Day in the Life: Female Cyber Security Engineer
We’ve seen it several times in articles and news stories - there’s a lack of women in the technical space and in critical leadership positions. This isn’t for a lack of women who have a passion for technology or innovation though. There are countless women who have seen success in the software and technology industry. A prime example of someone who has seen success in tech can be seen in one of our own women at INE: Lola Kureno. Here’s a closer look at Lola’s journey to becoming a cyber security engineer!
Lola didn’t come from a traditional tech background. In fact, she started her journey in the arts as a ballerina. She began studying ballet at the age of three and became a professional at age 17 after finishing high school.
After a car accident nine years later and months of hospitalization in addition to years of rehabilitation, professional ballet wasn’t a part of the recovery plan. Lola traveled to Europe and looked for new inspirations. There, she met and married her husband before they moved to Tokyo where Lola continued to search for a career she could feel passionate about.
Eventually, Lola started a more traditional role in a company that didn’t quite fulfill her ambitions. “It paid, but it wasn’t anything that let me be ambitious, be competitive, learn and study and it was very boring,” Lola said. “Being in ballet, from very early on, you learn discipline, dedication, and you become really ambitious and competitive if you want to succeed.” But the challenge of finding something to be competitive and ambitious in is difficult, especially when you need to consider getting out of your comfort zone to do so.
“I shared with my husband that I was feeling like I was a waste, that I wasn’t doing anything. And he said, ‘You’re smart, just do something with the computer. You love computers,’” Lola said. “But I thought that if I didn’t have a degree in engineering or computer science or something related, I couldn’t do anything. And I had turned 30, I was not a kid anymore.”
Lola began looking into different degrees and researching what she could do with computers as a career more than a hobby. That’s when she learned about cyber security.
“After discovering all of this, I couldn’t think of anything else but that,” Lola said. “I still had my full-time job, but I would come back from work and be back on the computer. I did that on weekends, days off, holidays as well. I studied IT fundamentals, network fundamentals and cyber security fundamentals for months, every single day!”
Lola went on to study for and take the eLearnSecurity Junior Penetration Tester (eJPT) certification exam. She passed, was certified, and then found herself continuing down the path of cyber security certifications. After continuous studying, Lola found herself in an internship position at Neal Bridges’ personal cyber consulting company where she was able to learn more about the field.
“Then the opportunity to work at INE was presented to me, and I took it,” Lola said. “Today I work at INE as a cyber security engineer. I absolutely love my job, the company, and have had the opportunity to grow a lot, and also hopefully help my company to grow as well.”
Typical Day as a Cyber Security Engineer
Cyber security engineers work in secure environments, so many specific day-to-day tasks can’t be detailed. However, Lola was able to give us a sneak peek and provided a high-level overview of her regular tasks.
“I am responsible for securing company assets, and I also work on ensuring the company is compliant with many compliance frameworks. Working with developers and the IT department on mitigation and remediation solutions and assessment of risk impact on our surface.”
She went on to address some challenges faced by cyber security professionals such as always keeping up with new technology, constant studying, and staying informed about cyber attacks and techniques. She added, “It’s a profession that requires a great deal of research and study.”
What about challenges as a female in a male-dominated space? Lola said, “Personally I haven’t faced any since I am lucky to be in a very diverse and inclusive work environment. But it is indeed a field where women are a minority.” She continued, “Being active in the community, I have heard unfortunate stories about fellow cyber security professionals who have experienced discrimination in the work place.”
Lola’s outlook on these challenges is beautiful and one that applies outside of cyber security practices. “I approach challenges with an open mind and a continuous desire for improvement,” Lola said. “Not to mention that overcoming challenges typically comes with successes of one form or another.”
“Some of the greatest joys for me in my profession are the wonderful people I have met. Being able to efficiently verbally communicate has been a huge challenge for me since childhood and something that 's very difficult for me, but the feeling of belonging somewhere in my field is amazing.” Lola continued, “Each time I see that something I did positively impacts the company I work for is also awesome.”
Women in Cyber Security
Lola mentioned her own experiences have been lucky in terms of working with diverse and engaging communities since becoming a cyber security expert. But she has also heard the stories of other women in the space and had thoughts of her own on the matter.
“I would say to women in the IT and cyber security field to never tolerate any toxic and/or discriminatory environment,” Lola said before going on to add her advice to women in the field, which include:
- There is always room for improvement. Whether you’re someone who’s one year into the industry or 10 or 20. There is always something new to learn.
- Talk to people. Don’t hide behind your computer screen. Network.
- Have an active LinkedIn profile. Many people think LinkedIn is only for job hunting, so after they finally find a job, they let their LinkedIn profile die, and that’s a big mistake.
- Brush up your soft skills. Go to conferences. If you can’t go to a conference, volunteer for them.
- If you’re not in the industry yet, finding a mentor is a good idea. Plenty of people would be very happy to help you out. Don’t be afraid of connecting with people.
- Lastly, don’t give up.
“Many times, when I was job hunting, I came very close to giving up. But, since I had networked so much, I had so many people who knew that I was job hunting. And they didn’t let me give up. That’s another benefit of networking,” Lola said. “These people have your back, they keep you accountable, they keep you on track. So, don’t give up.”
Lola continued, “It’s hard. You will get many ‘no’s’ for silly reasons. You will get 10, maybe 15 or 100 ‘no’s’. But you will get that yes. I am not in my early 20s, I’m a woman, I’m autistic, and I made it, so if I can, you can, and everyone else can too!”
Lola is a cyber security engineer at INE. Outside of work, she loves singing, playing with her cat, spending time with her husband, researching, and watching true crime documentaries. Her creative and artistic background gives her a unique approach to problem solving and critical thinking. She has lived in several countries, growing up in the U.S., moving to Europe, and living in Japan. See more of Lola in the INE Live session on March 22 to hear her success story in Cyber Security.
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