Podcast: OPSWAT Joins SecureIQLab Podcast to Discuss Women in Technology

OPSWAT’s Laura Ellis, VP Products, Secure Access, and Kira Parisi, Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer, joined SecureIQLab’s Reining in the Cloud podcast to discuss the growing opportunities for women in technology.

Laura has over 30 years of experience in technology and shares her methods to success when fewer opportunities existed for women, and Kira brings three years in the tech industry and shares her upbringing in a technology-driven world and how it opened a clear path into engineering.

According to a study by AnitaB.org, women account for only 28.8% of the tech workforce, while representing 40% of the U.S. labor market. On this podcast, Laura and Kira discuss their shared challenges while highlighting the importance of young women accessing alternative educational routes and exploring the growing networks for women and girls entering tech.

The Role of Education in Closing the Gender Gap

SecureIQLab: What do you think is the barrier, or the reason, that women are underrepresented in these industries?

Laura: I think it starts at an early age, and I do believe our education system is working hard to overcome that with STEM programs. From the time that I started in the early ‘80s, there’s been a huge increase in the number of women, and I think we’ll see that trend continue to grow...It can be a fun and fascinating and very dynamic field. However, there is still a lower number of women in the very technical areas, such as QA where Kira works. For me, I was able to join an organization that had extensive training. For anybody looking to get into this field today, I would say to look for companies that have that capability – like OPSWAT Academy where you can actually get a certification.

Kira: It has improved since when she [Laura] started her career. I went from a company that had four women in the technical support department, to transitioning to an all-female IT department at another company. That was such a refreshing thing to experience.

Building Confidence

SecureIQLab: How did you build your confidence in this field?

Laura: The way that I built my confidence was by learning and taking advantage of the education that was available to me, and then experiencing and practicing how to use that. Then the confidence comes naturally, and you realize you can be a respected expert in the room.

Kira: A lot of my confidence came from my failures and successes, and learning from both of those has helped me tread through various situations in my career. Before I had those experiences to learn from, a lot of my confidence came from my mentors.

SecureIQLab: What projects are you proud of, either in the past or that you’re working on now?

Kira: My favorite project that I’ve worked on is my current one – OPSWAT’s Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) that allows you to connect to internal resources while being outside the office. This project has been so impactful, especially with COVID and the times we’re living in with a hybrid and remote world.

Laura: An exciting project I was responsible for was the launch of OPSWAT’s SecureAccess solution set last year. It was very timely with the need to work from home, and it was very motivating to be a part of a product that was addressing such a critical need in the marketplace.

Advice for Women or Underrepresented Groups Looking to Enter the Industry

SecureIQLab: What advice do you have for women or underrepresented groups who are looking to enter the cybersecurity or technology fields, but may not know these options are on the table for them?

Laura: Some may not even know that it’s an option for them, especially for young people who may not want to go to college. It is an option for them. Because what’s so important in this industry is the skillset and knowledge, and you can gain those without a college degree from certifications that can help launch you into this field with high-paying jobs in an exciting area. I would encourage young people today to explore the possibilities by networking, joining local organizations, attending conferences, and joining online groups to learn more and hear about this field.

Kira: My advice is to study. There are many online resources and certifications available. My other advice is to advocate for yourself, you’re the only person who knows you and knows what you’re capable of, so it’s important to speak up for yourself.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full podcast here.

Interested in learning more about career opportunities? Visit our careers page or contact one of our critical infrastructure cybersecurity experts today.

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