Women & Cyber – Debunking Misconceptions for International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re delighted to bring you a Q&A discussion with two of the stars at CyberProof: Shani Touitou, Incident Response & Threat Hunting Specialist, and Karina Daniel, EDR & Vulnerability Management Team Leader. They’ve shared some of their insights into what companies can do to tackle the gender gap, how they feel about working in cybersecurity, how to go about making good career choices, and more.

What do you like most about working in cybersecurity?

Karina: I discovered the world of cybersecurity at age 18 when I began my military service in Israel in the 8200 unit. I just fell in love with it!

Cybersecurity is a world in and of itself. There are so many different aspects to it and there’s always more to know. In fact, you never finish learning new things… You can never say “I know everything” – and to me, that’s just amazing. What’s most interesting to me personally are the different stages of the investigation of a cybersecurity event. You need to climb into the mind of an attacker and try to figure out the attacker’s actions and goals – and think about how these might have been achieved.

Shani: I love my work – and one of the things I most enjoy about it is the fundamental understanding that where there is a challenge, we will solve it. No matter what, we know that we are going to solve it.

It’s an amazing thing. We approach each incident or investigation with the knowledge that we must find a solution, and this approach propels us forward – leading to continued learning and professional growth. We help each other out, and we collaborate as colleagues – sometimes we have conflicting viewpoints – and by working together, we get to the solution. I find I’m constantly gaining new skills as a result of my work, and this is something that I really love.

One of the things I most enjoy about cyber is the fundamental understanding that where there is a challenge, we will solve it. No matter what, we know that we are going to solve it.

What can companies do to encourage more women to join the field of cybersecurity?

Shani: Personally, I’m not interested in a workplace hiring me – or anyone else, for that matter – because of my gender. I want to be recognized for my professional capabilities, and I don’t like the idea of receiving special treatment.

At the same time, we need to be more aware of the hidden dangers of what’s known as “similarity bias” – i.e., a natural inclination that we all have of connecting with people who are most similar to ourselves. Similarity bias means that we tend to be drawn to people who are just like us. It’s not a successful approach to recruitment because we need a range of capabilities on the team and professionality as the first priority. An individual who is aware of this tendency is less likely to fall into the trap, and this opens doors not only for women but also to individuals coming from disadvantaged backgrounds for example.

Karina: To my mind, it’s so important that there be strong representation of both men and women in cybersecurity. In general, greater diversity within a team means that there will be a wider range of different ideas, opinions, suggestions, and perspectives – and it’s this kind of breadth of thinking that contributes to the growth of the company. I’ve been working in cybersecurity for seven years and I believe it’s one of the most fascinating areas in the technology sector. I’d be happy to see a greater number of strong women who love cyber joining the field, and becoming part of the world of cyber.

Greater diversity within a team means that there will be a wider range of different ideas, opinions, suggestions, and perspectives – and it’s this kind of breadth of thinking that contributes to the growth of the company.

In the past, cybersecurity was thought to be a man’s domain. I believe this was partly because women were not sufficiently exposed to the field and to the wide variety of positions that exist within it. The more we see cybersecurity companies doing a good job of advertising the full range of positions that are available – if they work to raise awareness and provide more information about what exactly is meant by a career in cybersecurity – this will lead to greater interest on the part of women and we’ll see more women entering the field.

Do you have any advice for women considering a career in cyber?

Karina: I do not think there’s any connection between gender and a person’s professional abilities. Anyone who loves cyber and is really interested in it – it’s in their veins – should work in the field. Personally, I want to encourage women who are fascinated by cybersecurity to learn more about the field.

I believe that any woman who is interested in cybersecurity and really wants to get into it will not find it difficult to build a career in this field. The skills and tools that a person needs in cybersecurity are gained through self-study and work experience but what’s key, to my mind – first and foremost – is having a love of the work.

Shani: There is a lack of congruence between the number of graduates in computer science and the exact sciences, on the one hand, and the pace of technological development, on the other. Technology continues to grow and develop at an astonishing speed. This means that there’s always a gap to fill, in terms of job opportunities – there are always positions available.

But which direction you choose to go in should not be based on these opportunities alone. There are multiple considerations a person needs to take into account – because career decisions and lifestyle choices, including approaches to parenting where relevant, all impact each other and tend to go hand in hand. Yet, I believe deeply that when it comes to choosing your area of work, it’s important to go in the direction that you have a passion for and set the bar high in terms of the expectations of your own work. I don’t think that tech should necessarily be viewed as being the ideal career path, though; our society needs talent in all aspects of life, from education to healthcare and more. Bottom line: You need to follow your passion. If your heart is fully in it, that’s where you will excel.

What do you like most about working at CyberProof?

Shani: CyberProof is a company that does not compromise on its professionalism, while at the same time, it works to maximize the diversity of the team by bringing in a wide range of people. I find that the recruiters here are open minded and focused on who will succeed at the professional level. I also love the positive attitude and creativity that I experience consistently with the various members of all of the different teams.

Karina: What I like most about CyberProof is the incredible degree of cooperation across teams. In contrast to some other cybersecurity companies, CyberProof provides a wide range of cybersecurity services which means that when we are handling a cybersecurity incident, all teams work together collaboratively. This is what I feel is most responsible for our powerful incident response capabilities, at the end of the day. I also find that the people here are fabulous, and highly professional.

What sort of background do you need to get into the field of cyber?

Karina: My path was very straightforward. I gained cybersecurity experience in the Israeli army and from the get-go I was hooked.

Shani: I had a completely different experience. I did not plan on going into cybersecurity at all. In university, I wanted to study physics and math. I chose electronics for my B.Sc. because I love logic and research and I wanted a practical degree – that’s what interested me. My studies gave me these tools and a strong mathematical background. I expected to be working in the field of electronics – but then when I started looking for a position, I stumbled across an opportunity in a cybersecurity company. That job was my first exposure to the field of cybersecurity; strictly speaking, it wasn’t actually a cyber position, but it did bring me into the conceptual world of cyber – and the rest is history.

Looking Ahead on International Women’s Day

Like many other fields in the technology sector, cybersecurity tends to be viewed as a male-dominated field. But this year we are seeing some positive trends when it comes to the representation of women in tech. 

Moreover, a report by McKinsey gave a boost to those working hard to reduce the gender gap by asserting that companies focused on inclusion and diversity perform better – hiring better talent, having greater engagement, and reporting better retention rates.

As cybersecurity is such a fast-growing field, there are many opportunities to pursue a successful career. If you’re interested in learning more about the current openings at CyberProof, check out our Careers page.