Cyber Security professionals offer students advice and insights at Birkbeck Careers event

This post was written by Jenna Davies from Birkbeck Careers

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Students were exposed to plenty of practical advice, industry insights and networking opportunities this week as professionals from the world of cyber security shared their experiences as well as their thoughts on getting into the sector at a panel discussion organised by Birkbeck Careers.

The fundamental message was extremely positive, with every panellist indicating that there is a route for anyone to get into the industry; it’s a case of finding the right one for you.

Nigel Jones, CEO of IAAC (Information Assurance Advisory Council) highlighted that companies are often looking for bothnon techie’ as well as techie people. He revealed his outlook that there’s always a way to map your route into cyber and no matter what your background, there’s a career in cyber if you want to go down this path.

The ever growing skills shortage was a hot topic of conversation and Nick Wilding, General Manager of Cyber Resilience at AXELOS Global Best Practice (a joint venture between the UK Government and Capita plc) highlighted the demand for the skills today’s students have. Being a geography graduate, Nick emphasised that the skills required are multi-faceted and the growth of the industry demonstrates the need for those in the audience to put their skills to use in this arena.

Fellow panellist Erin Jones – Senior Associate at PwC UK cyber security practice – took her teaching role developing computer science and IT schemes and turned it into a career within cyber. Erin spoke of her own education at an all-girls school, indicating that tech was never advertised as a career option, which is controversial given the low number of women currently working within technology. The barrier for Erin isn’t the lack of women in the industry; it’s the lack of awareness as cyber is often seen as the ‘dark art’.

Nick reiterated Erin’s description and the need to change its perception with organisations, who are often tired of hearing about the threats they face and need holistic approaches from those who can support them.

Daryl Flack, CIO of Blockphish facilitated the event and touched on the vast range of roles available within cyber security; management alone provides lots of opportunities such as working as a consultant, within sales, as a creative addition to the team, an entrepreneur or within the ethical side of the industry. He advised the audience to start getting into something remotely cyber to kick off their path, or checking out new websites that need something more secure and finding your route in this way.

Like the majority of successful professionals it starts with passion and commitment, and regardless of your chosen course of study it seems very plausible to get into this ever growing industry.  Erin pointed out that one of her current colleagues does threat intelligence and studied geography at university while another studied Spanish and now works in their technical response team. Anything applies as long as you have that passion.

The conversation continued over networking and undoubtedly left some attendees with the motivation and belief that they can very effectively contribute to this field of work. So more of us can now step forward to stop the hackers, fight the phishing emails and join this exciting and valuable sector that impacts just about everyone in this day and age.

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Women Talk Tech: Continued…

This post was contributed by Birkbeck MSc computer Science student Liudmila Veshneva. She attended the Women talk Tech event organised between Birkbeck’s Careers & Employability service and Girls in Tech. This blog follows from fellow student, Aida Zibaite’s recent blog article.

Women in TechI have recently attended “Women Talk Tech – How I transformed my career”, an event organised by Birkbeck and Girls in Tech. Because I found the speakers so incredibly inspiring and because I believe so much of what was said will resonate not only with many women on their journey into tech world, but also with anyone going through career change I decided to share my own thoughts on the subject.

Sinead Mac Manus, Founder & CEO of Fluency, Nathalie Richards, Founder & CEO of Edukit and Harveen Chugh, Entrepreneurship Consultant to universities, start-ups and government shared their experiences of leaving successful corporate careers and well-paid jobs to start their own businesses in the social enterprise sector.

A number of interesting issues came up during the talk. One that had me nodding in agreement was on the topic of confidence. It seems that women are particularly prone to suffer from lack of confidence and I am not an exception. On numerous occasions it has been mentioned to me that I need to be more vocal. Knowing about this shortcoming and making conscious effort to overcome it has definitely helped. I have never done anything as drastic as Nathalie Richards who became a stand-up comedian to overcome her fear of public speaking, but even small steps can make a big difference and open new opportunities which women are systematically missing because they underestimate what they are capable of. Rita Usanga, Digital Media Specialist and Cofounder of InvestWell, who was moderating the event, encouraged everyone to “feel the fear” and do something outside of their comfort zone as a way to improve on the front of confidence.

Finding a mentor was another good piece of advice shared during the talk. It is especially relevant at the start of one’s career. Having had a supportive and encouraging manager myself, I appreciate the impact he had on my professional journey. Unfortunately, finding the right mentor can be a challenge, at least in my recent experience, even with numerous schemes set up to encourage women into tech. Of course it is not the reason to stop looking; the benefits of support and guidance are irrefutable.

Women in Tech (l-r) Rita Usanga, Nathalie Richards, Harveen Chugh and Sinead Mac Manus

Women in Tech (l-r) Rita Usanga, Nathalie Richards, Harveen Chugh and Sinead Mac Manus

One question from the audience that I would like to highlight was whether sharing your ideas with other entrepreneurs is good practice. And Sinead was very adamant in answering: “yes”. She explained that majority of success in starting your own business comes from right and swift implementation. Share your ideas without revealing your “secret sauce” was Nathalie’s advice. I would like to expand on this topic and encourage sharing good advice, experiences and opportunities.

Listening to these strong-willed, hardworking and purpose-driven women, their stories, learning about challenges they overcome on daily basis and seeing how determined they are to persevere made me feel less alone and, to put it mildly, “insane” about starting my own journey into tech. It certainly was not an easy choice in my case, especially after some reactions I got from my friends, family and colleagues when I told them about my decision to quit my hard-earned job in banking and start all over again in a completely unrelated industry. When I am feeling particularly doubtful about my choice to take a plunge, I only need to imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t and it all falls back into place. It also helps to remember a quote by Beverly Sills: “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try”. For me personally, regret is one of the worst feelings I had to deal with, and regret of not trying your best has very long shelf life.

Read more about the Women in Tech event here

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Women Talk Tech

This post was contributed by Aida Zibaite, current student of Birkbeck’s Foundation Degree in Information Technology.  Aida attended the Women talk Tech event organised between Birkbeck’s Careers & Employability service and Girls in Tech.

Women in Tech (l-r) Rita Usanga, Nathalie Richards, Harveen Chugh and Sinead Mac Manus

Women in Tech (l-r) Rita Usanga, Nathalie Richards, Harveen Chugh and Sinead Mac Manus

Last week I attended ‘Women Talk Tech –How I transformed my Career’ held at WeWork Spitafields. It was a talk with three truly inspiring Birkbeck alumnae: Sinead Mac Manus, Founder & CEO of Fluency; Nathalie Richards, Founder & CEO of Edukit; and Harveen Chugh, Specialist in Entrepreneurship & former Growth manager for the UK government`s Sirius Programme.

Firstly, Rita Usanga, the moderator and a very passionate woman in tech herself, set the mood by asking the panel to reflect on their careers over the past decade – a question I would personally dread the most in a job interview! Their responses captured my attention and compelled me to share my own thoughts.

These very successful ladies studied Bioinformatics, Arts Management and Migration Studies at Birkbeck whilst pursuing their respective careers, at some point realising they didn’t quite enjoy it and they needed to make a change. Through trial and error, high challenges and risks they became who they are now – digital technology entrepreneurs.

At that point I had a few questions buzzing in my head:

  • What message are they trying to convey by sharing their success stories?
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • What is the driving force behind their success?
  • What are their core values?
  • Or simply, from my bewildered girl in tech point of view: What problem are they trying to solve tonight?

The conversation made me think about my own experiences as a woman studying computer science. Recently, I attended a tech workshop at Birkbeck held by a software development firm. I was one of three women in the room with another 20 men, the majority of them tech students. I couldn’t help thinking that, although the men had many questions and were taking full advantage of the opportunity to seek advice on their own career development, the women remained silent.

I raised my hand and asked: How many women are there among the 30 employees in your company? Suddenly, the room went silent. There was a very long pause and then I got my answer: five female employees. Only two of them have some software development skills and not a single one of them are in an IT role.

So the key message I took from the event is that there is an evident lack of women in this field yet, believe me, there are so many of us who can code, solve problems, create innovative ideas and overall add so much value to bring success to any business. However, at the same time, it made me more determined. A passion for tech has life-changing potential. Moreover, reflecting back on that evening’s truly inspirational stories I have to agree with Rita’s opinion that books cannot prepare you for the reality of working in Tech. You have to get out there, network, make valuable connections, find your passion and possibly find mentors to guide you along the way into finding your own magical path to this ever-evolving world and make your own impact. The question is what is holding you back and why don’t you start today?

I would like to sum up with a final thought: One’s time is very valuable and irreplaceable in terms of how one chooses to spend it. I certainly made an investment that night and only time will show its return. Hopefully it will turn out to be something I can measure and share in value to be able to humbly give back a similar yet very unique gift to my own to college community and other women in Tech.

Read more about the Women in Tech event here

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The importance of Web Science

Richard has a BSc in Physics from University of Leicester and an
MSc in 
Advanced Richard Brownlow copyInformation Systems from Birkbeck. He has over 20 years’ experience in industry as a Software Engineer and Software Project Manager and is currently studying for a PhD at the London Knowledge Lab where he is a member of the Weaving Communities of Practice Project. His research is in the design of tools to help domain experts integrate heterogeneous data sets.This post was contributed by PhD student Richard Brownlow. 

 

Annually at Birkbeck, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems celebrates the work of its founder, the late Dr Andrew Booth, who was a pioneer in computer hardware and machine translation. Hosting this year’s Andrew Booth Memorial Lecture was the London Knowledge Lab, a unique interdisciplinary collaboration between two of the UK’s most prominent centres of research – Birkbeck and the UCL Institute of Education.

This year, we were honoured to have Professor Dame Wendy Hall present. She has played a foundational role in the development of the Web, the Semantic Web and Web Science, with her current research focussed in applications of the Semantic Web and in exploring the interface between the life and physical sciences. Along with being the first person outside of North America to be elected to the post of President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), she has also been hugely influential and inspirational in promoting women’s careers in computer science.

Along with Professor Hall’s lecture, a broad range of London Knowledge Lab research was on show in the Department, for staff, students, alumni and guests from other institutions and across the industry. Opportunities for future collaborations and research were discussed. Some of the research demos included projects relating to Learning Technologies, such as LIBE which supports literacies through lifelong learning with inquiry based education. Other research demos were in the areas of ontology querying and mobile location analytics. I was also given the opportunity to demonstrate some of my own research interests including the knowledge base developed for the Weaving Communities of Practice project.

The importance of Web Science

The magnificent Keynes Library in Gordon Square was the setting as Professor Hall kindly delivered her lecture, captivating the audience with her insight on what the discipline of Web Science means in the context of the history of the World-Wide-Web. This was especially interesting given the foundational role she played in the development of the Web, including her collaborations with other giants of the sector such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

internet

Discussing the role of the Web in knowledge creation and sharing and the need to understand it in terms of both its technical and its social aspects, she also spoke on how this multidisciplinary field has come to be known as Web Science and the establishment of the Web Science Trust (WST) in 2006. She went on to describe how Web Science encompasses the theory and practice of Social Machines and how such machines are quite different from Turing Machines, which lie at the heart of every computer.

Professor Hall described the establishment of the Web Science Trust Network of Laboratories (WSTNet), an initiative furthering academic excellence in the field. There are currently fifteen such labs, including two in the UK. She then went on to describe a new exciting initiative called the Web Observatory, through which global partnerships are established to share data sets (both open and closed) along with associated Metadata and Analytics tools. Through these initiatives, Professor Hall described how Web Science aims to understand the origins, current state and possible futures of the Web, and to further the development of new research methodologies.

It is just over 10 years since Professor Hall delivered one of the inaugural talks at the London Knowledge Lab. In her vote of thanks, Professor Alex Poulovassilis – one of the two Co-Directors of the London Knowledge Lab – drew links to that inaugural lecture, firstly in the role of the Web in knowledge acquisition, sharing and dissemination, and secondly in the need to keep historical “memories” of the Web in order to enable the longitudinal analyses required for understanding its evolution and future.

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