Accenture’s Elly Stritch shares her top advice for budding cybersecurity professionals and what surprised her most in her own career.
Throughout this week, we’ve heard from a variety of infosec professionals about what first drew them to security, from PwC’s Katherine Cancelado starting to learn RedHat and Debian Linux at age 12 to Nitro’s David Lenoe getting to grips with new tech during a third-party security review.
Elly Stritch studied business information systems at University College Cork and it was here that her interest in cybersecurity began.
“I remember taking part in a social engineering ‘capture the flag’ style assignment where our class was pitted against each other to test good operational security,” she told SiliconRepublic.com.
This experience cemented her interest in cyber and she chose security-focused modules for her final year in college, before going on to complete a postgraduate diploma in cybersecurity.
‘Everything changes quite rapidly in cybersecurity so it’s OK if you don’t know everything’
– ELLY STRITCH
What brought you to your current job?
I currently work at Accenture as a security manager. It’s a really interesting role that allows me to work in multiple areas including cloud security, cyber resilience and other emerging fields.
The nature of professional services is highly dynamic and there’s a lot of variety in the type of work you can do. I prefer a fast-paced and varied style of work where I can gain expertise across multiple different areas and my role at Accenture allows me to do that.
What were the biggest surprises you encountered on your career path in cybersecurity?
I had preconceived notions that technical skills were the major factor for success in the realm of cyber. However, I’ve come to learn just how impactful communication and interpersonal skills can be.
Translating complex technical subjects into more generally consumable material that can be applied to all levels of an organisation is an instrumental skill to possess.
No matter what company or position you work in, you will always require support or buy-in from someone. The ability to communicate requirements and priorities goes a long way in bringing people on board and effecting meaningful security change.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
As my career developed, I found myself unsure about the direction I wanted to go in.
Jacky Fox, managing director of our security practice, really helped me with this. Working in close proximity with someone so knowledgeable and active in the cybersecurity community has been a great springboard in my career.
Having a mentor who is invested in your career and with who you can discuss new ideas and challenges is extremely valuable.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy working with the various teams across Accenture and I feel lucky to collaborate with so many fun and talented people. There’s a great support network and colleagues are always available to support, enable and reassure you.
Working alongside extremely passionate colleagues at the top of their respective fields is also a plus from a learning perspective.
I enjoy the challenge that comes with working in cybersecurity and the frequency of change, as I am constantly being exposed to something new. Playing a small role in helping clients resolve security challenges and improve their cyber resilience is also really rewarding.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to cybersecurity?
I feel that proactivity and a willingness to learn are two of the main contributors. Cybersecurity is an ever-developing field that you need to keep on top of and these traits help me to stay motivated and keep pursuing new areas of knowledge.
Cybersecurity interfaces with many areas of technology so strong interpersonal skills can really help reduce friction and build meaningful relationships with cross-discipline teams.
What can people expect from career progression in the cybersecurity industry?
Your progression in cybersecurity will greatly depend on the amount of effort you put into upskilling and developing capabilities in new areas. I’d advise those starting off to gain exposure to the different facets of security as this will ultimately help you develop strong foundations and identify your areas of interest.
Some of the biggest milestones in my career have been achieved through exposure to new and challenging roles that required rapid upskilling. While this can be daunting, some of the best development opportunities involve being challenged beyond your comfort zone.
Accenture has supported me by providing me with challenging new roles and a global network through which I can upskill and learn from. Having open access to subject matter experts who are just a message away can greatly enable the success of our work.
In most cases, a five-minute phone call with your colleague is all that’s needed to solve a problem and progress your work.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in cybersecurity?
Everything changes quite rapidly in cybersecurity so it’s OK if you don’t know everything. New standards, regulations and directives are always coming into effect and every organisation will have different requirements and priorities. Similarly, every organisation takes a different approach in their implementation of cybersecurity.
Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers, what really matters is your willingness to learn and take on new challenges. There are numerous resources, courses and entry-level certifications available online that can help expand your knowledge. Similarly, engaging with security meet-ups and communities is a great way to meet more people in the area.
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