Kiran Bhagotra speaks about women in cyber to BeecherMaddenKiran has a fantastic career in cyber security, working at government level, internationally. With an ability to bring the right people together, Kiran has made a difference fighting cyber crime and child exploitation. With a background as a consultant in Business Development, Marketing, Operations and Fundraising/Investor Relations, Kiran brings experience in Telecoms, Media and Technology; Resilience/Infrastructure/Mining; Investment Banking/Alternative Investments and Professional Services. These additional skills, are typical of what women are bringing to the cyber security industry. Now, Kiran is working on a cyber security start-up.
You were highly commended for your work in cyber, as woman of the year from the cyber security awards. What did it mean to you to achieve this?
A hugely cherished personal, as well as professional, victory. Professionally, I was flattered when I made finalist, even more so when I read the credentials of my fellow finalists, many of whom are role models of mine. Even though the balance of women in cyber needs re-addressing, I’m re-assured that’s changing from the variety of backgrounds represented in our finalists’ list. With confidence, I say I’m a ‘cyber’ professional who’s a woman rather than a ‘woman’ cyber professional. Personally, having been a freelance consultant for almost a decade, recognition is one of the upsides one foregoes when going it alone. Yet we need the profile-raising as much, if not more, than our bigger peers. I hope my award can inspire other women and independent consultants that being both in cyber and a woman, can offer significant reward and industry recognition. Not forgetting the awards dinner was the best way to celebrate my birthday with work friends!
One of the things the judges liked about your application, was your global work at government level within cyber. What is it like to influence government policy at this level?
As corny as it sounds, humbling and a privilege at the same time. Cyber interlinks with so many policy areas, government breaks it down to prosperity, security and governance. Other countries classify its reach in different ways but echo the same vision. I haven’t seen that commonality between countries, in such a pronounced way, before. I got to learn about so many policy areas and political structures within countries, in a very short space of time as I couldn’t have done my job effectively otherwise. Cyber is also a policy area where industry, civil society or academic backgrounds are value-added, with forward thinking and public-private-academic co-operation being so integral to cyber. I also have so many stories to tell from this role. I attended an inaugural conference on cyberspace in London as a representative for civil society where I was blown away by the sheer scale and level of cooperation between the public and private sectors and academia on so many cyber-related themes. I also met the President of Estonia, a cyber-digital pioneer. I also saw in action Asia’s CSI ‘stars’ and worked on the Prime Minister’s #WeProtect Summit. As a Cyber Security Challenge judge I saw just how easy hacking could be, but also how easy it is to learn and share cyber best practises and skills. The latter as a lead expert presenter in a seminar to South American counterparts as well as when I heard from South Korean school children about their cyber/good information practises at a conference where I also spoke. Also just how little it takes for companies to obtain certification for basic cyber-hygiene, through the Cyber Essentials Scheme 1. Which has meant that (finally) family and friends think I’m ‘cool’ because being a woman in cyber is ‘cool’ J
You actively promote women entering cyber security, what do you wish more women knew about cyber?
Cyber is one of ‘the’ areas to work in. After leaving government, I participated in a cyber simulation led by the US's McCain Institute and Israel's Tel Aviv University 2. Both are leading advocates of cyber in government. This amongst other novel approaches to policy and change 3, show how cyber impacts so many different areas of life and society in deeply profound ways. It breaks the norms career wise too, so whether you’re a recent graduate, a second jobber, switching careers or a return to work mum you’ll always be able to find a role that will suit you. It’s not just for ‘geeks’ or ‘techies’, there are policy, customer service and networking skills based roles too. Areas that women have a proven track record in. Cyber also offers flexible working arrangements with many free or partially-funded courses (including Massive Open Online Courses/MOOCs) to help women up-skill or re-skill. Progressive by nature, innovation and start-ups are the DNA of cyber. Since leaving government, I have been working on a cyber start-up. Cyber, of my many career paths, has given me the confidence and support to have a go at this. It is also a truly global arena in which to work, cyberattacks defy defined nation-state boundaries so working in cyber means working across physical borders. It is also conducive to moving between public, private and academic sectors as well as the three working collaboratively together. All of these factors can help women fast-track into senior leadership roles.
BeecherMadden's recent research shows that women in cyber earn up to 30% more than men, often due to the additional skills they bring to the role. What is your view on this?
I’m not conscious of that gap but am not surprised by your findings. I recall reading a few years back about a similar gender pay gap in male-dominated industries due to the specialist skills women brought to the industry. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ASB) found that female truck drivers, bookkeepers, dentists, psychologists, generalist medical practitioners and welders fared better on pay than their male counterparts. This was supported by various industry leaders who said that even though female electricians were low in number they tended to be overachievers and that female motor mechanics often moved into specialised work such as service advisory. Cyber may not be equivalent to these sectors but the principle translates. Anecdotally from my careers beyond cyber, in investment analysis, PR/marketing, operations, business development, banking within technology I’ve seen women command higher salaries when they had specialist coding skills. It’d be interesting to see what happens to your findings once factors such as overtime, age, location and employment terms and conditions are normalised across your sampled range, if not done already. Also, as seems to be popular with research or indexes (these days), pay is just one factor in considering overall ‘happiness’. Turnover, job title, leave allowances, work/life balance flexibility, environment often others cited.
What do you think the next 5 years holds for the cyber industry?
I feel the sky is the limit, having scaled ‘Everest’ already and the vantage point enabled countries to map their course (together and alone) across the terrains below. What would a blue sky look like? New or improved models of co-operation, whether that be pan public-private-academic or inter-governmental. Cybercrime already has many mature Taskforces and Centres of Excellence, are these models transferable or can they be improved upon for other cyber co-operation areas? Will governments’ prime role, eventually, be the security and governance of cyberspace with the ownership of prosperity devolved to industry? Also technological advances of unprecedented scale as hubs of cyber innovation become established across the developing world (on par with the developed world) and cross-fertilise. Will Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, Machine Learning, Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers just be forerunners in 5 years’ time? Also evolving short term pain with long term gains from the eradication of threat-driven ‘black swans’, this is the paradigm of ‘unknown unknowns’ after all. Whatever the next 5 years holds for cyber, there will be threats and opportunities and there will still be questions to answer. I feel certain though that governments, industry and academia will work collectively towards high impact and the greater good. I’m excited to be a part of that.
Introductions & Opening Scenario:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLNiWLB_wsOg7mXb-7qS3bdEcJxAtWKYdz¶ms=OAFIAVgC&v=xlDrXV_lGLE&mode=NORMAL (minutes 9-15 & 22)
Summary & Conclusions: