so. The consistent message from this seminar was that unless we (as a country) look to other options to fill the skills gap in the specific area of cyber security, the problems are simply going to get worse.

There is, in many quarters, a feeling, an assumption even, that cyber security requires highly specialist skills.  Well, yes, but only to a point.  Alison Kennedy, after a long career in retail banking, used her transferable skills to gain the necessary certification and is now an in-demand speaker on the subject.  At her own admission, she’s not a geek, but she is convinced that there are a lot of techies out there who could – and should – go down the certification route.  “Don’t be shy” was her message - there are so many opportunities and if you are, say, currently an application developer, then it’s not too onerous a task to get the necessary certification and move your career into the cyber security arena, where there will be increasing demand for your skills and lots of opportunities to develop and be well rewarded as a consequence.

Claire Reid reinforced this message, telling the audience this is very much an emerging industry, no-one has all the answers and consequently there are lots of opportunities.  While I don’t disagree, the problem with this is that if people move from their current jobs into cyber security we still don’t have enough new people coming through the education system to backfill the jobs they have left.

Jamie’s speech was an interesting presentation of the work involved in setting up a cyber security business, and of the various sources of funding and help that are available to start-ups in the competitive marketplace we currently inhabit.

The other speaker I really liked was Katie Lyne from CIVtech (the event was hosted in the CIV tech office at Codebase). CIVtech is a really interesting, government-funded project that gives out cash to SMEs and start-ups that design solutions to public sector problems.  One of the biggest problems for these companies is being unable to compete against the big boys when it comes to tenders.  CIVtech helps SMEs engage with public sector and overcome some of these barriers to competition.  It’s a very worthwhile organisation and we hope to have a further blog on their work in the next month or so.

Finally, a big thank you to Girl Geek Scotland for organising the event. As a woman working in IT recruitment I know only too well how hard it is to recruit female techies.  We have written extensively in earlier blog posts about the problems of the education system and we know there is no short-term fix to be had there, but the reality is that we must get more girls coming through and taking up digital/IT jobs.  That reality was demonstrated for me just last week, when one of my clients said, a touch plaintively, “Susie, we’d love you to get us some more female techies – it’s all men here and although they are all very nice, it would be just great to have even a few women. We think the men would like it as well!”

Susie Toner, Be-IT Resourcing

 

 

 

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