Celebrating International Women’s Day with Head of Defence, Louise Percival

Published on: March 8,2024 Published in: Cyber Security News Perspectives

On International Women’s Day, we asked i3Secure’s Head of Defence, Louise Percival to tell us about her journey into Cyber Security, what inspires her and share her advice for women considering a career in the industry.

How did you get into a career in Cyber Security and Information Assurance? 

Like many others, when I choosing my university degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career at that point. Unsure of where it would take me, I attended Cardiff University to study a Politics and International Relations Degree. During my course, one module stood out above them all, ‘Digital Technologies and Global Politics’. In this module, we studied the ever-increasing entanglement between technologies, global politics, war, and peace. It would be fair to say that this module kick-started my interest in the industry pushing me to apply to QinetiQ to join the graduate scheme.

It was an incredibly steep learning curve and was incredibly daunting. It took a great deal of hard work, amazing mentors, determination, and resilience to find my feet as a Cyber Security Consultant. In 2021, I left QinetiQ to join i3Secure, a company of only 6 people at that point. Since then, the team has grown radily and now, as Head of Defence, I lead a large team of consultants. In this time, i3Secure has given me opportunities that I didn’t foresee. They didn’t see my age or gender as something to overcome, instead, they saw an opportunity to empower someone and put them in a leadership position where they could share the lessons and learnings I had been afforded in my short career and pass them on to others. 

What do you love about your job?  

The breadth of opportunities, interesting projects, and people working in this industry! No project is ever the same, no two people’s skills are the same, and no day is ever the same. I love the variety that is present within this industry. This variety gives me the chance to learn every day, and pass that knowledge onto others. There are so many ‘flavours’ to Cyber Security and there really is something for everyone, from the uber technical, to the governance orientated.  

Who has inspired you the most in your career?  

I don’t think I could name just one person who has inspired me in my career. I have met many people from many companies who have all taught me something. Whether that was a piece of knowledge, inspired new ideas, increased confidence, or provided exposure to a new area of the industry. What all of these individuals have in common is the belief that it takes many different skills and individuals to ensure a secured system. By diversifying the education within our sector, we can ensure we have a bounty of skills to tackle the challenges we face in our working life.  The rapidly changing landscape insists on skill and knowledge diversification, agility, and the desire to learn. 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? 

‘The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. But start with the feet so it can’t run away.’ I have used this piece of advice in so many situations! It really encourages you to take a minute to understand the task or problem, think about how to get to the finish line, and prioritise your tasks before you start.   

What advice would you give to women thinking of entering into the Cyber Security industry? 

Industry needs more diversity, and many aspects of it. I strongly believe, and many people are fighting for it, that we shouldn’t be relying on similar degrees as the basis of hiring. A variety of degrees brings different perspectives to a problem. In addition, and this is incredibly important, a degree is not a necessity to excel in this career. There are many apprenticeships out there, free online courses (Cybrary, Open University), and mentor programmes that can kickstart your path into the Cyber Security Industry. If you have the willingness to learn, and determination this industry can provide you with an incredibly fulfilling career, and you can join the other women forging a path to a more diverse, inclusive, and successful industry. 

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