Amandeep Kaur was given a life-changing opportunity to leave her small village and move to the United Kingdom to stay with her aunt and uncle and study Information Security and Computer Forensics at a university of her choice. She followed her passion and, as a result, was able to start a new career in cybersecurity. But, for many women, opportunities like these are hard to find. In this edition of our blog, Amandeep explains that a lack of female role models in the industry, as well as a false stereotype that technology is “too hard” for women, can create negative perceptions that discourage women from this type of career.
How long have you been at ControlCase and what is your role?
Amandeep Kaur: I am a Lead Information Security Consultant at ControlCase LLC. I have been working in the role of PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and I am also a certified PCI Secure SLC Assessor. I started with ControlCase LLC in 2014 where my first role was Security Tester. Over the years I became a QSA and started performing onsite assessments for the Asia-Pacific region. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my day used to be so exciting as I would travel at least once or twice a month to different countries and learn about client environments, cultures, and meet new people. But, since the pandemic, all onsite audits have become virtual audits and in-person meetings are now virtual client calls.
How did you get started in the technology or payments industry? What led you to that career choice?
Amandeep Kaur: My professional growth stalled after three years as a lecturer in Information Technology. So, I decided to enhance my skills in Information Security as I was always excited about new technologies and cybersecurity challenges. That was the point where I quit my IT lecturer job and enrolled for further studies in Information Security and Computer Forensics. As a result, I took this path as my new career. My passion drove me into cybersecurity.
Who has been your biggest role model in shaping your career path?
Amandeep Kaur: My uncle and auntie gave me a great opportunity to come to the UK from my small village to study there and stay with them. This was a life-changing event for me. It was a dream come true. My uncle gave me different options of universities with lists of courses available and helped schedule my meetings with university career advisors. This helped me choose the right course and I selected a master’s degree path in Information Security and Computer Forensics. This opportunity gave me a complete kickstart to my career. I enrolled for this course in October 2010 and achieved honors in 2012.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Amandeep Kaur: The proudest accomplishment in my career to-date has been becoming a QSA. I started my career as a security tester. Getting qualified for the QSA exam was a big achievement. My career path was not clear to me at that time. I love to learn about new technologies to not only increase my knowledge, but also to allow me to take on new challenges and accomplish my goals.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that is the case?
Amandeep Kaur: The main reason for the small number of women in technology is due to the lack of role models for women within the sector. This is mainly because of gender stereotypes that ‘boys are better at science and math’. In recent years, there has been an increase in women entering high-level technology roles, but women are still in the minority compared to the number of male role models in the sector.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance doubting your own ability? How do you overcome it?
Amandeep Kaur: I don’t feel that being a woman makes me more prone to a lack of self-confidence than the men in our organization. I believe past experiences can shake and rattle our beliefs. Our upbringing plays a big role in shaping our habits and personalities, too. Once you discover there are negative voices running inside your head, try to stay in the present moment and focus on the positives. This will build a new level of confidence.
What do you see – or hope to see - as the future for women in technology roles or the payments industry?
Amandeep Kaur: I started as a PCI DSS QSA in 2016 and, at that time, there were only a couple of ladies who were QSAs in our organization compared to 30 or 40 male QSAs, which was shocking. However, if I compare that count with today’s data, female QSAs are increasing. We still need to have more women in technology roles though.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a famous quote that you live by?
Amandeep Kaur: I have learnt that nothing is impossible, and success does come to people. Early on, people told me that this career choice is difficult and that I should go for fashion designing instead. My mother always said that hard work always pays off and she always asked me to focus on what I am doing and to never give up. I chose cybersecurity and followed this mantra, which resulted in me becoming a successful cybersecurity professional: "If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary."
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general? Is there anything you wish you had known?
Amandeep Kaur: I think it’s a myth that it is hard for women to be in technology or in the payment industry. We should not believe what we hear; we need to investigate why people are saying this. If ten people are saying the same thing, it does not make it the truth. If you go into this career with a good attitude and accept the challenge, then you will see that this field offers much more job stability and even less stress compared to many other professions. I started my career very late as there was no proper guidance for me. I have learnt from mistakes, did not give up, and that led me to where I am today. People around you will doubt you; they will tell you that you shouldn’t take risks. You must ignore that. It’s going to get hard, and at times it’s going to feel impossible, but those are the times when you need to drive yourself the most. I wish I had good guidance as a teenager; then all that I have achieved might have been achieved ten years earlier.