An Interview with Vanessa Cardwell, Marketing Director at Bite IT

It is truly wonderful to be on this journey highlighting wonderful women in tech and it is time to introduce Vanessa Cardwell, Marketing Director at Bite IT. This was a really informative interview that starts with a personal story about phishing.

Vannessa is the “driving force behind Bite, with their extensive expertise, they create and deliver campaigns across security, networking & cloud agencies.

Interviewer: Could you let us know about your background and your journey within cyber security?

Vanessa: When I was in college, I was very adamant that I was going to be a doctor! I was very competitive but didn’t qualify to get into medicine. My second option at that point was ‘computers’. So, I naturally went into the IT world. Even though this was my second choice; I am glad I chose this path.

My initial role was a role that many of us start in, a support role, and then you move on from that. So that is how my journey began, supporting customers. However, my introduction to cyber security was an expensive affair. Unfortunately, I was the victim of a phishing scam, and that created a huge awareness regarding the cybersecurity world. This was more than a decade ago, and from that, I developed a keen interest in cybersecurity and actively started looking for a role in that sector.

I started my journey in the security field as being a victim, and from that, I now advocate for security. I am very passionate about it and very grateful to be in a role I enjoy.

Interviewer: How did that experience of phishing impact your next move? Was there any element of it that really spurred you into looking into cyber security?

Vanessa: It was a personal phishing attack, which really fascinated me. I suddenly thought – Oh my god, why didn’t I see this? There are two types of victims I think, those that don’t want anything to do with it after it happened, and then here is me! I wanted to know how it happened and to investigate it further.

My aim now is to create awareness of the red flags and raise understanding. I want to share that awareness and enlightenment, especially with those who don’t know what is happening in the digital world. Including my parents! And now with colleagues that I work with, ensuring that they understand the impact.

Interviewer: How did you educate yourself and move that into a more security-focused role?

Vanessa: It was a combination of everything. I started actively looking for opportunities within the organisation. I networked with my security team, and everybody likes to help others in this sector, we like to spread the noise and it really is brilliant. They were open to anyone who is willing to learn and who is keen to learn. I took on shadowing experience in their team on small projects where I could add value. Open resources are another area. I did the Open University course on Cyber Security which was a great way to get a foundation, which led to specific training and vendor training. I also used podcasts and webinars.

Interviewer: Would you say for someone that's kind of driven a path into cybersecurity that it is open to anyone, does it matter what background you've come from?

Vanessa: People assume it is all technical, but there is room and need for non-technical stuff too. There are many different roles that you can perform and not all of them are technical skills based. You do however need to understand the security principles and apply what you learn to the specific areas you need to.

Security is not just an IT problem. Every member of an organisation has an impact on security. It is not an isolated problem so if you are looking at getting into this career and you don’t think you want a technical role, you might instead want a marketing role or sales, you will still have an impact on security.

Interviewer: How do you think we can start to make a difference in our own security mindset?

Vanessa: I do think it is becoming second nature and there is a culture change from a security perspective, but we need to be doing more so that all generations make it second nature.

We need to start from school, the more we talk about it the more we understand and the more awareness that we create. We need to also talk to a business as a whole and learn who is involved, not just a blanket approach for everyone. Instead of just saying what they need to do, we need to discuss the impact and create the link between why we are asked to do certain things.

Create more in-depth training sessions catering to all types of learners and start to implement an awareness programme for example. Security conversations should be embedded into every touch point to keep driving and building that awareness.

Interviewer: You mentioned earlier that going into IT wasn’t your first choice, but you are glad that it went that way. Can you elaborate?

Vanessa: All the girls were talking about going into Medicine, so I naturally went down that path. There was also not a lot of awareness or initiatives regarding IT or computers, but if I had more exposure to computers at school it probably would have been my first choice.

Interviewer: Do you think that this is why there is a lack of women within the industry?

Vanessa: Again, it is probably a “women'' thing, let me explain. We don’t apply to roles if we don’t believe we can 100% satisfy the role. Our previous roles don’t have to be the same, the skills are transferable, but we are still hesitant to apply for a career change or new role.

Interviewer: I don’t think women include how they raise children either, there are so many things as a mum in a job description you can tick off anyway because you do those things regularly.

Vanessa: Absolutely right! But many women don’t go for the role if they don’t 100% fit, which is a shame.

Interviewer: Has there been anyone during your career that has helped you or inspired you?

Vanessa: Yes, my line manager! And others have really pushed me to take advantage of my potential. I actually used to get frustrated at some points feeling like she wasn’t happy with everything, and I had to ask why, she said that it was not that I was doing a bad job, she just wanted me to do what I was capable of. It really helps to have that kind of person and I was lucky to have a manager like that!

A lot of places have mentorship programmes too. So I participate in those programmes and my line manager was great at getting me to participate in those which is where my leadership roles started.

Interviewer: What are five tips that you would give anyone that is looking to get into cybersecurity?

Vanessa: Just go for it! Go for whatever you want and use the resources we spoke about as there are plenty of open resources available. Equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Everyone is in it together and we are all learning together, and we all share our knowledge. Network within the industry as people are very willing to share and support you.

Also, keep up to date! And make sure that you know what is going on in the field and take all of your previous skills and apply them to security.

Thank you Vanessa for a wonderful interview! You can listen to the full interview over on our website: An Interview with Vanessa Cardwell, Marketing Director at Bite IT

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