Meet Ciara Campbell, Senior Security Engineer, Tenable

Ciara Campbell

From a background in retail banking, Ciara decided to change careers and now has ten years of experience in tech roles for some of the largest global companies and now has a pivotal role within the Vulnerability Management Engineering team at Tenable.

In her role, she regularly scopes, consults and is instrumental in the final architecture of customer deployments across the UK & Ireland to help them address the business risk posed from cybersecurity weaknesses.

She is also heavily involved in both internal and initiatives promoting Women in Tech which sees her supporting women of all backgrounds in STEM. Ciara holds a BSc Honors in Computer Systems and Networking and achieved the highest GPA in year of graduation.

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

I came into my career in CyberSecurity/Technology later in life than most. After having two children, and having worked in retail banking for a number of years, I made the decision to go back to University as a mature student (in Ireland) .

It was so different to how it would have been had I gone straight to University out of secondary school. Instead of wanting to sit in the back row of the classroom, I was up at the front in every class eager to learn. As soon as I began my degree, I loved it and knew this was the right career path for me.

I’ve not looked back and so far it’s been great fun and I have worked with some of the best people. I learn something new every day, not necessarily always something technical which is fantastic. My current role as Senior Security Engineer (SE) at Tenable is so varied with a great combination of both business and cyber security. I love meeting with customers, discussing the challenges they face and their strategies going forward and how we can align or help them is a fantastic career.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I would love to say I did but I never really sat down and thought I want to be an SE in cybersecurity.  I did, however, say to my lecturer in University that I want to go and work for Cisco when I graduate. He didn’t think it was possible as the job roles in the West of Ireland at the time were primarily research and development (R&D).

I wanted to prove him wrong, which I did, securing a graduate role in London. I will say from there on, I talk to as many people as I can to find how their career started and about their job role. This has helped me plan my next career steps. I’d say that I tend to plan my next step or career progression rather than focus on my long term career path. Once I have that goal in my mind, I work extremely hard to achieve it and do what it takes whether it involves reaching out to different people or extra study etc.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, absolutely. As mentioned above I was told I wouldn’t really have a chance to get in with Cisco and I was determined to achieve that. When someone suggests something isn’t possible for me, that just drives me on and I make sure I achieve it.

In a past job role (not my current company I hasten to add) I was told that a career as Enterprise SE wasn’t possible for me because I have children. I didn’t let it hold me back and went on to secure my promotion as Enterprise Cyber SE. I see career obstacles as a challenge.

It is also okay to fail some challenges we face. What’s important is to learn from these, grow as a person, and don’t let them bring you down.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My current career now — I love it. I was promoted to Senior SE last year and I get to work with some of our top customers in the UK. I know qualifications and degrees aren’t everything, but I’m proud of getting my degree — it’s a high personal achievement for me with two young kids, a house to run, husband and part time job while still coming top of my course.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

A good work ethic, good attitude and getting along with people, especially those in my team.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Work hard, have fun and meet as many people as you can in the industry.

Join mentor programs, go to tech events and meet with different people in the industry. I particularly love Bsides. Everyone is so friendly and helpful and I think for people starting out it’s a fantastic resource.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

This is going to be a work in progress for some time. There are still barriers but I have seen huge leaps forward in this area and I believe this will continue to get better. I feel educating the industry on how and why things are different for women in this industry is vital for attitudes to change.

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

I believe the best candidate should ultimately get the job role. Education is key on how and why it is different for females in the tech industry but it is similar for any other male dominated industry not just tech. The comments of “she only got that promotion because she is female” must stop.

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?

Education is key. We need to start early with our children and make it fun. At the moment, technology lessons are typically quite boring in school and, unless you like coding, it puts kids off having a career in tech. We all know that there are so many different fun and amazing careers available in this industry, and even coding can be turned into an interesting activity.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Human Factor Security. I was very lucky to have Jenny Radcliffe as my mentor and she is awesome. Darknet Diaries, AnglerPhish podcast and Security Now are also great podcasts. Bsides is a fabulous event and the talks are amazing and you can challenge yourself to apply to do a presentation – like I did recently.