Welcome to the first in our series of “Meet The Contributors” to “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1”.  We will be releasing a series of Q&A interviews with the contributors in the book over the next few weeks, and would like to start this series with a Q&A with Goonjeta Malhotra:

Tell us an interesting or fun fact about you:
I am a very creative person and I like learning new skills. I love to paint, it’s my hobby. Painting on a canvas feels so refreshing to me, it feels great to begin with an empty canvas and creating a masterpiece out of it. It’s like my happy place and something that I enjoy doing in my free time.

What drew you towards a career in cyber security?
I have always been really interested in technology. As a kid, I was really fascinated with computers and the enormous things they could do at just the click of a button. However, I got to know about cyber security as a career only a few years back when my brother introduced me to it. The thing that drew me towards it though was being able to save people and companies from the bad guys. I have always felt like I have to do my duty towards the community and help protect people and save them and cyber security felt just like the career for me. Since it is an ever growing field, one always gets to learn new things. There are so many things to learn in this career, there are varied fields so one never really stops learning and that’s what attracted me the most towards it.

What do you enjoy most about what you do in the industry?
The thing that I enjoy most is that we are constantly trying to up our game. We are hustling hard to gain more knowledge and being better at the job we do. There is always a scope of improvement and always a chance to grow more and that makes me enjoy it so much more. Also, when one is confident about her skill, it feels really rewarding. The fact that you can get into a system that you in actuality shouldn’t be able to, that feeling is truly very rewarding.

What things are the most challenging in your role?
I try not to think of minor setbacks as challenges, because if there are no challenges how is one ever going to be able to learn from it and get back up? To be a part of this industry, it is very important to know the fact that you will never be all-knowing, because that’s just never possible. You will surely gain expertise over time but it is not an easy job. When you are testing websites and applications, you need to be careful and responsible. So this job definitely requires the technical skills but a sense of responsibility as well because at the end of the day you are providing a service to the client so you need to handle their websites and network infrastructure very carefully. It is also a time bound task so time management is the key here.

Have you come up against any challenges or roadblocks and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
I think almost all of us at some point or the other experience setbacks but what matters most is what you learn from it and how you push yourself back up. There are restrictions put on by the society about women taking up technical fields and so many other things but what matters most is the courage of getting back up. Our book “The Rise of The Cyber Women” reveals these challenges that we all faced as women, coming up in a fairly new industry.

What have been your career defining moments?
I have received recognition and a swag shirt by the Dutch government for finding a critical vulnerability in their website; also it was my first experience finding a bug on an actual website so it means a lot to me. I also cleared OSCP at the age of 18, and it is one of my career defining moments because I am the youngest girl to do so.

What trends or changes do you think we will see in cyber security in the next 10 years?
I feel like there is going to be a huge spike in the number of people taking part in this industry. Not only men, but women as well will be coming up a lot more because this industry is ever-growing and cyber security is going to see a huge growth in the coming years because everything is going to be automated now. Companies are making advancements in integrating AI with home appliances, there are millions of websites out there and every company wants to stay protected from cyber threats, so cyber security industry is surely going to see a huge growth in the coming years.

How much job demand have you seen for cyber security professionals, and what things to you think will shape this demand in the coming years?
There is a huge demand for cyber security professionals because there is a certain level of skill-set one needs to actually be able to perform vulnerability assessments on websites and network, so they definitely have a huge demand. Also, because so many new companies are coming up and people are actually becoming aware of the cyber threats so they want to invest in cyber security and want their systems to be protected. In such a time, cyber security professionals and companies which provide cyber security testing are seeing a huge demand.

What soft skills do you think are important for women in cyber security to have?
Apart from technical skills, soft skills too are required by not only women but men as well. These include communication skills, time management, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership skills and most importantly work ethics. As white hat hackers we work ethically and it is necessary for us to have a sense of responsibility with our job. Something specific to women would be to have leadership skills and being able to put our best foot forward because we are worth it.

Why do you think more women should consider a career in cyber security?
Though there are women who are now considering cyber security as a career, right now the ratio of women to men is pretty low in this industry and women should definitely take it up more. Everything works better when equally balanced. Every job must have an equal ratio of women and men in its workforce because that is when the productivity is at its utmost best.

What advice would you give to women looking to make the move into cyber security?
I would simply say “You can do it!”. Confidence is the key here and if you believe in yourself then you can do it. Don’t let society restrict you or stop you from pursuing your passion. If you are really passionate about something, do it and it will feel so rewarding later. Focus on your skills, focus on what you want to be and strive for it. Work hard and you will surely see results!

Do you think it is important to close the gender gap in cyber security and if so, how do you think this could be done?
Yes, it is so important to close the gender gap in cyber security because there needs to be a balance in the workforce. There needs to be equality and to me women are the backbone of this industry because only when women come up more and there is an equality at the workforce, the organisation can give it’s complete best because there are so many different thoughts, ideas and minds working together in unity and things work best when done together.

While the situation in the cyber security industry has marginally improved in recent years, it is still a very male dominated world. What are your thoughts on this, and have you seen an improvement yourself?
I have seen many women coming up now and I think the women and men who are already a part of the cyber security industry are all lifting up the newcomers. The people in cyber security industry are very welcoming and they give back to the community a lot! I am glad I can play a role in this as well and am grateful to have had such amazing mentors myself. I think there is a lot of improvement in the recent years and I see a very bright future in the coming years as well.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I am glad I could be a part of this book and get to play my role in encouraging more women and men to take part in this industry. I would encourage all those who are trying to find their way in the cyber security industry to read this book. The UK Cyber Security Association and all of us authors have worked hard to present to you, our struggles and how we rose from them, the challenges we faced and how we overcame them and that is something the readers of this book can take away from it, something common in every women who gave their story for the book is that we have hustled hard to be where we are today and we are unstoppable now. We had the drive and passion in us to do what we love and I hope you all can too!


Read Goonjeta’s chapter and others in “The Rise of the Cyber Women: Volume 1″, available now via the links below:

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rise-Cyber-Women-Inspirational-security/dp/B089M619Z7/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=The+Rise+of+the+Cyber+Women&qid=1596365176&sr=8-2 

Kindle/eBook – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rise-Cyber-Women-Inspirational-security-ebook/dp/B08F3RGYQC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Rise+of+the+Cyber+Women&qid=1596365061&sr=8-1