Sochima is a security consultant for cyber security company WithSecure™. Having started on the engagement and delivery side, she recently completed the company’s Consulting Associate Scheme and now works alongside a wide range of clients to tackle some of the most pressing security challenges faced by society today.

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

I graduated with a BSc in Pharmacology before starting in the Engagement Team for the UK Consultancy side of WithSecure™. I started out as a Junior Delivery Manager, eventually progressed to an Engagement Manager, and got certified in Agile Project Management during my four years in the team. Now I’m working as an Associate Security Consultant, working with our clients on security assessments, as well as helping to scope and plan future engagements alongside other Consultants and Engagement Managers. I’ve already worked on application security assessments, AWS configuration reviews and an internal cloud-based purple team.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes actually! In my second year of university, I applied for graduate entry to Medicine. I desperately wanted to become a doctor, work in a hospital and eventually go into clinical research since I had a lot of laboratory experience. Evidently, plans change, and things don’t always work out exactly as you think they will but over time, you’ll realise that you can find another path that suits you better. I think it’s great to have a plan or a goal and work hard for it, because you collect achievements along the way and learn from the journey.

What career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Transitioning to a technical role with no experience in computer science or a cyber security degree was hard. There were a lot of times when I felt I didn’t deserve the spot I got, or that I wasn’t as good as my counterparts. This was actually more common amongst my colleagues than I knew. One way I overcame this feeling was by surrounding myself with encouraging mentors and like-minded colleagues. But secondly, I had to remind myself over and over again that I have worked hard and that my skills have grown since a year ago, and once again from the last two years. It’s a repetitive process and is something that I still struggle with, but you really do need a mantra to get you through it!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Conversely, my biggest career challenge is also my biggest career achievement. It took me a while to transition into this new role, and there were so many questions on whether I was making the right choice. In my previous role, I had worked with all of our consultants on numerous projects, so I knew what the standard was. In the end, I took the steps to make the switch, learnt to write a few lines of code, and learnt the ins and outs of how the internet works. Seems to have worked out so far and I’m really proud that I took the risk.

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

I think just being tenacious and going for what you want, even if it’s scary or risky. I’m quite an independent person, and I’ve supported myself and helped support my family since I was a teenager, so when I saw an opportunity to do something for just me, I ran with it!  On top of that, being clear to my organisation what my intentions were, and making sure I had the right support.

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

For anyone trying to excel in their career in tech, I would say lean into your strengths. Particularly if you don’t have an extensive background in tech, there will be skills you have that are helpful and relevant.

Be clear about what you want and work towards it, you’ll gain invaluable lessons and skills from the journey. Then even if you get a new goal, you’ve still grown massively. And remember, you are probably better than you think – women in this industry may tend to think they aren’t skilled enough for a particular role before applying, but the likelihood is that you already have the skills or the potential to learn.

Specifically for those just getting started, get inspiration from free events and meetups in technology related fields. This will help you narrow down what sounds interesting and what you’d like to pursue further. To build your skills, have a go at building a web application from scratch. There are so many avenues you can go down with this and so much you can learn.

There are still barriers for women working in tech, how can these barriers be overcome?

Although in recent times we’ve made leaps and bounds on that front, I still think there are still some barriers for success for women in working in tech. There is still huge workforce gender gap in the technology industry, and greater still in technical roles. I really think we can do more to improve recruitment efforts which will do more for retaining women in technical roles.

I also think getting out in the community is crucial. Getting young people aware of all their options before they make big decisions on their future is key, particularly for girls at school.

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

I think technology companies should do more to make their spaces more inclusive. There are women who are incredibly capable and have the potential excel in any industry, but the environment needs to be conducive for them to thrive.

What would you do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Change the unconscious biases that still exist in the industry and push for more female leaders. I think that will help to improve things, particularly for women of colour. I think there are still biases facing women of colour today which can be challenged by proper education and awareness. It’s so great to see initiatives like We Are Tech Women push for change, so we just need to keep going, keep being loud, keep being bold and I think we’ll get there.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I would definitely recommend the Meetups app, just to build a sense of community. There are quite a few groups like Ladies of London Hacking Society that encourage free events and networking. I would also recommend getting involved in your Diversity, Equality and Inclusion program for your organisation. I’ve had some of amazing meetings with the DEI team I helped put together, it’s a great way to get involved with inclusivity initiatives both internally and externally.