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From Nandos to Information Security: How to kick-start your career in tech

Junior Information Security Engineer, Rosie, sat on a chair looking at her laptop

Rosie Underwood is no stranger to switching things up, as she radically changed careers from hospitality to tech a few years ago. We decided to grab a coffee, and find out more about her role here at LeftBrain along with any tips she may have for someone wanting to start a career in information security.

Hello Rosie! We’re looking forward to having a chat with you about all things information security. First things first, could you tell us a little about your role here at LeftBrain?

"Sure! At the moment my role is quite broad, doing a little bit of everything within the LeftBrain Information Security team and help look after some of our key clients. This can involve anything from rolling out software updates through to addressing escalated security issues. I also help with LeftBrain’s own internal security: having a handle on Okta and Duo to protect access to sensitive data, reviewing device reports and making sure everyone in our team is up to date with our own security procedures.

I also spend a couple of hours a day training for the Security+ certification. There’s a huge book to work through: it’s mind blowing! But at the end of it I should have the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions. I’m also ticking off lots of Jamf qualifications at the same time, to ensure I’m across the technical side of things too."

Would you recommend studying whilst on the job, or do you think it’s best to know your stuff before applying for a role in tech?

"I actually think upskilling at the same time as working is the best way to do it. Sometimes, when you study behind closed doors and it’s not something you do every day, it’s quite difficult to grasp the concepts you’re finding out about. If you’re studying and being able to practically apply what you’re learning at the same time, it’s much easier to understand. You get to see how all the theory plays out in the real world."

Tell us a little about life before LeftBrain. Did you always know you wanted to work in the tech industry?

"Life before LeftBrain was nothing like it is now! I originally started out in hospitality, working as a cashier at Nandos. Over the years I worked my way up, starting as a “Buddy” and ending up as Assistant Manager. I started to realise that this wasn’t where I wanted to be long term, so I took a leap of faith and quit my job with only five weeks to find another! I took a part time job at Starbucks, deciding to use the time to do something that I was interested in. I reached out to this company called IT Career Swap, which runs a course to facilitate people who want to change industries and pursue a career in IT. It was intense, but after a year of studying and only a month after I finished the course, I got my first IT job as a 1st Line Engineer at Jigsaw24. I spent three years there, before starting here at LeftBrain."

What was it about the tech industry that interested you?

"It’s really varied, and not in the slightest bit boring! I found with hospitality, I was doing the same thing over and over again every day. You can’t ever be bored in IT, there is always something new to learn. There are so many different areas you can go into: you can specialise in networking or security, or specialise in software and be a Jamf expert or a Microsoft Azure Architect. It’s a great industry to be in and not feel constrained."

That’s so good to hear! Your role has evolved quite a bit since you joined LeftBrain, hasn’t it?

"Oh yes! I’ve only been here half a year, and it’s been a fast learning curve! I started out as a tech support allrounder. I then moved into our Elastic Tech Team, which goes out and supports other teams on specific projects. For the majority of my time in that team, I was helping out on information security projects and really enjoyed it. I was delighted to be asked onto the team full time, and that’s where I am now. I love it!"

Stats from Tech Nation suggest that only 19% of the tech workforce are women. What do you think the barriers are when it comes to women studying or applying for jobs in tech?

"There’s no doubt that there is a stereotype around the typical ‘IT guy’: some nerdy, know-it-all chap who sits at the computer all day and doesn’t do anything else. Perhaps that generalisation puts some women off applying for these kinds of roles. But I haven’t personally had any issues getting into the sector, I’ve never thought: “I don’t deserve to be here because of my gender”. I think if you have the right mindset and drive, regardless of being male or female, there is a place for you here in the tech industry."

What advice would you give to people looking to start a career in information security?

"Know the basics. Something like the Security+ course is a great place to start, as it gives you a general overview of everything you need to know. I started out with very software specific training, which is good because it led to where I am now. But I do recommend starting basic, starting small and working your way up. As mentioned before, learning on the job is where it’s at! Try getting any tech job you can, whilst upskilling and specialising at the same time as being immersed in the industry."

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Memoji of Rosie, Junior Information Security Engineer
Rosie Underwood
Junior Information Security Engineer
5th April 2023
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