Katie Inns

Katie’s focus is on helping organizations reduce and improve the security across their external attack surface.

Katie has five years’ experience in the security industry, working in consulting and within an in-house security team focusing on vulnerability management and application security. Outside of work, Katie enjoys dancing and travelling.

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

I’ve been in the industry for around five years and started out by taking part in a Cyber Security Graduate scheme. I had a degree in Criminology, so stepping into security was quite difficult without a computer science degree. I spent some time between offensive and defensive security testing teams, then ended up going into a role focused on vulnerability management and application security.

Wanting to go down the offensive security route, I applied for a penetration testing (pentesting) position at MWR Infosecurity (a consultancy later acquired by WithSecure) and have been with the company ever since. After some time, I ended up moving from a traditional pentesting role to a consultant position in the Attack Surface Management team where I continually assess the security of an organisation from an attacker’s perspective. I have helped build and shape the team since it was first created.

I’m also involved in WithSecure’s equality, diversity and inclusion programme, and have mentored several women following a similar career path.

Outside of work, I attend dance classes, which I have been doing since the age of three, and I love traveling.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t plan it, no. When I was at university, I was hoping to go into a Police investigations role, which I think is when I became keen to combine my interest in crime with my tech hobbies. This led me to discover the cyber security world. I knew little about it when I started but was eased into the role in the best possible way. During my career, I took a lot of influence from the people that mentored me and their own career paths, and I knew I wanted to be in a similar role to them one day. I also have a habit of following challenges – a lot of my job doesn’t come easily to me, but that’s what keeps me doing it.

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

I have failed some exams in the past, but failing only made me more determined. I have also been improving my public speaking over the last year, which has also been a big challenge for me. I have been able to overcome waves of self-doubt and imposter syndrome while preparing for public talks, not forgetting nerves and anxiety! Being determined and never wanting to give in has gotten me through all these challenges.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I can’t pick one, but my top three are:

  • Passing my OSCP – this was the hardest technical challenge I’ve ever faced
  • Speaking at Blue Team Con in Chicago
  • Being nominated for the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Tech

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

The support I have had from other people. There have been a number of people who have supported me along the way and believed in my abilities when I perhaps didn’t. They know who they are.

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

Never give up. It’s not easy, but if you work hard and keep going, allowing yourself to also enjoy downtime, you will reap the rewards in buckets.

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

Yes, the ratio between women and men in the tech industry is still extremely unbalanced. This means that there are more men who are given opportunities and are more successful than women. This is not necessarily through men being better, but due to the lack of women to give the opportunities to in the first place. This means that there are very few female role models in the industry for aspiring women in tech, which can be daunting and sometimes quite isolating.

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

Encourage successful women to mentor other women. Provide platforms for these women to be heard and provide equal opportunities.

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?

I would turn back time and educate young school children about jobs in tech, ensuring they all knew that these careers were available for everyone and anyone.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • Conferences/security events: Ladies Hacking Society, WISP, WiCyS, The Diana Initiative
  • Security training: Try Hack Me, Hack the Box, HackerOne 101
  • Podcasts: Darknet Diaries
  • Social Media: Twitter