Name: Quratulann (Annie) Jamshed
Job Title: CSOC Analyst
Location: Houston, TX
Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you:
What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
Cyber Security was a field I learned about out of curiosity. I came across cyber security around 2013 when I started researching about what I could pursue a Master degree in. I remember looking up different programs and courses offered by various universities and stumbled on a Cyber Security course. The idea of how companies keep their data and systems secure really sparked my interest. When I researched a little more, I learned it was a growing field. This motivated me to learn more and eventually pursue a career in Cyber Security.
What things are the most challenging in your role?
I work in a Security Operations Center which must operate 24/7. Our team is based in two locations, and the members of my team work in evening shifts and on weekends at times. This is the most challenging for me in my current role. I am a mother and it’s difficult to spend time with family and my son when I’m working evening shifts or on weekends.
What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
In Cyber Security, one can never get bored. Bad actors are always trying to be one step ahead of us and there are new threats that one has to keep up with on daily basis. Staying up to date with the latest threats and learning about different techniques being used by hackers is what I enjoy the most in this industry.
Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
One of the most significant challenges I faced in my journey was the lack of female role models I could look up to, shadow, or follow in their footsteps. I was the first girl in my family to get a degree in Electrical Engineering, first to learn how to drive and the first to get a Master’s degree from a foreign country. In many cases, I was discouraged and did not have support because I was a girl. I probably would’ve given up long time ago if I did not have my mother. She was the only source of strength for me for a long time. With her help, I was able to silence the voices in my head and of the people around me. I also believe, challenges are there in every step of one’s life and the only way to move forward is to believe in yourself and in your dreams.
What have been your career defining moments?
I am a leader for WiCS UH (Women in Cyber Security at University of Houston) and also CS2AI (Control System Cyber Security Association International), outside of work, but I also wanted to take up a leadership position within Schlumberger as well. In Schlumberger, there is a group of internal communities called Eureka that contains various Special Interest Groups focused on narrower subjects e.g. Artificial Intelligence, Mobility or Drilling Fluids. Last year, our management decided to launch a Cyber Security Special Interest Group. When I learned about Cyber Security SIG being launched, I immediately contacted the SIG leader and expressed my interest in volunteering. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I would be selected as leader, but when the SIG was launched, I was announced as a leader by default.
Becoming a leader of the SIG has been a career defining moment for me and has brought me a lot of visibility at a very early stage of my career. It has also helped me expand my network within the company and build relationships that I probably wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your career, and if so in what ways?
When coronavirus spread in USA and companies started implementing teleworking, many companies suffered, especially oil and gas. Working in oil and gas sector, I was initially concerned about losing my job but fortunately, this did not happen. I also felt my productivity getting impacted because of working from home. I supposed, like anyone else, I was not ready for this pandemic mentally, emotionally or physically. I was involved in many organizations like CS2AI, WiCS UH besides my day to day work, but after the pandemic, everything came to halt.
Initially, it was difficult for me to work from home. For those who know me personally, know that I am an extrovert. I enjoy going out and meeting people so working from home is challenging. This greatly affected my performance. However, instead of focusing on the negatives, I focused on the positives and looked for opportunities to improve the situation. I worked on my home office, got myself a standing desk and organized myself a little more. This has helped me greatly, but I am still getting used to the new way of 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?
When I was studying in my Master program, the percentage of women I used to hear from various sources in Cyber Security was 11-13%. However, the statistics being reported now is nearly 20%. This is also true for percentage of women taking admission in Cyber Security program at University of Houston. We have seen a constant increase in the number of women entering the Cyber Security program since 2016. There are many communities actively working on improving the gender balance in Cyber Security industry such as Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS), Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), or Women of Security (WoSEC) to name a few. I believe these communities are playing a critical role in improving the statistics. Albeit slowly, the needle is moving.
In your perspective – what are the biggest cyber security threats to companies presently?
Human negligence has and will always pose a big threat to any company. On the same note, humans are also considered the first line of defense. Hence, is important to train employees to follow best security practices and empower them to follow these practices in their daily lives and not just at work. Regardless of all the technical security controls a company may have in place, it only takes one click from a user to cause a security incident. As a result, I believe security awareness will always remain a key component of any company’s cyber security program.
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?
According to center for strategic international studies, by 2022 there will be a gap of about 1.8 billion jobs globally in Cyber Security. Closing this gap is only possible if both men and women step into the field. Exposing our younger generation of women to cyber security at the High school level when they are deciding their career and also retaining the women that are already working in the field can help in improving the gender disparity greatly.
Read Annie’s chapter and others in “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1″, available now via the links below:
About Annie Jamshed
Annie Jamshed is a Lead Cyber Security Operations Center Analyst at Schlumberger. She is a cougar who graduated from University of Houston with a Master in Information System Security. She is also founder of WiCS UH, WiCyS Student Chapter and Outreach Director of Control System Cyber Security Association International (CS2AI). She is also a mother and enjoys spending her time coaching younger generation of women interested in learning more about cyber security.