Jana Vidis entered the tech sector after studying International Business. Over the past few years, she has become - by her own admission - "hooked on cyber security". Jana explains the reasons why in this blog post and provides her top tips for young people who are just getting started.
How did you take your first steps into the sector?
I studied International Business and began my career at the technology company Oracle based in Dublin. I then moved to Google to work as a Key Account Manager in digital advertising. I have moved around quite a lot! After working in several different countries including Germany, Austria and Ireland, I landed a job in Scotland in the media and digital advertising industry.
Later - with a lot of support and encouragement - I applied for my current position as a Business Development Manager at IFB, an Aberdeen-based IT service provider.
Can you tell us more about your current role?
I started with IFB a day before lockdown in 2020. When I think about it now it sounds very scary! The first few months were a big learning curve for me as I familiarised myself with all of IFB's technology, services, customers and team – all of which was done remotely. After overcoming those first hurdles, I started to really enjoy learning this new field and gaining fresh insights from the technology sector, which I love.
My role in business development and marketing involves working directly with customers and understanding their IT-related business needs. One of the areas I discovered was the importance of cyber security, which I got hooked on very quickly. Despite having no background in cyber security, my passion for learning about something new - coupled with sheer inquisitiveness - led me here.
Did you have any mentors or key people who have inspired you in your own career?
There have always been people who have helped me along the way even if I didn’t refer to them as mentors at the time. My husband is my biggest supporter; as a software engineer he was instrumental in guiding me into the tech sector. We worked together on a few projects and he encouraged me to get more involved as he thought that IT would be a great fit for my skills set.
I must mention Irene Coyle, who inspired me on my path towards cyber security. Irene became active in cyber security industry after a successful career with Police Scotland. I attended an event where Irene spoke about her journey into cyber security and I was very inspired. We connected after the event and she was the one of the first people who helped me progress into the cyber security industry.
I also have great support from my current manager Graeme Gordon; Graeme encourages my enthusiasm and gives me opportunities to work on cyber security projects with customers at IFB.
Can you share any career highlights?
I am a graduate of the Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security program; it is led by the Empowering You organisation and aims to support and empower female leaders in digital transformation and cyber security.
Within IFB I get to work on exciting projects relating to cyber security, where we are supporting our customers with cyber security solutions to improve their cyber security position and become more resilient against cyber threats.
I am also very excited about an opportunity to be involved with DYW and share my experiences in IT - especially cyber security - with young people and schools.
What do you enjoy most about working in the sector?
The fast pace and the variety. The sector is very dynamic as technology is developing at a rapid speed. I'm constantly gaining new insights and methodologies that can be implemented in our daily lives. As regards variety, every organisation I support is different, with its own focus, business needs and plans for growth. It is exciting to work on different sets of requirements and produce solutions to meet the needs of businesses.
Can you tell us something about the sector that might surprise young people?
Cyber Security conjures up images of hackers in their hoodies trying to break into companies' IT systems. In reality, it is a wide field offering opportunities for a varied range of people with different backgrounds and skills (not only technical!), who help keep organisations safe. It's far more than just coding; while coding is an essential part of it, cyber security involves a much broader range of activities and therefore roles. These include risk assessment, security policy development, incident response and even psychology to understand the motivations behind cyber attacks.
Did you know that cyber security professionals can save lives? Cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on people and organisations. They can lead to identity theft, financial loss and even physical harm. Cyber security professionals work to prevent these attacks from happening.
What are your top tips for young people who are thinking about entering the sector?
Be passionate about what you do - and what you want to do. Technology is a field with countless opportunities for innovation: your enthusiasm will set you apart.
Be curious and keep learning. Technology is constantly evolving. Be aware of industry developments, get involved in workshops and follow industry leaders on social media. This will help you gain an understanding of the sector itself, how it is changing and how you can best fit into it. You don't need to be an expert from day one - the energy you bring counts more.
Network Attend industry events, meet-ups and conferences if you can. Connect with people in the industry and learn from their experiences. Set up a LinkedIn profile if you don't already have one.
Seek mentors and internship opportunities Having a mentor can provide guidance and support as you navigate your next steps into working life. Internships are another way to gain real-world experience. Take every opportunity that comes your way.
Develop your soft skills Effective communication, problem solving and teamworking are just as important as technical skills. These will help you succeed in any role.
The number of women in cyber security is growing but they are still underrepresented*. What advice would you give to girls who are considering their career choices?
Cyber security is for everyone! Many young people - especially girls - believe that they can't be in the field if they cannot code. That’s not true. Girls have massive opportunities to get involved in cyber security; there are so many different roles from security analysts, penetration testers and engineering positions to incident responders, security consultants, security educators and more.
For girls who are interested there are organisations and communities dedicated to supporting and empowering girls and women in cyber security. These communities can provide mentorship, resources and a sense of belonging. Interested? Connect with me on LinkedIn: I would love to share the details!
Jana Vidis is Business Development Manager with IFB, an Aberdeen-based digital services provider. Jana wrote this blog post to suppport DYW's #AJobForEverybody campaign. Read more about the campaign, which aims to celebrate diversity and inclusion, here.
*See this article from Women in Tech here.