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Welcome to the world of cyber

As one of the country’s most renowned cyber security experts, Jane Chappell is passionate about protecting both people and information.

She was the first woman to command a cyber unit in the British Army and her expertise in the sector has since helped the MoD, NATO and the European Commission.

Since 2008 she has been jointly at the helm of Arcanum Cyber Security, a thriving UK consultancy with a specialist digital forensics team working from an office in Wolverhampton.

Jane, aged 59, and her team’s world is one of ultra-confidentiality, non-disclosure agreements and intricate behind the scenes work.

The firm’s 29 employees work in offices throughout the country on contracts for highly classified work from major clients in the UK and abroad – often in defence, police forces, government departments and critical national infrastructure.

This may involve advising on setting up robust computer systems, helping with criminal investigations or protecting against hackers. It also includes making sure an organisation’s cyber security is fit for purpose and providing trusted training to avoid security risks.

Jane hopes to inspire a new generation of women to enter the traditionally male-dominated field by sharing her own journey to becoming one of the industry’s leaders.

“Women shouldn’t be scared of cyber. It’s a hugely rewarding career, regardless of gender,” she says.

Her career began in the Royal Air Force working in supply and logistics and serving at stations, including Stafford, before leaving as a Flight Lieutenant in 1992.

She went on to hold positions such as Crown Servant at HQ British Army of the Rhine, Germany, and Operations Coordinator at a Defence consultancy in Henley-on-Thames.

In 1997 Jane joined the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as an intelligence officer with 7006(VR) Squadron, a National Reserve unit. Jane later studied at Royal Holloway University for a full-time MBA in International Management followed by a MSc in IT Security.

While attending a former employer’s 10th anniversary BBQ lunch in 2002, she was informed by one of the directors that the Army had established a new IT Security Reserve unit and was encouraged to apply for a position.

After attending an interview board, Jane was accepted, resigning her RAuxAF commission to join the Royal Corps of Signals in August 2003, where she held key and several senior roles in the Land Information Assurance Group (LIAG), a National Army Reserve unit, that deploys cyber security teams to operational theatres and on tasks worldwide.

In 2006 Jane formed her own cyber security company, Alberta Associates Ltd, which she ran for six years, delivering advice on programmes and projects for Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Rockwell Collins.

Two years later, after finding that that there was greater demand for cyber security consultancy, she co-founded Arcanum Information Security Ltd, a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

She has never spoken to the media about her job, but she wants to highlight what a career in cyber can mean for women – especially as Arcanum’s team is almost half female. She says: “Since moving into the IT or cyber security profession over 20 years ago, as a career changer, I have found that attitudes have been open and accepting toward me and other women. Perhaps entering the profession when mature rather than as a young woman in her early 20s made a difference as my confidence was already well developed.

“Today 20 per cent of the cyber security industry is female and growing. I think that within a generation this will increase to 40-45 per cent which is a vast increase for such a ‘new’ profession. I’d say that while a figure of 80 per cent of an industry shows it’s still male-dominated, women shouldn’t feel intimidated.

“During the last 10 years I have seen a significant increase in women working in all aspects of cyber. On a recent National Cyber Security Assessment Panel, 45 per cent were women with careers in cyber security. For me, being a woman has not made any difference whatsoever. However, I do have an armed forces background where during my early years of service women accounted for approximately five per cent of the serving personnel.”

Jane says she has never experienced discrimination or encountered any bias since joining the cyber security industry. “Perhaps this was because so few people understood ‘cyber’ which was then referred to as IT security, so were interested in the knowledge that both women and men had,” she explains. “Cyber is an everyday word now and many people know much more about it. There’s a great deal more publicity and ‘hype’ about women in the profession today which I feel detracts from the fact that the profession needs people with passion and ability at all levels, regardless of gender,” adds Jane.

She hopes her experience and enthusiasm for cyber and digital forensics will inspire a new generation of women.

“Whenever I have the opportunity to do so I chat to young women about their career aspirations and talk to them about the breadth of opportunities and different cyber disciplines that are open and available to them. I explain how I made the career change as a mature woman and what working in the cyber profession means to me, personally, how widely interesting it is and the roles I have filled as well as the cyber security business I co-founded.

“For a time, I commanded an Army Reserve cyber unit of 60 people who have varied civilian career backgrounds. Although we had a small percentage of women, what we all had in common were clear aims and objectives to achieve as well as a determination to ‘get the job done’. The work took us all over the world into many environments including some with adverse conditions. Leading by example has always being a mantra of mine so this has always ‘set the scene’ and made the fact that a woman was leading the unit/team somewhat immaterial,” says Jane.

Her career advice for women wanting a future in cyber or digital forensics is straightforward.

“Cyber security has many disciplines so do your research and ask questions. If you can, talk to other women who are already embarking on or working in cyber. Find out what appeals and interests you, whether it be security architecture, penetration testing, cyber compliance/auditing or one of the many other areas. Ask yourself whether you wish to work with other cyber professionals where you may share knowledge and obtain mentoring or to be the only cyber professional in an organisation. I’ve never regretted my career move into cyber as it’s such a developing profession, provides a great deal of job satisfaction and has an extensive outreach network,” she says.

The cyber industry found itself in the headlines last year with a government ad campaign urging people to retrain and consider a career in cyber. One ad featured a picture of a ballet dancer and the words ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. She just doesn’t know it yet’.

The ad was removed after a backlash and criticism that the government was failing to support the arts.

Jane says: “The advertisement sent mixed messages and was ill thought out with little depth or supporting information. Government initiatives such as the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst for 11-17 years olds which has a girls’ competition and Cyber Security Challenge which runs competitions, networking events and careers fairs, encourage diversity and inclusivity and are established, successful programmes providing opportunities for development.”

Jane insists that anyone from any background can find a place in cyber if they want to.

“Because there are so many disciplines within cyber security it’s attractive as a second or third career as well as a first,” she says. “Not every role in cyber security is deeply technical and I have met women with many and varied interests and career backgrounds who have studied or trained to make the transition to cyber security. If you are willing to learn, study or retrain and set your sights on what you wish to achieve, there’s no reason why someone who has an arts background or mindset shouldn’t succeed.”

To find out more about Arcanum, visit https://arcanum-cyber.com/

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