Name: Karla Reffold
Job Title: Founder
What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I found the impact of security fascinating and at the time, businesses weren’t really listening.
What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
I enjoy meeting so many different people. It’s quite a varied industry and being able to help them tell their stories or help them progress their careers and businesses in fulfilling.
What things are the most challenging in your role?
There is often a distrust of recruiters, fuelled by the number of bad ones out there. I don’t experience that much anymore but it is definitely a challenge. It’s also a challenge to try and help my team overcome that.
What have been your career defining moments?
Starting my business and selling it were both career defining. Not many businesses get to a successful acquisition, so I see that as a real achievement. Being named as one of the Top 50 Women in Cyber was also big for me. I really felt accepted as part of the industry and it was nice that a lot of the work, I’ve done to promote women in cyber had been noticed.
What changes have you seen in the cyber security industry in the time that you have been in it?
It’s exploded! Teams used to be 1 person, now they can be in the hundreds. Businesses know what cyber is and take it seriously. I’ve also seen the industry evolve to be a generally inclusive one. We want to increase the number of women in particular but are also quite mindful of other minority groups.
What trends or changes do you think we will see in cyber security in the next 10 years?
AI is the obvious one. So many products use a version of this, or aspire to, that I think it is inevitable most teams will incorporate this in some way. This may also help with the skills-gap. If we can’t hire enough people, we need to find a different way to complete the work that needs to be done.
How much job demand have you seen for cyber security professionals, and what things to you think will shape this demand in the coming years.
Demand is significant, even in 2020. AI may impact that but the only way this really changes, is if companies change who they hire. Hiring new graduates and training them, or people with an interest in the subject looking to make a career change. I see a real mis-match between the number of cyber (or equivalent) graduates and the number of companies actively hiring them.
What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
The ability to communicate to non-technical colleagues is essential for anyone who wants to get ahead in security. It can really set you apart if you are looking for promotions, or just to enable you to do your job more easily. An understanding of risk is also helpful. Although not a soft skill as such, understanding how businesses look at risk can change your decision making.
Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
It’s a great career path for everyone, women included. It’s so varied and always changing. The opportunities for progression are real too. You can get ahead very quickly in this space.
How does someone from another industry make the move into cyber security?
Network, network, network. Go to events (even virtual ones) and meet as many people as you can. Showing your interest in the industry is a great way to get started.
What advice would you give to women looking to make the move into cyber security?
Research all the different career paths. We tend to think of security as hacking but it’s obviously so much broader than this and by researching the different options, you can start to see what draws your attention.
From your perspective what are the biggest cyber security threats to companies presently?
Burnt-out teams are a big threat. Understaffed teams and those which have been strained from the pandemic are more likely to make mistakes. It’s much more likely someone will click on a phishing email when they are tired and this puts the company at risk.
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’s important for so many reasons. Diverse teams perform better and I really want to see more women progress their careers in general, not just in cyber. I think it will make our society better. Companies that really want to commit to this can take a number of actions but they key place to start is by measuring it. If you are measuring it, you will take action and you will see results. Assuming this will happen on it’s own is not working.
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 know the numbers have improved. What has really improved is our commitment to making a change as an industry. Men want to advocate for women in cyber now and I think that was the turning point. It’s why I’ve chosen to take action on racial diversity when I had previously stayed away from talking about it. Men had to be part of the conversation for change to happen and white people need to be part of that conversation for there to be improvements in racism.
Read Karla’s chapter and others in “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1″, available now via the links below:
About Karla Reffold
Karla Reffold is the Founder of BeecherMadden, an international recruitment business. Since founding BeecherMadden in 2010, she has managed to build the organization to operate in Europe, the Middle East and North America. She is also a judge for The Cyber Security Awards, The American Cyber Awards and The National Cyber Awards. She enjoys mentoring others and assisting businesses with their growth as a non-executive director. Karla speaks often on diversity and recruitment within cybersecurity.