This is part of a running commentary series for International Women's Day 2022.
Women from Cybrary shared their stories and advice for women in cybersecurity:
Jenn Barnabee, Course Manager, Cybrary
“My career has been a winding path, but I’ve always been tech adjacent. I initially started in the U.S. Air Force as a Russian linguist, but found that I really loved technical writing and was also interested in product development. This ultimately landed me at Cybrary where I work with our SMEs to create courses for the content team.
One of the biggest ways to improve gender diversity is for us to continue mentoring other women and reaching back into our networks to bring more of them into tech and cyber. One of my previous bosses has been a fantastic mentor throughout my career. I once started as the lone woman on the team with this female supervisor, who advocated for true equality on my behalf. They were very knowledgeable in the industry and showed me how to project confidence and stand up for myself.
Myself, and many other women I know in the industry, often experience the assumption that we don’t know as much as we actually do about cyber. However, I think it’s getting better incrementally as more women enter the fields of tech and cyber, but there’s always room for improvement. When in the military, I had great opportunities as a woman so they set a fantastic example for me as a professional. Also, openness to women in certain fields can really vary by culture, but I’m seeing much more ally-ship regardless, which is great to see. Also, always remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Don't be afraid to ask!”
Ashley Harper, Senior Product Manager - Growth, Cybrary
“I actually started out my professional career as an ice hockey coach and then jumped into an account management role. As an account manager, customers came to me with their concerns and ideas for the product, and I hated just “passing it along to IT.” I found my way into product management in order to be the one to help make the “fix” decisions. That being said, throughout my career, I’ve often been one of the very few women in the room. It’s been getting better recently, but it's still moving pretty slowly as senior female leaders often have to fight and claw their way to be heard in a room filled with their male counterparts. Cybrary does an awesome job about making sure voices are heard, regardless of an employee's gender, sexuality, or other demographic identity, better than a majority of other tech companies. Based on my professional experience, I’ve also noticed that SMBs are often better at showcasing representation and diversity than larger companies. The pool of qualified candidates is continuing to grow, thanks to those who paved the way for us, and we owe it to future generations to do the same thing to continue this positive shift.
For example, the woman who gave me my first shot at being a product manager has been instrumental to my career. She took the time to get to know me as a human being. When she started to notice symptoms of burnout, she went above and beyond to help me even when I was leaving that company. It’s more than just a professional relationship, but genuine care for the person behind the position. A key feature of the best mentors is facilitating you to fight for what you need and then also helping you to advocate for both your team and yourself. Having role models who look like you is extremely important, and women need to pull others along with them. As a part-time women’s hockey coach for the U.S. Naval Academy, one of my players earned a cyber billet, which is a huge honor. Women like her are the future of cyber, so offering myself and my network as resources will be hugely beneficial for her and her colleagues in the long-term.
Also, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and one who presents as more masculine, I don’t often experience the same microaggressions that many other women deal with. However, I am occasionally viewed as “one of the guys.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but does occasionally put me in awkward situations where I notice misdirected comments that make it clear that I’m not always recognized as a woman in group settings. I always remind myself to bring your authentic self to work. It’s critical to ensure that you don’t feel like you have to be constantly looking over your shoulder.”
Laurel Moczydlowsi, Information Systems Manager, Cybrary
“When starting my career, I did not know I was going to end up in either tech or cyber. Coming out of high school, I initially wanted to go into retail as a buyer given my interest in fashion, but I eventually got immersed in a technology program in college after taking some helpful advice from my mother. Now, as an Information Systems Manager, I get to touch a lot of different things, not just solely IT.
I often hear about the challenges associated with not having enough talent in the pipeline, especially women, but that’s precisely why Cybrary exists, to upskill and diversify the cyber workforce. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s headed in the right direction and having a diverse interview panel is one big way to help so that candidates have somebody to relate to and vice versa.
For example, my supervisor at my last organization was a powerhouse of an individual. She’s been in tech for more than 20 years, originally starting on Wall St., and had some horror stories. She emulates the person that everyone, regardless of gender or background, wants to work for and has the effect on people to say, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” It can be hard for women to learn how to advocate for themselves and navigate office politics, but these are two of the biggest things that she’s taught me. I’ve also learned not to be afraid to move laterally. Just because something isn’t technically a promotion, doesn’t mean it might not be a better cultural or professional fit.
I’ve also encountered similar microaggressions, but it’s much more passive than direct. An example is being asked “Will your attitude affect your management style?” or generally just being talked over. However, this is one of those topics where if one person brings it up, it creates a domino effect so others know they aren’t being singled-out.”