Meet Anna Webb, Head of Security Operations at Kocho

Anna Webb

Anna Webb, Head of Security Operations at Kocho, is a passionate cyber security leader and analyst with over 20 years’ experience. She joined Kocho in 2020 to head up its security operations, tasked with delivering its security capabilities and launching its state-of-the-art Security Operations Centre (SOC) in Cardiff.  Today, Anna is responsible for designing, developing and deploying complex security solutions for a host of Kocho’s clients which range from mid-market and Enterprise companies to government organisations.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role?

I never planned to go into IT, despite having a computer at the age of eight, which was a big deal for that time. I was interested in travel and tourism, but in the end, I opted to study for a HND in Computer Science at what is now the University of South Wales, which I really enjoyed.

After completing my education, I worked for mainly household names such as Johnson & Johnson and Warner Lambert, which is now part of Pfizer. I was always the only woman on the team, which was sometimes a challenge.

I moved on to work for Logica, now CGI Group, as a second line engineer. It was here where I adopted the ethos of developing and supporting members of the team who really wanted to push themselves. From this role I worked my way up to a team leader position, and then I was invited to establish my own team, focused on offering what the company called Proactive Services.

After Logica – and prior to joining Kocho – I was at Alert Logic, where I joined the security operations team as a service delivery manager, and later moved on to be the department’s incident response lead manager.

Having joined Kocho in 2020 on May the 4th (which some techies will interpret as a good sign), I’m very excited to be here and part of a talented team that is building something truly great. My time at Kocho has provided me with first-hand knowledge of how the exponential increase in cyber-attacks has created new challenges for organisations across all industries, particularly those that have embraced hybrid working as part of their digital transformation journeys. It’s rewarding when you’re able to help clients overcome these challenges.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! After I graduated, I found myself working for British Airways in maintenance as a help desk operator where I received advice that would come to guide the rest of my career: “Stick with a place for two years, get all the skills and experiences you need and then move on. Keep doing this until you find the career you can fall in love with.” I’ve arrived at that point now.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date and did you need to overcome any challenges to get it?

Forming and then growing the Proactive Services department at what is now CGI, was an undoubted highlight, but my biggest achievement would have to be at Kocho. Being able to create and lead its new SOC has been an amazing project to drive forward. Also, having the support of a great team at the SOC as well as the support of my directors enables me to deliver results that benefit Kocho and its clients.

What one lesson from your career do you think others would find most helpful?

To not get overwhelmed when things don’t go according to plan. It’s a small thing, but too many of us get disheartened when plans fall through or the results that we were anticipating don’t materialise. But if you get too burdened by these feelings you’ll miss out on the good things and the opportunities to grow even further.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech and have you faced any in your own career, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I have been very fortunate to not run up against too many challenges in my career. There have been occasions where internal politics have disrupted my work and altered my career path for the worst. The ‘old boy network’ type culture is still a force to be reckoned with across all industries, and I have experienced first-hand when a leader unabashedly chooses favourites among their subordinates based on gender or background, and it can be demotivating when your talent is not recognised because of internal politics.

The ability to maintain integrity and morality when facing adversity is something I stand by. I People should trust that their own experience and skills will get them on their desired career path.

I also think that the wider issues facing women working in tech are still going strong, such as misogynistic hiring practises and not supporting women with childcare. Flexibility is something I have benefitted a lot from at Kocho and we employ a very diverse workforce.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I have always appreciated companies that don’t pigeon hole people, that instead offer training and personal development opportunities based on merit. There should be no “you are a woman, therefore…” about it, as this can make us feel pitied or condescended.  Instead, everyone should be given access to all the toolkits they need to fill in the gaps in their knowledge and further their career. Recognising employees based on their talent and appetite to work hard, will undoubtedly lead to better female representation.

Also, Women in Leadership and/or Women in Tech programmes are hugely beneficial; there are initiatives like these at Kocho and it’s great to participate in them. 

At Kocho, we’re actively strengthening our relationship with my old University – the University of South Wales – in order to nurture and inspire the next generation of cyber security talent – particularly young women who might look to me as an example of how women can successfully embark on a career in technology.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Offer support to organisations such Women in STEM and Girls in Tech would be a good place to start, but ultimately, I believe that encouragement for women to go into tech should start at grass roots level, at home or school. It is still very common that boys are pushed towards tech related subjects more.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking events such as Women in Cyber and Women in Cyber Scotland provide a great platform to meet other senior women in tech, or just having general chats with peers.

Personally, I also think that we should never stop learning and take opportunities to hone our skills, be it professionally or leadership skills.