Kate Fateeva | CEO, Co-founder, FastNetMon | LONDON
Tell us about your journey into the Cyber Security industry
I have always been interested in people, that's why when I finished school I decided to study for a degree in sociology to learn more about how individuals interact with each other and form a society. I did my degree outside of the UK but unfortunately after graduation I realised that it would be very hard to find a job as a sociologist or society researcher as the industry was not experiencing a high demand. After months of applying for jobs I ended up working as a journalist and a copywriter in an IT company that offered web design and marketing for its clients.
Thanks to a few years of working in that company I learned a lot about search engine algorithms, digital advertising, social media and took a position as a digital marketer (EMEA) and then a partner manager on a classified advertisements website. It was my first experience of a workplace where I fully comprehended that you should learn new things fast and adjust the knowledge that you already have.
Also in practical terms I learned how to build partner networks from scratch, understand a business process and improve my communication skills. Then I moved to the UK with my partner because he was offered a job in a new country and I had to adjust my skills to the new market. It was tricky not only because I had to learn how to use new tools and social media that’s more popular on the English speaking market but also because English isn’t my native language and it took a while to understand how to write catchy posts in this new language for me.
To get some experience and apply what I was learning in practice I accepted a volunteer position as a marketer in a completely new project that was about network security. It was focused on an open-source tool that detects and mitigates DDoS attacks, which was a new topic for me. Around that time I’d just started reading about cyber attacks, threats and social engineering, and I saw how it changes people's interactions and influence on societies.
During my volunteer work I had to learn a lot about the topic to understand how to better adjust my marketing strategy. I started to become interested in the psychology behind the attacks, what drove hackers to do it and how people interact online differently from when they are offline. I felt that learning this at a deeper level would help me to understand better what I do, and I successfully studied for and passed the Cyberpsychology module at IADT Irish university during the COVID lockdowns.
The project where I was initially involved grew very fast. We decided to concentrate on developing a new and more advanced version of the product, and because it was a startup, the processes were changing very fast. Marketing was growing, the customer base was growing too and we had to spend more time on strategy planning and adjusting our processes. The business skills that I learned on my first job, with a mix of understanding of how the product works, who our main audience is and how we can develop it, was very useful at that time.
I was subsequently offered a position to lead the company and become CEO. Now we have customers in the UK, US, EU and Asia and our team is spread around the UK and headquartered in London.
Tell us about your current role
FastNetMon is a team of enthusiastic professionals working in the network security area. Our headquarters is in London. We operate around the world, protecting businesses from cyber threats. Our mission is to deliver a versatile DDoS detection tool which can be used by companies of any scale to protect their networks. I am a co-founder and CEO of the company. I came to the project as a marketer to create a brand for the product and we ended up establishing a company with a new advanced product.
We are a small company and our staff is limited. We have a support team, developers, marketers, lawyers and accountants. We are a product company and concentrate on the quality of our product and automatisation of processes. It helps us to keep our budget and expenses at a reasonable level. We protect customers' networks from DDoS attacks and help them deliver internet connection or services without disruption. We live in an age when everything operates online and the disruption of this can have very damaging consequences. We help to mitigate an attack and stop it before it switches off the client’s network.
What does a typical day look like?
As I am at a senior level in the company I have to spend a lot of my work time in meetings and business communications. My typical day starts with checking my email and LinkedIn. Then it depends on meetings that have been scheduled. If I have meetings and calls I build my day around them. I can research some questions for future planning or projects, do some routine work, prepare some materials for the marketing team and lawyers.
At the company we use a blended work system. It’s necessary to be in the office on Thursdays and you can choose one more day to come into the office and the other three days you can work from home. When we meet in the office it’s usually a day of meetings and brainstorming.
During the year I attend conferences and network events to keep contact with peers within the industry.
What are your career goals/plans for the future?
I think when you take a more senior position you start realising how little you know. I am planning to develop myself as a leader to promote the importance of diversity in the cyber security industry. I can see how small a number of women are in network security. When I visit telecom conferences it’s usually a male dominated audience there. We should involve more women in the industry.
I am not a technical person but the industry where we work demands some technical understanding. That’s why I am still studying networks to better understand how to make them security resistant through their design.
What is the best thing about working in the cyber security industry?
You are always learning something new. You are on the edge of new technologies, understanding better how to consume information carefully. Also I feel that we make the internet safer and help connect people, protecting companies from attacks and keeping a stable connection.
What advice would you give to others thinking about pursuing a career in cyber security?
Think about what your passion is. It might be psychology, the human factor or maybe you enjoy solving logical tasks or you love coding. There are plenty of positions in cyber security and you can find the one that will bring a lot of satisfaction to you. Don’t be scared if you do not have some experience or knowledge in the area. Cyber security is an area that’s evolving and changing very fast. It’s impossible to know everything. If you have a passion and interest you can learn fast. And be ready to learn constantly.
What would you say are the 3 most important skills you use in your role, and why?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read. I read fiction and non-fiction books. Books help me to relax and broaden my horizons. Travel and visit new places - I love learning about different cultures and it helps me to speak with business partners from different cultures efficiently. Skating and cycling - it helps me to be active.
How can we encourage more people into a career in cyber security?
Share more stories from women. Speak about different ways to come to cyber security, speak about different positions and what skills they require, show that cyber security isn’t only about coding. There is a lot of psychology, creativity and communication.
What barriers have you faced as a woman in the cyber security industry and how did you overcome these?
The network security industry where we work is a male-dominated industry. This is the part of cyber security where the percentage of women is still small. It’s hard not to feel impostor syndrome visiting industry events where most of the attendees are male. How do I overcome it? I am not a technical person and I don’t have deep skills in that area. If someone starts speaking with me about something technical or something I don’t know, I’m not afraid to say that it’s not my area of expertise and if we have someone in my team who is more skilled in that I always refer the person to my colleague.
Visiting networking events helps me to find more like-minded people and mentors from our industry.