Nitzan YaakovNitzan Yaakov has over seven years of experience in cybersecurity as well as a BS in Information Systems and Cyber Security from The Academic College of Tel-Aviv.

Her career began in the Israel Defense Forces, where she first started as a QA Tester, cross checking software and web applications for issues, as well as evaluating IT/digital programmes for military operations. Since then, she has worked at Citadel Cyber Security, an consulting and managed services specialist as a cyber security analyst, and at Applied Materials as a data system analyst. Before finally joining Aqua, earlier this year.

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

I’m a 26-year-old Security Data Analyst at Aqua Security. As part of Aqua’s Research team, Team Nautilus, my current role allows me to combine two fields I’m very passionate about – data analysis and cybersecurity. Team Nautilus focuses on cybersecurity research of the cloud native stack. Its mission is to uncover new vulnerabilities, threats and attacks that target containers, Kubernetes, and public cloud infrastructure — enabling new methods and tools to address them. Using data, we gather information about cyberattacks performed in the wild, we draw conclusions and use them to improve the security chain and to publish studies. I have a degree in information system majoring in cybersecurity, therefore I’m connected to the team’s mission to explore daily attacks that targets cloud native environments and find new trends and techniques of attacks in the cloud, that allow us add feedback to Aqua’s solution and improve it.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always known I was interested in technology, but only found my passion for cybersecurity during college. While I didn’t put together a full long-term plan, by the end of my degree, I made a list of fields that interested me. This list helped me organise my thoughts and facilitate the process of job searching, leading me to the career path I’m now on.

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

As a graduate, it can be challenging to search for a job as, in most of the cases, companies prefer candidates that already have experience – especially in cybersecurity. To combat this, I worked in various junior positions that I knew would enrich my knowledge and contribute to my experience and to my wider career progress.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I believe it’s securing my role at Aqua. It’s a rare achievement to find a technical role like I currently have that also allows me to express my passion, exercise my full abilities, and supports my development while also allowing the opportunity to grow and learn in the areas that interest me the most.

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

I think enthusiasm can’t be underestimated – if you have love and passion for what you do, combined with hard work and a supportive collaborative team, like I’ve found at Aqua, you will gain a level of confidence that will help you to succeed in whatever you strive to achieve.

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

The first hurdle is to find what genuinely interests them, then work backwards to check which skills are needed in this field – not the other way round! You need to always be learning and enrich your knowledge with more capabilities – this field is always evolving, and changes rapidly. It’s important to adapt to the changes, which is much easier to do if you’re deeply interested in the area itself rather than chasing skills.

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

I think this is rapidly changing but should still be a consideration when companies are recruiting to help even the playing field. It’s great to see that there are more and more programmes where women can learn and become familiar with the technology field. In my personal experience, during my studies there were actually more women than men in my classes. Hopefully this means we’re on the right track to have more women in technological positions in the future.

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

I believe companies should have dedicated programs, for example conferences lead by women, where we can share our knowledge and experience in order to integrate even more women into the industry. Companies should also contribute to the women they already employ and provide them with courses and meetups where they can get to know new people from the same industry and help them progress their career.

There are currently only 17 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?

Technical fields need to be accessible from an early age, where children can gain experience of these subjects while still studying at school so can decide if it’s interesting for them to invest more efforts into. This means providing more exposure of technology subjects to younger girls that they wouldn’t have discovered on their own. Alongside technology camps that combine both genders, this exposure will mean greater engagement and make the field more accessible.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love that there are now lots of free online options for people wanting to get educated on easy-to-use platforms like YouTube – for example, “TechWorld with Nana” is a fantastic accessible programme. Many websites like edX publish free courses in various technical subjects. I even find company blogs in their fields useful to educate myself. For example, the Aqua Blog is a great resource to learn more about cybersecurity, the latest threats and technical insights and how-tos. For new candidates, you can even use these to learn more about the company and utilise the knowledge to apply for a job.