Name: April Boyd-Noronha
Job Title: Global Diversity & Inclusion Advisor; Lead
Company: XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) and CyberXR Coalition
Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you:
I was a participant in a regional spelling bee in 6th grade.
What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I’ve always been fascinated with emerging trends and cybersecurity just so happens to impact us all, world-wide.
What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
I have the opportunity to reach, teach, inspire, and represent the next generation of girls and women in cybersecurity, especially those from historically marginalized communities.
What things are the most challenging in your role?
Debunking the misconceptions and defying the odds on a daily basis.
Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Early on in my career, I would always be confronted with the notion of “why do you want to do ‘that’?” (pursue a career in STEM). This question always fuelled my goal of showing them “why not?”. All the while knowing that if I succeeded, then other girls of colour could truly believe that they could not only succeed but exceed my efforts.
What have been your career defining moments?
Pursuing Cybersecurity degree while at the same time raising three children – all under the age of 18 years old. Being an example for my children to proactively pursue a career in an emerging trend of STEM. My oldest daughter is a Cybersecurity/Networking major. My youngest daughter is interested in waste water engineering. My teenage son is already an award-winning drone pilot.
What changes have you seen in the cyber security industry in the time that you have been in it?
1) Women who pursue a career in cyber security come from various pathways, many times not even a technical background. 2) Women who pursue a career in cyber security tend to be trailblazers. A perfect example is Kavya Pearlman, the Founder and CEO of the XR Safety Initiative (XRSI). Her pathway towards successfully becoming a highly sought-after cyber security executive and global advisor began with humble beginnings as she worked as a hair stylist. Today Kavya is affectionately regarded as the “cyber guardian”, as she should be.
What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
A strategic mindset. Since we are most times underestimated, if we approach every facet of our professional career strategically, then we would be that much more uniquely positioned for promotion and navigating our career to the next level.
Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
If women, even more so, a diverse sector of women, are not represented in the field of cyber security, then our unique perspective of innovation, thought, and strategic skill sets will not be fully experienced at levels as it should be.
How does someone from another industry make the move into cyber security?
Just jump in. I entered the cyber security realm at the age of 44. Unfortunately, I experienced ageism, sexism, and racism while trying to secure employment. So, as a sole provider of 3 children, I had to reinvent myself. I began to hone my vast amount of skills (educator, parent, with an MBA) and started a consultancy, The STEM Broker, LLC, focused on preparing under-positioned populations of youth for STEM careers. Not only did I train the youth, but also engaged parents and equally important, the community in establishing sustainable pathways towards a STEM career.
What advice would you give to a women looking to make the move into cyber security?
First, be focused on your career goal(s), while being flexible in what your ultimate career will look like. New jobs and titles are created every day. Second, determine what your role will be while on your journey to succeed in your career. Will you serve as an advocate in the community, mentor youths, and/or be an active participant seeking to ensure that when/if you leave a workplace, there are future opportunities because you left the current environment better than how you found it.
Do you think it is important to close the gender gap in cyber security and if so, how do you think this could be done?
It is a dire need and sense of urgency to close the gender gap in cyber security. I believe the most practical measure to accomplish this is through establishing industry-wide standards. This is why the CyberXR Coalition recently released standards focused on the following four core pillars: inclusion, accessibility, ethics, and safety. These standards are available and adoption-ready for any organization in the cybersecurity and XR ecosystem.
While the situation in the cyber security industry has marginally improved in recent years, it is still a very male dominated world. What are your thoughts on this, and have you seen an improvement yourself?
I have seen little improvement. Since the cyber security industry is still heavily dominated by white males, we must continue to consistently remind our male counterparts that they are key components for this change – as an ally. Even more important, these same allies need to also serve as staunch advocates and sponsors, especially when in the rooms and at opportunities that us women are not (ever) afforded to be present. THIS is when you move the needle.
Read April’s chapter and others in “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1″, available now via the links below:
About April Boyd-Noronha
April Boyd-Noronha serves as the Global Diversity & Inclusion Advisor and Board Member of the XR Safety Initiative (XRSI). The goal of the XRSI is to help build safe virtual environments, coupled with our mission to inspire and catalyze the safe use of X reality.
Launched by XRSI and led by April Boyd-Noronha, the Cyber-XR Coalition was formed specifically to address the need for diversity and inclusion in both the cybersecurity and XR domain while bringing them together to address social and technical biases in emerging technologies to build safer and inclusive ecosystems for all.