Experian Is ‘THE VOICE’ Of Women’s History Month Today
For ‘Women’s History Month’ in March, APPG AI is collaborating with Rajinder Tumber, one of the members from the Citizen Participation Task Force, to launch ‘The Voice’ – The Women’s History Month Series.
In this series, women from some of the world’s most prestigious organisations will be making their voices heard, in the attempt to attract more women into the world of AI and cyber security.
Welcome to ‘THE VOICE’ series for Women’s History Month, produced to help encourage more women to join the cyber security and artificial intelligence industries.
Today’s edition of ‘THE VOICE’ features Dr. Wendy NG, from Experian.
Experian is a consumer credit reporting agency. Experian collects and aggregates information on over one billion people and businesses including 235 million individual US consumers and more than 25 million US businesses.
Wendy was interviewed in 2019, to share her experience of working in the cyber security industry. She is the DevSecOps Security Managing Advisor.
Wendy guides development teams to integrate security principles into the software development cycle. She provides oversight and support through tooling to ensure quality code which addresses business and security goals.
Rajinder Tumber: Why did you join the cyber security industry?
Wendy NG: I was fortunate to have studied in a high school which embraced STEM related subjects, including computer science. I was particularly interested in how powerful computers are at analysing huge volumes of data and generating insights – a very useful analytics tool. I read genetics at university, leading me to a doctorate in medical genetics. This sparked an interest in complex traits, which relies heavily on statistical analyses and machine learning techniques.
However, as luck will have it, I started my commercial career with Cisco, which provided a fantastic foundation for what lay ahead. In fact, it was at Cisco that I realised connectivity is a major path for security issues. Security also had a natural appeal to me as I found many of the concepts have parallels with medical genetics.
Tumber: What do you feel you can contribute to the industry?
NG: Due to my somewhat eclectic career journey, I’m able to bring a different perspective into cyber security. Academia involved a lot of collaboration, and that mindset has stayed with me. Also, by default, I often share knowledge and experience, and truly believe that increased collaboration between organisations will enable us to create better, more effective security models.
Tumber: The ratio of men working in cyber security is significantly greater than women. What do you think women can bring to a male-dominated team/domain?
NG: It’s no secret that we have an imbalance of men and women across our industry, but it’s great to see organisations, including Experian, are working to address this. In fact, several studies have suggested that gender diversity, even if it’s just at board level, improves an organisations overall performance. As we start seeing more females operating in typically male-dominated roles, we will start to realise the value that different approaches, different solutions and different views bring to a business.
Tumber: Being a minority in your team, what (if any) challenges have you encountered?
NG: I don’t believe I have faced specific challenges as a female operating in this industry. Having said that, AI and Cyber Security have been an active career choice and my strong desire to succeed, along with an element of selection bias, may have overshadowed whether any challenges I have faced has been down to my gender.
Tumber: Would you say your career has been a smooth rise to higher positions, or has it had its dips and detours? Please elaborate.
NG: My career path has been varied, partly because of my wide range of interests. I don’t think my experience is too dissimilar to paths others have taken, as we are far more aware of how skills and experience can be transferred across different sectors. We are in an era where people can explore more than one career option and it’s been a privilege to be able to experience working in different industries.
I’ve had two major detours in my career, the first when I made the decision to leave an academic career in medical genetics, the second moving into security. Regardless, I have always valued everything I have learnt and always tried to apply it to whatever role I’m in. Experience can only be begot from taking on new things which will continue to test you and help you develop into a better version of yourself.
Tumber: Have you experienced any difficulty with making yourself heard during your career?
NG: I’d be lying if I said no. However, you do have to pick your battles. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to make an accurate judgement of which ones are worthwhile. I don’t think anyone will be heard all the time, but hopefully what I have said has made an impact on the people around me.
Tumber: Within the workplace, do you feel women are being treated differently because they are female?
NG: People can behave differently towards different people, including men and women, not all of which is necessarily negative. But it is fair to say that there are cultural differences in expectations and a certain level of stereotyping. There can be a certain level of nervousness when interacting with individuals who are amongst a minority, but this is starting to change with more diversity entering the field.
Tumber: Do you think more women should be encouraged to join the cyber security industry? If so, why?
NG: Absolutely! These are rewarding careers, both intellectually and financially, with great prospects. Regardless of your gender, I believe these are interesting and exciting career paths. Although these are still very male-dominated industries, I hope I can do my part to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM.
Tumber: How do you think more women can be encouraged to join?
NG: The shortage of women in STEM-based subjects has been well publicised, and traditionally girls have not been guided towards these. Whilst there is concerted effort, we are still catching up. The presence of more women acting as role-models and visibility of these in STEM careers will certainly allow more girls and women to become confident that they too can have successful careers in STEM focused professions, including AI and cyber security.
Tumber: Do you have any advice to share for female professionals who want to enter the cyber security industry?
NG: Be curious and explore these careers paths, find out more about them and their requirements. If you believe one or both are right for you, be confident and go for it! AI and cyber security are rich in opportunities and have huge potential for progression, so it’s a great time to join.
Additionally, I wish to dedicate this article in the memory of my professor Sue Povey, a renowned British Geneticist.