Women in STEM: Phillipa Phipps, Cybersecurity Consultant
Phillipa Phipps is a Cybersecurity Consultant at Airbus Protect. She didn’t take the traditional route into a cybersecurity career. But that just makes her journey more interesting! Find out more in this interview.
Tell us about your professional journey to date.
Before embarking on my cybersecurity career, I worked for the Police. I initially joined back in 2012 as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), before advancing to a support role within the regional cybercrime unit in 2017.
Having gotten married and had my first baby during my time as a PCSO, I needed a fresh challenge! Before joining the cybercrime unit, I had no prior experience in cybercrime or cybersecurity, but the job description interested me. This ended up being my ‘foot in the door’.
For the next five years, I worked regionally and locally as a trusted partner of the NCSC – the UK government agency responsible for cybersecurity. Within my role, I provided support, as well as proactive and reactive cybersecurity and cybercrime advice. I also delivered cyber resilience exercises to a range of audiences including individuals, SMEs, public sector organisations and charities.
After a whirlwind journey, my time with the Police came to an end in December 2022, when I jumped ship to join Airbus Protect. With 20 years of experience working in different roles, sectors and industries, I believe that I’m able to bring something authentic to my new role.
What challenges did you face when entering the industry?
For me, the biggest challenge was trying to do too much. Since the world of cyber is so relentlessly fast-moving, this has sometimes made me feel like a failure or an underachiever – which is far from true!
Another challenge has been trying not to compare myself to others on a similar path. The only competition I’m in is with myself. My cybersecurity career goals are mine and mine alone, and I’ll get there in my own time.
In a way, overcoming both challenges has been about transforming my self-belief.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Doing what I love every day! The transnational nature of Airbus Protect’s business is the icing on the cake and means that no two days are the same. I have a real sense of pride in working for a globally recognised and reputable company.
Where do you look for inspiration or to continue learning?
I love a good cybersecurity podcast, audiobook and app. My favourite podcasts are Smashing Security, Darknet Diaries and Naked Security. Audiobook-wise, I really enjoyed Permanent Record by Edward Snowden and People Hacker by Jenny Radcliffe. I’m currently listening to The Lazarus Heist by Geoff White.
The great thing about cyber is that there are so many free resources out there to expand your skill set! The SANS Institute, ISC2, SASIG, Cybrary and FutureLearn are just a few that spring to mind. LinkedIn is also a great platform for continuous inspiration, and LinkedIn Learning can be pretty helpful too.
If you’re unsure whether a career in cyber is for you, all these free resources mean you can dip your toes in without having to commit your finances. On the flip side, for those already working in cyber, continual professional development is a given. Any upskilling goes a long way, whether it’s paid or free!
What keeps you interested in cybersecurity?
In the grand scheme of things, cybersecurity is a relatively young profession. Those of us working in cyber now are paving the way for future generations of professionals. Personally, I find this exciting.
There is also never a dull day in cyber. The world is more connected than ever, and the sheer scale of our hyperconnectivity is incomprehensible to the human mind. This has changed the way we live and work for the better. But it has also exposed us to a whole host of risks and dangers, which we’re now reactively attempting to fix.
What attributes make someone a great candidate for a role in your profession?
Having the desire to continually learn and adapt isn’t a ‘nice to have’ in cybersecurity, it’s a must.
The ideal candidate for a role in cyber is someone who’s a natural problem solver, who’s able to think creatively and is willing to put their head over the parapet. Good cyber professionals aren’t afraid to make mistakes, they’re able to grow and learn from their experiences – positive or negative.
Having solid communication skills is also an underappreciated skill in cyber. Specifically, being able to cut through the jargon and communicate with audiences that have differing levels of technical knowledge.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to work in your profession?
I’ll say this once, and I’ll say it again – there is no one way to get into cybersecurity!
Lots of people enter the world of cyber through academia. But this isn’t for everyone, and many of the best and brightest cyber pros are self-taught. These people literally built their professions from the ground up.
The most important thing is to carve your own path in a way that plays to your strengths. Don’t compare yourself to others, but do take inspiration from them! Remember, cybersecurity isn’t just the technical aspect. There’s strategy, process, policy and procedure, audit, governance, awareness and human factor – so much more than meets the eye.
Read, listen, ask questions, and never stop learning.
Want to join our team and take the next step in your cybersecurity career? See our current openings here.