International Women’s Day is a lovely reminder to look at the hardworking ladies across the world, celebrate the challenges they have overcome and advances they have made to build a better society. If we look to history, there are brilliant women who made advances in technology, to name a few: Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, Mary W. Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan. You can also check out the book Women in Science, which covers 50 historic women who changed the world, and many more resources out there.
Today, I am privileged to know many brilliant women in the technology industry. As a part of Chris and I's ISN podcast, we have had the opportunity to interview some of these incredible women, and I would like to highlight them. Not only are these ladies fabulously talented, they have some brilliant advice for others looking to pursue a technical career.
In order of the episodes released so far, let’s start with Rae Baker (episode 3). I met Rae via social media, when she was going to do her very first conference talk. Not only was her talk fabulous, but Rae went from being a Graphic Designer four short years ago, to being one of the leading names in Maritime OSINT and published author. How did she do it?
“I have a problem. where I always have to be moving, moving forward... My first thing was get into a cyber security program. So I did that. Then the second goal was, you know, you have to legitimise yourself, look like an expert.... [Public speaking] I did it for two reasons. The first reason was yes to start putting myself out there. The second reason was because I was terrified of doing it. And that year, my goal was to do everything that scared me… because that's probably what you need to be doing.” - Rae Baker
Leslie Carr (episode 5) shared how she has always been a hardcore nerd, but didn't think on making a career out of it. Yet, somehow she found herself in a technical support role, and learnt she loved problem solving - which opened doors to her now career as the Head of Engineering at the time of the recording.
"When I started the tech support job, anytime there was something I couldn't do and I had to pass it on to the System Administrators to do, I would bug them and ask them what they're doing if I could watch, and can I do that next time? And of course they said, yes, because they were like, wait, I can do less work and pass it on to someone else. Yes. So it was really a win-win." - Leslie Carr
Sometimes our friends become so dear, they're more family, which is where Lisa Forte (episode 7) fits into my life. Whilst being a security expert, Lisa is also a dedicated adventurer climbing mountains, and learning the constant failing that comes along with climbing. Lisa takes those lessons and applies it to her security career.
"...I try to see it [feeling of not good enough] as an opportunity for me to think about how I'm gonna improve and how I'm gonna grow my knowledge base further, how I'm gonna improve... and learn from the people that perhaps I view as superior in some way, in comparison to me, as opposed to judging myself against them." - Lisa Forte
Eyvonne Sharp (episode 10) with over 25 years of experience in tech, she talked to us on handling the fear of missing out (FOMO), and getting over it to choose your direction. Which is an area I think many people struggle with, especially starting out.
"Like there's absolutely always gonna be FOMO.... I go back. Well, why didn't I do it? Well, I didn't do it because I chose to do this other thing. And now maybe I need to choose differently next time. And I can do that. But at some point you just have to decide I'm going to make these choices and these things I'm gonna exclude for now....And that has also helped me with that constant, you know, overanalysing...and all of that stuff that we kind of do to ourselves when we feel like we're either missing the mark or we missed out." - Evonne Sharp
In October we had chance to speak with Snow (episode 13), who after picking her first lock at Defcon, found herself feeling a sense of achievement and dread in the reality that everything is broken. She made her way to the Social Engineering village and her passion took off.
"I found every book on social engineering...reading body language, rapport building, influence techniques, and, and learning as much as I could in practicing and practicing. And I went back and that's when I started competing in that challenge... I competed three years in a row and every year I would go back and I would teach myself more and more to the point where I started getting people like in the audience who heard my calls, asking me to start doing freelance work. And that's how I got my start in information security, specifically social engineering." - Snow
Looking at Marina Ferreira (episode 15), you might think 3x CCIE and distinguished speaker, how could she ever have feelings of inadequacy? However, the view from the outside doesn't always match the view from inside, and Marina told us how she overcomes those feelings of not being enough.
"If it's being quite a few of those type of challenges, you what I'm doing, I take a deep breath. Like I, I will do it no matter what. I will do it. There is a time where I wouldn't do it, but now I'm, I'm just challenging myself. I'm just pushing myself a little bit more. So, and I think we should do that. We should, all do that anyway. Right. So, yeah, pushing myself." - Marina Ferreira
In our first episode of 2023, we had the fabulous opportunity to talk with Dr. Stefani Goerlich (episode 23). As an award-winning author and a certified sex therapist, and another friend who has become family to me, Stefani works in a tech-adjacent role supporting communities in finding ways to safely live their lives. In this episode we covered what we as technology experts, tend to get wrong in communication and professional relationships.
"Anything that you feel like should go without saying is probably the number one thing you should be explicitly laying out, because so much of what we want and need from one another is cultural. [How to identify boundaries and safe topics at work] Thinking about your experiences as a listener make you a better conversationalist in terms of figuring out where to go in introducing a topic to other people. And then as far as boundaries go, the other big thing is just being aware of sort of the physical space." - Dr. Stefani Goerlich
Micheline Murphy (episode 26) talked us through how she changed careers from Trial Lawyer to Systems Engineer, and whilst being newer to this career there naturally are some limitations to her awareness on different technologies. However, Micheline doesn't let that hold her back, she's the first to admit when she needs something explained in more detail, and has found that asking allows others to feel safe asking for more clarity too.
"[Admitting you don't know something can be] little bit scary sometimes, right? ... that takes a little bit of bravery... And I am fortunate to work in a culture right now that it really encourages team members to ask the question why? ...No one is ever gonna know everything about everything. But if you put enough people together who are encouraged to be curious and encouraged to communicate, encouraged to work together, maybe you can build a team that has the answers." - Micheline Murphy
Since becoming a mum, I have had many women reach out asking how long I took for maternity, and how it felt. They were looking at what they should take, and they were so concerned with being away from work, in an industry that is constantly changing. Katie Colgan (episode 27) took a slightly different approach, becoming a full time at-home mum, knowing she will one day return to industry - how does she retain confidence?
"... sort of trying to balance how long you can come out of your career for before becomes a bit too much. But I think with tech, yes, tech moves fast, but with a partner who works in tech. I keep hearing about lots of the things that are going on despite the fact that I'm not actually working and also I do keep listening to like podcasts and all that kinda stuff to try and keep a little bit up to date.. it's a big thing to make that decision because there is those sort of unease about what will come, but I would not give up the time with my kids for anything." - Katie Colgan
Finally, we introduce Gifted Lane (episode 30)! When I started in my career, I had to practice credentialing a lot, that is presenting all my experience and value in technology prior to anyone taking me seriously. Whilst I don't do this directly anymore, I find it absolutely fascinating that Gifted Lane goes so far in the opposite direction - she removes company names from her LinkedIn, she believes her work should speak for itself, and we completely agree!
"So, and then I was just like, you know what? A ton of people are starting to follow my profile, which I think is awesome. And I'm like, just pay attention to the things that I do and not the companies I work for. I was just like, you know what? Company A, company B, that's just what it's gonna be." - Gifted Lane
This is not a complete list of fabulous ladies of course, it's the life episodes we have so far of women who have spoken on the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast. Please tune in on Tuesdays, to hear more brilliant guests join the fun and share their epic journeys. We are always looking for more people to give great insights into technology careers, paths, and decisions made.
I wanted to end this post with a reminder that International Women's Day isn't simply a day to say wow look at how fabulous these ladies are, then drop the topic for the rest of the year. It's a reminder to look at what you're doing every day, to highlight the hard work women put in to be even allowed to share their story and grow. In some areas, this is still a major issue, and those of us who have a voice now, should use that privilege to make a difference in their lives.