Isabelle Freeman, Huawei

In Her Shoes: Isabelle Freeman | Cyber Security Executive, Huawei UK

Meet Isabelle Freeman, Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK

Isabelle Freeman, Huawei

Isabelle is a Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK. In this piece, we talk about a typical working day, her advice for those aspiring to a career in tech and what she loves about working at Huawei.

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

My journey with cyber security began when I began a Master’s in International Security and Risk after having studied Politics and IR as an undergraduate. I was drawn to the interdisciplinary approach between global politics, risk management and cyber security, and after starting quickly realised I wanted my future career to have a similarly dynamic remit.

In September 2020 I began working as a Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK, a role that combined the two areas of most interest to me: politics and cyber security governance. Over the last two years, my responsibilities have expanded beyond just cyber security, but to also incorporate privacy and data protection.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

There are three things I make sure I do every morning to get into the right frame of mind for the day ahead. First, I check emails in case there’s anything I need to attend to urgently. Second, I check the news in case there are any stories I’ll need to keep track of throughout the day. And third, is my planning ritual. For me, it’s essential to start my day by scheduling my main priorities and meetings, and making a note of all the tasks, big or small, that I need to get done. Anyone who sees me in the office will know that I have my planner on me at all times – it’s like a bible to me! At the end of the day, once I’ve ticked everything off on my list, I’ll then shut my laptop, go home, and head out for a run.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had long considered the different types of careers that interested me, but truth be told I would have never expected to end up working in tech. It took some time to decide whether to take the plunge dive into this unfamiliar sector but once I did, it was definitely worth it.

What do you love about working for Huawei UK?

Every day’s a school day when you work at Huawei. On the one hand, the sheer scale of the company means there’s so much going on, but the fact it pioneers so much research means you feel really close to the technology that is transforming the way we live. There’s always something interesting to talk about, whether it’s hearing about the newest products being developed in R&D, the most recent regional strategy, or the latest negotiations with important stakeholders.

Within Huawei, cyber security is treated with the utmost importance, so being on the team has led me to work on a huge array of projects across the business. All these experiences have given me great insights into the industry and Huawei’s place within it, which I’ve found immensely gratifying.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Beginning my career in the midst of a global pandemic brought a set of challenges I could never have imagined.  The virtual induction process was particularly challenging, and it was harder than usual to get a real sense of the company and its inner workings. Fortunately, all of my colleagues were super supportive, understanding and willing to answer any of my questions. I strongly believe in the importance of asking questions, especially when you are just starting out in your career when you can easily feel overwhelmed. But rest assured, asking for help and guidance whenever you need to will quickly make you far more confident in your role, whatever your company or industry.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Immensely! I am extremely grateful to work in a team where I have received invaluable mentoring and coaching. Especially as I am just starting out in my career, learning from colleagues with decades of experience has helped me develop a far more nuanced understanding of the tech landscape than I would otherwise have had access to. I am lucky enough to have great mentors, both technical and non-technical, who I work with on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

I’d start off by emphasising that with such a rapidly-evolving industry, there is a vast array of careers out there. Don’t get bogged down by the technical knowledge, and instead remember the bigger picture: there will definitely be a place for you to shine. In terms of success, this is always going to look different from person to person, so focus on looking for fulfillment rather than a fancy title or loads of accolades. The best thing you can do in this industry is to have an open and inquisitive mindset, which will be sure to lead you down the right tech avenue.

What does the future hold for you?

Whilst I am only just beginning my career, I hope that my future roles are as interesting and challenging as my current one. With the tech sector moving at such a rapid pace, I particularly look forward to playing a part in developing key technologies that will shape the world for future generations.