StudentNews_EmmaClarkIWD

International Women’s Day: Emma Clark - Cyber Security & Networks Alumna

Wed, 17 Feb 2021 16:19:00 GMT
(Pictured above) GCU Alumna Emma Clark & the MNB Networks logo
(Pictured above) GCU Alumna Emma Clark & the MNB Networks logo

GCU is celebrating exemplary students and alumni for their outstanding work as part of this year’s International Women’s Day.

Recent GCU Alumna Cyber Security and Networks student Emma Clark is being recognised for her successes in her new role as Associate Network & Security Consultant at MNB Networks; a company that delivers consultancy services across all areas of IT networking technology.

We spoke to Emma about her time at GCU, her new role and her experience as a woman working in a male dominated industry:

 

Firstly, could you tell us about your role at MNB Networks?

I graduated from GCU in July 2020 with a 1st class Honours in Cyber Security & Networks which, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, was an amazing accomplishment for me. For months, I applied for all the jobs relevant to my degree that I could find, with no luck – the timing of the pandemic was really unfortunate.

It was when I decided to write a post on LinkedIn detailing my experience and qualifications followed by the kind of jobs that I was seeking, that the job hunt started to get some significant traction. After many shares and comments on my post, a bunch of messages on LinkedIn and a few interviews, I decided to take a job offered to me at MNB Networks.

My role at MNB is as an Associate Network & Security Consultant and is a really diverse role. It has allowed me to explore various kinds of technology, determine what I am interested in and find my ‘niche’ which is fantastic. As MNB is a small IT consultancy in the process of expanding, I was initially aiding in building up and securing the back-end systems of the business.

I then went on to what will be my longer-term role in the company – which is working with various leading vendors in the networking and cyber security space such as Cisco, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks to aid in delivering projects and strategic consulting for customers operating in both the public and private sectors.

As there is a training side to the business, I have also been assigned the role of building our online training system up from the ground, which I’d encourage any networking professionals to take a look at before it’s official launch in April 2021. It can be found at https://training.mnbnetworks.tech.

With training in mind, thanks to MNB I have also been able to continually develop my IT skills by studying certifications with Microsoft, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks. It has become clear that gaining various certifications is a big part of the industry and is required in order to stay ahead of the curve as new technology is released.


Whilst you were growing up and deciding what you wanted to do as a career, were you aware of the gendered stereotypes that existed around those who worked in cyber security?

I found in secondary school that I was one of two or three girls in my Computing classes, and that there was a sort of stigma around us taking the class. Despite my male teacher being incredibly supportive, the boys in the class would often make jokes asking what we were doing there.

This didn’t sit well with me and didn’t make any sense to me – and I know from experience that this can be quite disheartening. I would wonder why my anatomy should determine what subjects I took in school and what industry I wanted to get into.

I also remember receiving some laughs from people when I said I had decided to apply to study cyber security at university. (Who’s laughing now!)


Did you face any challenges as a result of this? If so, did this inspire you to challenge the stereotypes?

I think the challenges I faced were mainly to do with my confidence in myself and my ability to do well in my male-dominated classes and then again in the male-dominated industry. When you’re aware that society has shaped an alarming number of people into thinking that any role within the IT sector is a “man’s job” it can be really discouraging.

You often wonder if you’re good enough, because being a male instead of a female must give you some sort of edge in your ability to work in IT, because it is a male-dominated industry and that’s how it works, right? Wrong.

Having been passionate about gender equality for as long as I can remember, particularly in education and the workplace, I had always been inspired to challenge these stereotypes and I knew that as a “girly girl” pursuing a career in cyber security I was doing just that.


Whilst at GCU, did you take part in any STEM/cyber security related outreach activities?

Unfortunately, as my confidence had been knocked by the time I attended GCU - despite still applying for my degree and being accepted - it took me a while to get involved in many things at university in general.

However, in my final year I did get involved in an Athena SWAN student consultation event on gender equality at GCU, which asked students (in particular STEM students) questions regarding the recruitment and development of female students, policies at the university, and how GCU could improve on effective communication in spreading awareness of gender issues.

If you were to give any advice to women who are thinking about embarking on a career in cyber security, what would you tell them?

I would tell them not to let the fact that cyber security is largely a male-dominated industry put them off! There are so many fantastic opportunities in the cyber and IT industry, and I’d encourage any female interested in IT to grab them with both hands.

Females in the IT industry are incredibly sought after, and I reckon there is more support for females in STEM now than ever before. From incredible support groups and frameworks for females in STEM such as Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys), Scottish Women in Technology (SWiT) and Athena Swan; to businesses now developing their company values regarding employee diversity.

I would also say, if your confidence has been knocked like mine was, it will not always be like that. It is never too late to get started in cyber security as the technology is always changing and everyone is always learning. If you’re interested; get learning, get involved, connect with other females in the industry and you will thrive.

If anyone is interested in keeping up with my personal progress, or would like any advice on starting up in the cyber industry (for example any certifications I can recommend), please feel free to connect or shoot me a message via LinkedIn.

 

By Rachael McAlonan

Got a SCEBE or GSBS story? Email me at Rachael.McAlonan@gcu.ac.uk or connect with me on social media