Career Notes 2.14.21
Ep 36 | 2.14.21

Dr. Jessica Barker: Cybersecurity has a huge people element to it. [Socio-technical]


Dr. Jessica Barker: My name is Dr. Jessica Barker and I'm the co-founder of a cybersecurity company called Cygenta. I really wanted to be a farmer when I was very little. I loved animals, I still do. And I guess I had a very romantic idea of what it meant to be a farmer. I probably didn't realize how much hard work goes into that, but that's that was the first thing I can remember wanting to do as a job.

Dr. Jessica Barker: When I was going through school, I've always been very interested in people, so I always felt that I would work with people. But at the same time, I did I joined kind of electronics-type clubs with my friends. But as I got to to my GCSE, so as I got to kind of age 14, 15, 16, I sort of felt like, OK, so the tech stuff is a hobby and I need to focus a bit more now on what I'm likely to do or the kind of area I'm likely to work in and that's going to be with people. So I moved away then from tech. I started working in urban regeneration and I worked on social inclusion projects, and from there I worked with the University of Liverpool who suggested was I interested in may be doing a PhD? So I actually then moved to do a PhD in civic design. And so then I was looking at kind of the creation of societies and the creation of social and civic places and from there ended up in cyber security.

Dr. Jessica Barker: It was a complete accident that I then ended up working in cybersecurity. It's not something that I had planned. And in fact, I was approached by a cybersecurity consultancy who, through kind of six degrees of separation, had heard about my research. And although it was in a different area, this was kind of about 10 years ago, and they recognized that somebody working on the human side of cybersecurity would be interesting from that kind of business consultancy angle. So I essentially got approached out of the blue. Was I interested in exploring working in cybersecurity? And so I Googled "What is cybersecurity?" And went from there.

Dr. Jessica Barker: And it was interesting, the first year was kind of I mean, so much learning, which I really, really enjoyed. I think that was partly what got me hooked was there was this whole new world to learn about. And I love learning and love a new challenge. So that was really interesting. And then somewhere in that first year, I started to realize, like, oh, I do look at these problems in a different way to the people I'm working with who are more technical. And I started to see actually the the way in which cybersecurity has such a huge people element to it.

Dr. Jessica Barker: We do have an issue in cyber security with a lack of gender diversity, a lack of diversity, in general, you know, when it comes to ethnicity, neurodiversity, socioeconomic status, and lots of other issues as well. So I have I have faced discrimination. I have experienced harassment and other issues, but I have beyond that experienced an overwhelming amount of support. I there have been many early on in my career that were incredibly supportive and helpful and really helped move my career forward and championed me. So my experience has been far more positive than it has been negative. But that's not to deny the fact that there have been those negative elements as well, unfortunately.

Dr. Jessica Barker: Don't be put off by how much there is to learn. It's a very broad field and it gets very deep as well. So just follow what you're curious about, follow what interests you. You know, there is so much information and guidance out there. That engage with that, share what you're learning so whether that is by networking, whether that is by having a blog or starting up your own podcast or video blog or whatever it might be, but find a way of really sharing the information that you're absorbing and make sure that you engage with the information that other people are sharing as well. Don't stand in your own way. There's going to be enough the people who will do that for you, so champion yourselves. And when it comes to putting yourself out there, whether that's applying for a job or giving a conference presentation, whatever it may be, feel the fear and do it anyway. It's the only way to grow.