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Career Nav #60: Empowering Women in Cybersecurity: Journey of Customer Success Managers

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Written by WWCode TeamAugust 28, 2023

Neha Singh, Customer Success Manager at Palo Alto Networks, shares her talk, “Empowering Women in Cybersecurity: Journey of Customer Success Managers.” She shares tips on starting your cybersecurity career, the incentives to join the industry, and how companies try diversifying their teams.

Cybersecurity is the art of protecting our networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access. Cyber attacks and cyber threats could be of various types that you can fall prey to, for example, phishing, malware attacks, DOS attacks, network attacks, and many more. Cybersecurity and cyber attacks are evolving every day. Even the big players in the market who already have all the resources and have implemented various preventive controls cannot avoid cyber attacks. This is why there is a great demand for professionals who can implement cybersecurity and safeguard an organization's data.

Cybersecurity has almost a 0% unemployment rate because we don't have enough people in the market. They don't have enough skills in the market. However, in reality, when we talk about women in this field, surprisingly, the percentage of women in cybersecurity is only about 24%. We are unaware of our opportunities in this field, and there is a perception issue. I have female friends who think this industry is very competitive and only for nerdy males. They also think because it's a male-oriented industry, maybe there would be a gender pay gap, but that's not the case. If you have the skills, you will get paid. 

There are incentives that I see as part of the cybersecurity industry. Job security is one. Because we don't have enough people in the field, there is no way you will remain without a job if you have the skills. Develop your skills, and you will be with a job, and it will be a well-paid job. The companies are also realizing that our workforce is not diverse enough. For example, I'm the only female on my team. Hiring managers also realize we need more people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, or genders. As more and more women join this industry, we will be able to break down the stereotypes and all the perception issues that we have currently. It will help to motivate and encourage other women to join us.

My biggest incentive is the impact on individual, corporate, and national security, depending on what kind of organization you're working for. There are some prerequisites to start your career in this industry. You will have an edge if you have a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology and have coding language knowledge like C++, Java, and everything. You will be preferred, but it's not like if you don't know this, you can't start your career in cybersecurity. There are different roles available for different kinds of skills. Some non-negotiable skills are knowledge of network security, basic networking, firewalls, and endpoint security.

You need a general awareness of things like what is a cyber threat. What kind of security trends are in the market? What tactics are hackers trying to do these days? It's always changing. It's always evolving. The threat landscape in the cybersecurity industry is never the same. Every day, we have something new. You need to keep yourself updated. You need to be detail-oriented. You need to have problem-solving skills. You cannot survive in this industry without these soft skills. You should be capable of troubleshooting the problem and recovering everything back to its original state.

There are two types of skills that we are looking for hard skills and soft skills. You need to have the technical aptitude. You should know basic cybersecurity concepts. If you have basic knowledge of programming, great. In cybersecurity, you are just not working for your team. You are taking care of the security of an organization. You need to know how to work with different teams and collaborate. You will be working with different business units. You're responsible for the security of every unit. You need to adapt your communication style. Not everyone will know cybersecurity, networking, TCP, and routing. You should also be capable of explaining your technical jargon to them in layman's language. 

Your revenue and profit will be affected if you have a security breach. Your reputation will be affected. Whenever something goes wrong, it's a critical situation. We are always working under pressure. If you cannot work under pressure, it's not a field for you. If you find an internship opportunity in any cybersecurity firm. It will give you practical exposure. You would be able to see and learn practically, which is best. There are many websites and many options to learn or to go through some training related to cybersecurity. You can earn some basic beginner cybersecurity-related certifications that will help you.

Many companies have started doing training and bootcamps for beginners. For all of these things, you have to do focused research. You have to understand what this cybersecurity industry is and where you want to start. If you want to learn online on your own, there are some options that you can use, like Cybrary, it's my personal favorite. You can start with any networking and security course.

Similarly, you can use LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, and free YouTube. If you can earn a beginner-level certification, I think it'll give you an edge over other candidates because it validates your knowledge. You can start with CompTIA, it has some network-related certifications. It has one security+ certification. If you want to go into network security, go for the security+. It's a great certificate for beginners. 

Certified Ethical Hacker is also a good one. If you want to go into ethical hacking, The last are CISM and CISSP, which are advanced-level certificates. Once you have five or five plus years of experience, you can start preparing for these certificates to move up the ladder from entry-level roles to mid-level. This is the career roadmap that you can start at entry level. Different roles are available if you earn those certificates. After two or three years, you can move to mid-level and start preparing for these advanced certificates. If you continue further in cybersecurity, one day, you will be a part of senior management.

Palo Alto Networks and many other companies are partnering with universities to nurture talent. The students interested in cybersecurity as a part of the curriculum can take modules. Eventually, they will get an internship opportunity with Palo Alto Networks, which they can convert to full-time. You have to develop your portfolio and gain knowledge and experience. Some companies offer entry-level customer success roles, and they call it customer success associates. In cybersecurity, I don't feel any company would do so. Maybe you can start as a customer success associate, gain that experience of the CS, and parallelly start building your cybersecurity portfolio. Then, maybe you can pivot to any cybersecurity firm.

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