Jenni Parry, associate director of cyber risk at Aon, compares her career to a jigsaw: all the pieces are different but fit together perfectly.
Jenni Parry has more than 15 years’ experience working at a senior level in the cyber industry, but she is also a student.
While working full-time at Aon Ireland as an associate director of cyber risk, Parry is completing an MSc in Cybersecurity at University College Dublin. Day to day, her job at Aon involves providing advice and cyber risk consulting to organisations to help them manage their cyberthreats.
She says her manager and her team at Aon have been “incredibly supportive” of her studies. Even with her years of experience and an undergraduate tech degree already under her belt, Parry felt compelled to do further study.
Here, she tells SiliconRepublic.com that she thinks it is her love of learning about new things in tech that makes her so suited to cybersecurity.
‘I think for anyone in the cybersecurity industry, you can never stop learning. The cyber landscape changes so quickly, there is always something new to wrap your head around’
“I’ve always had an inquisitive mind and I like learning new things and challenging myself.”
Looking at her career trajectory, Parry reckons her working life has been like a jigsaw and this gives her a good all-rounder’s appreciation of what it means to work in her current role.
“Cybersecurity is a great field to get into as there is always something new to learn or understand,” she says. “It is also always evolving, with cybersecurity a top priority for leaders in today’s world.”
What first stirred your interest in a career in cybersecurity?
I’ve always had a keen interest in technology, as a child I played around with the family PC (running Windows 3.11). Even at that young age I knew I wanted to do something with IT or computers. I suppose I consider myself a nerd – but I own it!
What brought you to your current job?
Looking at my career, I think it’s like a jigsaw, whereby all the pieces are quite different but fit together perfectly. My first real job was an IT operator, this was back in 2000. It gave me hands-on experience of the industry and the various roles available in IT. After six years in that role, I left work to have my children.
After three years of being a stay-at-home mum, I then began my undergrad in Computer Science with UCD. After graduating, I landed a job as an IT auditor; this role showed me the world of risk and controls, and what happens when risks materialise, and controls break. Client work was a big part of this.
Next was IT and cyber risk management, and this enabled me to gain a holistic view as there was a lot of oversight activities of all areas of the business. The way I see it, I’ve been on every side of the fence, from a do-er to the overseer. In my current role, I get to bring all my experience and knowledge together to offer advice and consultation to Aon’s clients.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path in cybersecurity and how did you deal with them?
I have been very lucky to have good opportunities and working with and for great people. I think for anyone in the cybersecurity industry, you can never stop learning. The cyber landscape changes so quickly, there is always something new to wrap your head around.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
I think there has been more than just one person who has influenced me. I think for every manager or senior leader I’ve had, there was always something to learn from them. Everyone has their own style but it’s when it aligns with my own goals that it resonates with me.
I’m quite driven and want to excel and own my career. The way I see it, it’s a race – I have about 20-plus years left of my career, and I want to push it as far as I can.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Helping clients would be the most enjoyable part. Cybersecurity is not as simple as black and white; nor is it a linear process. Working alongside a team of cyber experts at Aon Ireland, I look to shine a light on the grey areas and assist our clients to make better decisions at key stages of the cyber resilience journey, in particular helping to identify and articulate compensating controls and additional mitigations. A big part of my role is translating technical jargon to plain English. I also provide in-house technical training; I really enjoy teaching people something new or helping others in some way.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to cybersecurity?
I’m a logical thinker, analytical and I have a thirst for knowledge – I think these traits are key in this industry. I’m also quite a resilient person, I think this is essential as sometimes when things don’t go as planned, you need to ability to ‘get back on the horse’ and keep pushing forward.
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