Rebecca joined Secureworks in 2014, where she developed an immediate passion for cybersecurity.

Rebecca quickly expanded her cyber acumen, moving into Secureworks first Threat Intelligence Knowledge Manager role in 2022. Rebecca is primarily focused on the implementation of knowledge management processes and procedures for the Counter Threat Unit, the ingestion and management of Secureworks Threat Intelligence knowledge, and its associated quality, storage and maintenance. Rebecca continues to study and mature her cybersecurity depth of knowledge, with a longer-term ambition of becoming a Threat Intelligence researcher.

If you want to find out more about Rebecca, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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

My name is Rebecca Taylor and I am a graduate of the University of Portsmouth having studied English and Creative Writing. I started at Secureworks in 2014, as a Personal Assistant in the Sales and Marketing team. I was responsible for supporting Sales meetings, booking travel, collaborating on events and general office administration. In my very first week I saw the opportunities ahead of me, how Cybersecurity was a growing, evolving space and that associated threats and risks to organisations and even to life, mirrored that growth and change. I could see there was a home for me and if I put in the time and effort, I could truly make a footprint in the cybersecurity arena.

Over the past eight years I have worked and studied hard, gleaned as much exposure as I can to the threat landscape and best practices for protecting, detecting and responding to or against threats. I have worked across a variety of teams including Global Operations and Incident Response and I am now a member of the Counter Threat Unit (CTU) where I am responsible for Threat Intelligence Knowledge Management.

I am responsible for ensuring we ingest our threat intelligence to the best of our ability, and that it is standardized, maintained, searchable and accessible to those who need it most. In tandem with my role, I have been very fortunate to write several blogs for Secureworks, speak on the importance of Knowledge Management at FIRSTCON22, present at our own ‘Threat Intelligence’ Summit, and am now preparing for my first workshop at the Women of Silicon Roundabout London 2022 event.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can’t say I did as a younger person. As with most school leavers, at around 16 years old I was asked to think about what career I wanted, what I would study, where I would go to university. I think at the time I wanted to be a Child Psychologist, and as you can see that is definitely not where I have ended up!

More recently I have started to plan and think ahead. For me this was very much instigated when my husband and I decided to start a family. I didn’t want to stop progressing or not have a career, so having clear set goals and ambitions shaped around maternity leave and a young family has been important for career planning and motivation.

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

I think first and foremost my main challenge in the beginning was a lack of cybersecurity experience or qualifications. I came into cyber with an English degree which although transferable, didn’t help me understand or appreciate IT, cybersecurity or the cogs within these. I also had never worked in IT or tech and so I didn’t have as much of a ‘background’ as others around me. This was a big motivator to get a series of cyber specific qualifications under my belt, and to ensure I was getting the right exposure and mentorship across my organisation.

I think the other big challenge, which is slightly more personal, I will describe as being shoe boxed. I vividly remember in 2016 being at dinner with someone I hugely respected, and him telling me how he thought I was ‘very capable’ and could do ‘so much more’. He followed it up by saying I would be ‘great for a role in HR or Marketing’. Whilst there is nothing wrong with being in HR or Marketing, I felt like I had almost been typecast, or shoe-boxed into a stereotypical mould of what it would mean for me to be successful or progress in cyber, linked closely with my gender and age. If anything, such attitudes pushed me harder, made me want to almost prove others wrong, that I could be whatever I wanted to be regardless of my age, being a woman and now being a mother. This is now a belief I instill within my mentees, colleagues and my children.

Do you think having qualifications are as important now for a career in cybersecurity as they were historically?

I believe there is less of a pressure in the modern day to come equipped with big certifications, and instead I find it is more now about what you bring as a person and demonstrating a willingness to learn and progress. It is more about gaining experience as you go.

I also find there is more of an onus to find what you are passionate about within IT or cybersecurity, and then if you so choose to home in on a study path and qualifications then so be it. Whether it be active directory, IoT or incident response, there are lots of fabulous courses out there, if they align with your passion.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In all honesty my biggest career achievement has been moving into the Secureworks Counter Threat Unit (CTU). The CTU has always been an inspiration to me, a team I genuinely dreamt of working for all those years ago.
The CTU as a team is exceptionally talented, wise to the threat, intuitive and collaborative – they make a fundamental difference to our understanding of the threat and subsequently how to better protect and detect against the adversary. The younger me would have thought working in the CTU was a pipedream and would never be achievable. But now I sit here as their first ever Threat Intelligence Knowledge Manager making my own contributions to our customers and community and having had an incredible career journey to date. It’s a true honour and privilege.

You mentioned your role as a Personal Assistant and now in the Counter Threat Unit. What happened in between?

My first big move after being a Personal Assistant was into the world of Security Risk Consulting. I became a Resource Coordinator and so was the bridge between our customers and our consultants, assisting in the scheduling of engagements and dealing with customer delivery queries. This was a life changing opportunity where I truly got to see all the roles, responsibilities and teams who were involved in keeping our customers safe, and that is where I was able to begin thinking about where I wanted to ‘end up’.

From there I moved into a Global Operations Change Management role where I instigated large changes to tools, processes and procedures, and then moved to Incident Response as Incident Command Knowledge Manager. The Incident Response team were fabulous in helping me harness my potential, get lots of exposure to both proactive and emergency engagements, and identify training courses which would help me excel.

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

The major factor for my successes has been down to fostering strong relationships and having the right mentors in place to guide me through each stage of my career progression.

Taking the time to establish relationships, not just only from a business perspective, but in such a way you form a trust and respect, has meant when I have needed help, guidance or exposure, I have been able to leverage said relationships to accomplish it, and vice versa. Knowing the individual, rough team layouts, who likes to do what versus who is responsible or accountable for what, just means when that time comes you have a relationship and understanding in place.

Mentorship has been significantly important. It’s not about finding a mentor and sticking with them for the whole of your career, it’s about finding mentors who can guide and advise you through parts of the journey. I have had many mentors throughout my career, and they have been pivotal in providing me alternative perspectives, direction and being a sounding board for career planning. I owe so much to my mentors.

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

My first would be to dream big and go for it. You can spend years waiting for the right time, right set up, to have a certain qualification, tenure or for the stars to somehow align. In reality, I think very few of us ever experience that perfect alignment and so if you see that advertisement or that opportunity and you want that role or part in the tech world, then embrace it. The world is your oyster as they say!

My second tip would be to have a development plan or at least a goal. I’m not personally the biggest fan of ten-year plans or setting goal ‘deadlines’, but having objectives and markers for success is what drives that motivation to succeed, but also allows you to pat yourself on the back when you do succeed in those accomplishments. Socialising your development plan or goal then with your own leadership and mentors means it’s on their radar, they know what you are looking for from yourself and them, and subsequently they can put you forward for opportunities or learning experiences which match or aid you accomplishing those objectives.

Finally, I want to stress again the importance of having a reliable mentor. Mentors are trusted advisors, they can introduce you to new people, help you develop and enhance skill sets, and nurture you to the point you gain a greater clarity. There are many fantastic charities and organisations which offer mentorship opportunities, as well as in house offerings. I would go as far to say, even if there isn’t anything in house, if you find someone you feel you can learn from and who inspires you, have that conversation and see if there is a potential for a mentorship arrangement.

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

Whilst cultural and gender representation across technology continues to evolve and improve, significant progress needs to be made from a diversity and inclusion perspective.

Typically, females will have different wants and needs to their counterparts, face different adversities, different stereotypes, potentially different external demands such as that from their families or communities. If I take health as an example, females experience different health requirements and adjustments to male counterparts if we consider conditions like pregnancy, menopause, endometriosis and fertility as a whole. These in their own rights can be time consuming, disruptive or even halt career progression and in a way be isolating. Organisations must acknowledge this and make the appropriate accommodations.

I would suggest many organisations are not as equipped as they want to be for these conversations but also from an ‘enablement for female success’ perspective. With technology typically being a male dominated environment, team members, particularly leaders, need to be comfortable and confident to make adjustments and embrace these kinds of gender differences, but also to show consideration and awareness when supporting females in their organisation. Adversity will be prevalent for everyone in their own way, but if we truly want to make technology a diverse and inclusive space, we need to adapt and improve the way we support and encourage females, and make sure they are enabled to be as successful as they choose in spite of any adversity, stereotype, demand or condition.

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

I think all organisations need to be supporting career progression by providing accessible routes to mentorship, training and development. Having personal development plans, training leaders to have those conversations and instilling accountability for supporting the careers of their direct reports, all feed into career success.

As I reflected on earlier, organisations being willing to make adjustments to cater to colleagues with different demands and requirements is important. If I reflect this on myself, being able to work remotely even prior to the pandemic, was a big gamechanger for my success. I was better able to balance family life and be present at home, whilst delivering at work without a huge commute. I am fortunate Secureworks is a ‘remote first’ employer, with about 90% of its employees being fully and permanently remote. This type of adjustment significantly aided my success.

Finally, career progression needs to be visible – we must celebrate those who are progressing and accomplishing new roles as this is what demonstrates to others that it is achievable and accessible to them. We also need to have clear pathways to finding out not only what roles are available in our organisations, but the experience required and ways for gaining that.

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?

If I could wave a magic wand, I would want the private sector to play a greater role in cyber literacy successes and take more accountability for doing so, regardless of gender. The key examples that come to mind are that there should be goals in the private sector to enhance early education in STEM, but also to provide stepping stones for adults to access training and certification programs.

I speak on behalf of TechSheCan, STEMAspire and STEMAmbassadors, because I do believe if we show STEM is an option, that it doesn’t have to come with a ‘geeky’ stigma, and that in fact there are a wealth of roles and opportunities in the space, we can sow that seed in the mind of a young person that there is a career for them in technology. If I consider access for adults, fantastic organisations like FutureLearn offer free courses so there isn’t a need to pay for expensive courses or have money to learn. It’s available and accessible. This should be the norm across the private sector, and something that should be prioritised.

I have already spoken about mentorship and the fundamental difference it made to me. The private sector needs to make sure everyone who wants a mentor gets one, and that there is the training and support there to make it a beneficial relationship. Again, this needs to be made far more available and accessible, both internally but also to external candidates looking to find that career in technology but needing to reap the rewards of mentorship.

I feel if we addressed these short fallings this would make a big difference to all genders and all individuals looking to explore careers in technology.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are a number of resources out there that would appeal to men, women and trans professionals, but, in terms of gender specific literature, I have personally enjoyed ‘How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking’ by Viv Groskop and ‘You are Powerful’ by Becki Rabin. Both have helped me to become more confident and empowered in my career and are definitely worth a read.