As a career changer who made a positive choice to move into cyber security my background in technology is chequered as I have taken several leaps forwards (and sideways!) to land where I want to be.

In 2005 I joined the Royal Air Force as an Aerospace Battle Manager and spent 12 years as a surveillance and systems officer in command and control centres running national and NATO air defence and expeditionary operations both in the UK and overseas. As well as my own operational surveillance and decision making role I was responsible for managing teams of technical experts in areas such as electronic warfare, digital data links, networked systems and radars and integrating them into a comprehensive air defence picture. I thrived on the high pressure and high tempo of the work and felt proud to be carrying out a role that was integral to the security of the nation. As my career progressed I was fortunate to be involved in security planning for high profile events involving cross-government co-ordination as well joint military operational planning and staff functions. This period taught me a great deal, not least that managing stakeholder relationships and being able to explain highly complex and technical issues to non-specialists in a way that was meaningful to them was as important as being highly competent at your own job and was an unexpected area strength.

By 2017 I had a young family and when my youngest child was two I made the difficult decision to leave the career I loved in order to pursue a new adventure in the Middle East with my family for 5 years. Going on a career break with no exit strategy was a daunting prospect so I focused on doing what interested me and used my time to study, earning an MA with distinction in Terrorism, Crime and Global Security with a focus on Russian Foreign and Security Policy. My dissertation focused Russian and Chinese approaches to cyber conflict and I realised that a cyber security role within the defence sector would offer the sense of purpose combined with technical interest I had been looking for. I had already done some basic coding and continued to develop my technical understanding though the Immersive Labs Digital Cyber Academy.

Whilst attending a RUSI event to inform my MA research I met my current CISO who suggested I apply for a role within her team and within 2 months of returning to the UK in July 2022 I found myself as Head of Standards and Governance with the BAE Systems GRC team. Combining a return to work and a new career was a steep learning curve but I was in a supportive environment and relished the challenge. When the role of Strategic Cyber Threat Intelligence specialist within the same team came it was far sooner than I felt ready for, but it was my dream role and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by so I jumped at the chance.