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Wendy Goucher: from social sciences Lecturer to Cyber Security Consultant

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn

A few words about me:

Profile shot was taken at the BCS President's event, so I'm smart in my waistcoat and blouse - too warm for a jacket. I am more interested in the president than the photographer so I like the relaxed look.

I am a cyber security consultant working in risk and assurance with Arcanum - Cyber.

As well as being a consultant, I'm an author of some text books, but more importantly cyber security stories for primary school and retired folk - and I use the same skills to write policies (although generally they have fewer pictures).

I am always engaged in a mutual dysfunctional relationship with my garden - we both try to out-do each other.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

My first career was as a lecturer in management and the social sciences. My computer lecturer at college used me to test his 'idiot proof' programs because I was so far from naturally competent.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

Absolutely not STEM!

Where did your professional journey start?

Towards the end of my lecturing career my husband was in 'Information Security' and I needed a new challenged so I stepped in to try and work with the business focused perspective. It has been a tough journey with more than a few skinned knees and little actual achievement.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I came in because I was looking for a challenge. What I didn't know then was my ADHD brain was not coping with increasingly constrained processes for lecturing with approved worksheets with little room to be spontaneous. My husband was working in Information Security and he was sure that there was a need for business focused Info Sec so I jumped - and then floundered around for years as it turned out the profession was happy to have business focused folk, as long as they were firstly technology focused.

I kept pushing and trying, with mostly my husband working and me taking notes or carrying the computers. I look around now and things are changing. The way I look at tech now is that it is no longer an exclusive profession. Almost all professions use some technology, as do the very young and the very old. I am passionate about widening our outlook to help and empower everyone. Just because I'm not a professional baker, it doesn't mean that I can't bake a cake and also need recipes, hints and tips. IT is the same.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

I am neurodiverse. I was first diagnosed as having dyspraxia at primary school - I wasn't told until I was studying to be a teacher. School was hell - I was 19 1/2 before I could get 5 o levels and 2 A levels to get into 'clearing' to get to do a degree.

I recently found I have ADHD. This messes with the way my brain processes information and is a key part of why I can't pass exams, so I don't have any Cyber Security qualifications. Just a couple of years ago, someone told me that if I was serious about being a cyber security person, I would roll up my sleeves and make an actual effort to pass the exams. Otherwise I shouldn't be allowed to be in the profession - I felt like crap for ages after that.

I never want anyone to feel like that about themselves just because they are not neurotypical. On the upside, my ADHD brain is how I get the ideas to write the cyber stories.

I have the knitted characters of Nettie and friends that I take into school when I'm telling cyber stories.

"Find your strength - if you can't think of one ask friends."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

I wish the profession had been ready for a business process focused person like me. If I were coming in now (not 15 years ago), I would want to understand how I can make a contribution.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

Getting my BCS Fellowship. The certificate is on the wall in front of me and I look at it every day and remind myself that despite not being able to do technical stuff or pass exams I can still be accepted.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I love working with smart people. I am a natural team player and the fact that a lot of the risk and assurance work means I need to work with people who know a lot about things I struggle with, but they still respect what I can do, and that makes me happy.

What I don't like is in situations like the one above, when I'm told I am not worthy. Also (and this has happened more than once), a training person telling me that my problem was that I didn't have a good trainer or training approach before, and that they could fix my problem. I am a fully qualified teacher with 20+ years experienced and these people who have experience, but no formal training are saying this is my fault. Sorry, but that embarrasses me and angers me a lot.

"To work in technology today you don't have to be able to program a computer, there is everything from information security and audit, to understanding how tech is used, risks and daily operations."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

I loved when I used to talk at conferences, mostly with ISACA. One I remember well was when I had a suit on, but then put a sundress and top on to hide it. About 10 minutes into the talk, I took off the top clothes - in front of everyone (have never been a good looking girl so I think there were concerns that people might be put off their lunch), revealing my business suit to show how we judge people by how they look, including how likely we are to think they would work in a cyber secure way.

At that time there was a group of amazingly talented and funny speakers who I would often meet up there and then spend time with local delegates. We had some great times. Now it is all online, unless I pay for the privilege of traveling and attending so I think I've only spoken at an industry event in person once since COVID. As a trained and experienced teacher, my comfortable place is in front of a room full of people so I miss that.

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

Find your strength - if you can't think of one ask friends. To work in technology today you don't have to be able to program a computer, there is everything from information security and audit, to understanding how tech is used, risks and daily operations.

Find what part of yourself you want to take into the profession first. Then I suggest you join a professional organisation, and of course I would say the British Computer Society, not least because I know what they can offer in terms of support. But there are others like CIISec and ISACA. Follow their groups on Linkedin and find what makes sense to you and then look for their mentorship schemes - they all have them.

I had some smart people around me in my early years, but not with my perspective. I would have loved having a mentor.


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