Nicola Seagrave, Cyber and Resilience Consultant, Beyond Blue, Derbyshire
Tell us about your journey into the industry.
I enjoyed both social and natural sciences at school and continued this into college and university. My A-levels included psychology, health and social care, business, and travel & tourism. After completing these, I studied Mental Health Nursing at University and gained a first-class honours degree. My dissertation focused on the innovation and transformation of a communications system within the healthcare sector.
During university my peers introduced me into the computer science world, personally attending some of the lectures out of interest and taking part in extra circular activities such as Global Game Jams and Hackathons, sparking my curiosity into the topic of cyber security!
After qualifying, I obtained my first role as an acute psychiatric nurse within the NHS which provided me with a holistic view of people’s needs and safety. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of organisational and personal resilience became more apparent due to the urgent shift in remote working, implementing new technologies and ways of working, as well as technology being the main and sometimes only way people were communicating.
Following this I became increasingly interested in the cyber security world and began listening to podcasts, following cyber-related news and bloggers and utilised various resources to immerse myself within this industry. I would use online learning and gaming platforms to gain immersive skills and increase my knowledge. With the increased knowledge gained over the years, I started to consider a potential career change and came across the Upskill in Cyber programme hosted by SANS Institute. I was one of nearly 2000 applicants fortunate to obtain a place, which was an intensive 14-week programme, consisting of two high-quality training courses and two associated exams (GFACT & GSEC).
After a few months of the great ‘firehose experience’, I passed both qualifications of which I thoroughly enjoyed studying and cemented the urge I had to explore the industry further in roles such as a graduate cyber security analyst, with an interest in consultancy and threat intelligence.
Tell us about your current role.
My current role is a graduate cyber security and resilience consultant within a small boutique consultancy specialising in helping clients tackle cyber and resilience issues. I work alongside a range of highly experienced professionals from various backgrounds and experience including public and private sector. Having a diverse team with differing skillsets enables us to deliver innovative and pragmatic solutions to benefit our clients, as well as learn from each other.
We work with clients across a range of sectors including financial services and government, supporting their cyber security and/or resilience programmes to help build their cyber and resilience posture. Our services include helping organisations implement effective operational resilience to cyber crisis management exercising where we simulate and test our client’s response to cyber scenarios, as well as advising national governments on their present and future cyber security strategies.
As well as supporting clients, the role allows me to focus on internal projects to help develop the business and offers opportunity to work on various service and business developments.
What does a typical day look like?
My role is flexible, my working hours are typically 9-5 and the role is remote, with occasional travel to client sites and to see my colleagues face to face! We have clients all over the world including the UK, Asia and the Middle East so there may be opportunities to travel. Part of my role entails stakeholder management, supporting the development of client deliverables and conducting data collection and analysis.
This requires me to manage my own time accordingly to ensure I meet deadlines and split my time across multiple areas. Meetings are usually done on Teams, however, there have been opportunities to meet clients face to face. Personal development is also part of my day-to-day role, staying abreast of the latest trends, industry standards and regulations and best practice in cyber, resilience and tech fields as well as continuing to identify training and certifications that will compliment my current role and interests.
What are your career goals/plans for the future?
With being new into the industry, the current role I have is perfect for exploring differing areas within the cyber industry. I can gain insight into various areas and teams within cyber security through the work I am currently doing which offers exposure to the differing roles and opportunities in the industry. In the short term I aim to complete further qualifications to sustain and increase my knowledge around business continuity, disaster recovery and generalist cyber security.
My longer term is to develop myself to allow me to work towards a more senior position. To help me get there I want to gain more industry and business experience and knowledge, to build a personal brand and broaden my network to help me reach the next step in my career.
What is the best thing about working in the cyber security industry?
I enjoy attending conferences and webinars as they’re a great place to meet like-minded communities which helps me to expand my professional network, whilst also increasing my knowledge by listening to keynote speakers and panels.
What advice would you give to others thinking about pursuing a career in cyber security?
Do the research and have some fun with it! I utilised online platforms such as TryHackMe, this didn’t feel like a chore and rather something I enjoyed completing in the evenings to de-stress from my days as a psychiatric nurse. The skills I gained in my previous career have supported me and have been useful transferable skills into the cyber industry, especially from a personal resilience, inclusivity and problem-solving perspective. I’d recommend sitting back and recognise the strong skills you have and which of those are your transferable skills that you can utilise to show potential employers what you are great at! Finally, ensure you choose an area you are thoroughly interested in and are motivated and keen to keep learning!
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?
I enjoy travelling and visiting new places, as well as relaxing holidays in the sun! Spending time socialising with friends and family is really important, but so is partaking in my own self-care! I have recently started growing house plants including Bonsai trees, Venus flytraps and Aloe Vera which I found relaxing and is great to see them grow (albeit very slowly!).
I am also training for the 3 peaks challenge with my other colleagues in aid of the charity Mind which will be a good physical and mental challenge to prepare for. I am also a campaigner for Mind, this involves building pressure for change locally, providing my personal views when Mind respond to government proposals and opportunities to feed into their policy work.
Anything else you think would be interesting to add?
Having a LinkedIn profile is extremely useful for networking and to build your profile. There are so many people who share advice, insights and training opportunities/courses and is also a great platform for job searching. LinkedIn is powerful for making connections and opening up a new network of people to begin and continue to flourish your career!