In this section you can find out more about me, what I do and why I do it, and what I have done during my career.


Here are the awards I’ve been a finalist for along with the awards I’ve won over the course of my career.


Find out more about things I have achieved during my career.


Discover the qualifications I have that allow me to offer my skills and expertise to my clients.

Case Studies

Read about how things progress from a booking to a presentation.


In this section you can find out more about me, what I do and why I do it, and what I have done during my career.

Cyber Security Unity

Find out more about my cyber security content hub and community that aims to unite the industry and help combat the growing cyber threat.


Find out more about my work with Qualitest Group


Find out more about my role as co-founder of the International Imposter Syndrome Awareness Month with Nat Schooler and Kim Adele


In this section you can find out more details abot the services I offer using my skills and experience to their best for my clients.

Cyber Security Awareness

I offer a professional cyber security training and awareness service to help organisations and stay safe against cyber-crime.


Content Writing

I offer a professional content writing service mainly in the cyber security and tech space.

Marketing Consultancy

I offer a marketing consultancy service to help ambitious organisations solve their key strategic marketing challenges


Coaching & Mentoring

In June 2022 I passed my Level 5 Diploma in Life Coaching and decided I wanted to use this to help others as a Coach and Mentor in the cyber security industry.

Keynote Speaking

My strong experience in cyber security, business and neurodiversity has led me to becoming a strong keynote, motivational and inspirational speaker. I have many “ready to go” slide decks which are detailed below, but I can of course create a bespoke talk and presentation on any of my specialist subjects.


In this section you can discover the types of content I have created such as books, published articles and white papers.

Published Articles

Discover a selection of articles I have written for industry magazines.


I have published several books on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and is also working on others.


In this section you can discover the types of content I have created such as books, published articles and white papers.

Why Your Non-Cyber Colleagues Aren’t Listening To You








In-Person Event: teissLondon2023 | Resilience, Response & Recovery








In-Person Event: International Cyber Expo 2023









Find out the latest in what is going on with my website including news and blogs with more details.



My Top 5 Cyber Security Podcasts

My Top 5 Cyber Security Podcasts

Welcome to my new series of blogs which will cover my top 5 cyber security events, podcasts, publications, and video series. In my first blog I covered the top 5 cyber security events that I cannot afford to miss, and in this blog I am going to list my top 5 cyber security podcasts.

So without further ado, my top 5 cyber security podcasts are:

Cloud and Cyber Security Podcast
Run by Francesco Cipollone, the Cyber Security & Cloud Podcast #CSCP is a place to explore the dark secret of cloud and cyber. The podcast focuses on people and their stories and explores the human element that brings so many people together Some episodes are for the well-seasoned cybersecurity veteran, but most are about stories of infosec people and how they reach where they are now. The focus and various stream of the podcast is Cybersecurity, Cloud Security, Application Security Social Engineering, and community building.

Influential Visions
Influential Visions is run by Nathaniel Schooler, where he interviews futuristic leaders who share their deep industry knowledge and business experience in the tech and cyber security industries. His podcasts help to ensure you have your finger on the pulse and your eyes wide open when it comes to succeeding in business in the tech space.

Cybercrime Magazine Podcast Series
Cybersecurity Ventures is the world’s leading researcher and Page ONE for the global cyber economy, and a trusted source for cybersecurity facts, figures, and statistics. They provide cyber economic market data, insights, and ground-breaking predictions to a global audience of CIOs and IT executives, CSOs and CISOs, information security practitioners, cybersecurity company founders and CEOs, venture capitalists, corporate investors, business and finance executives, HR professionals, and government cyber defense leaders. They keep their audience on the cutting edge of cyber with video journalism, featuring interviews with industry celebrities, thought leaders, and market movers, and their Cybercrime Radio podcast channel.

Smashing Security
Smashing Security describes itself as “helpful and hilarious,” which is an apt description for this light hearted podcast on current infosec concerns, that nevertheless manages to provide expertise. Co-hosts Cluley and Theriault don’t particularly limit themselves in the topics they cover, instead casting their net over anything related to cybercrime and more.  This is one of those podcasts which you can dive right into – the presenters keep the jargon light and make a point of not patronising the listeners. Perhaps it’s this ability to balance knowledge and approachability that earned Smashing Security the title of “Best Security Podcast” at the 2018 European Security Blogger Awards.

The Shared Security Podcast
The Shared Security podcast has earned quite a reputation over the years, which makes sense because it began as much as 10 years ago, back in 2009 when the topic of cybersecurity was far from the hot topic it is today. Podcast creators Scott Wright and Tom Eston cover a lot of topics that range from IoT, mobile devices, PoS threats to more abstract topics like global politics. The result is a general source of privacy updates that are sure to be relevant to everyone’s online lifestyle. The concept behind the podcast is simple. In an interconnected world, huge numbers of people rely on platforms and technology that are “shared” like a common resource. And the only way to keep that technology safe is to educate users to know about threats to its integrity.

What is your favourite cyber security podcast? Are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below! In my next top 5 blog I’ll be covering my favourite cyber security video series, so keep checking back for this and to see what my top 5 video series are in the cyber security space.


My Top 5 Cyber Security Events

My Top 5 Cyber Security Events

Welcome to my new series of blogs which will cover my top 5 cyber security events, podcasts, publications, and video series. In my line of work as the CEO & Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association and as a cyber security awareness consultant I come across many of these and I thought I would share my favourites. I have a “go to” list of events, podcasts, video series and publications that I visit on a regular basis to get great cyber security industry insights and to find out what the hot topics and themes are in the industry.

I thought I’d start with my top 5 not to be missed cyber security events:


Infosecurity is the Daddy of cyber security and Infosec events, and is next taking place on 8 to 10 June 2021, subject to coronavirus restrictions. I get so much out of this event from the latest topics and insights, new vendors and products that are helping to keep the cyber world safe and great networking opportunities with my cyber security colleagues and friends. It really is a not to be missed event and one that is firmly on my cyber security events calendar.

Cyber Fringe Festival

This is a new event taking place on November 23 to November 27 online and it promises to be 5 days of key topics, insights and content from companies and speakers who are actively involved in cyber security across the West Midlands in the UK. There are opportunities for virtual networking and a virtual exhibition booth. Topics covered will include cyber security strategy, operational and technical sessions, cyber industry, defence and emergency services, diversity, government, acceleration and cyber security skills. Another not to be missed event in the cyber security events calendar.

The Future of Cyber Security Event Series

This series of cyber security conferences were face to face events before the coronavirus pandemic, but they have successfully evoloved to be a series of virtual conferences. In 2020 they featured keynote speakers such as Edward Snowden and are compered by Colonel John Doody.  These fully interactive and immersive events provide a full conference experience from the comfort of your own home with plenty of opportunities for learning and development.

Think Digital Partners

Think Digital Partners run a series of one day events that focus on cyber security for the government and public sector, with their next event for government taking place on 1 December 2020. As these are aimed specifically at these 2 sectors, they are fully tailored to provide key insights and content that is interesting and relevant for government and the public sector. Think Digital Partners also run a cyber security and digital ID directory.


CyberUK is the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) flagship event which takes place annual in a different part of the UK. In 2021 it is due to take place at the ICC In Cardiff on 11th and 12th May. It features world-class speakers, solutions, and opportunities for interaction between the public and private sectors. Attendees will be briefed on the evolving cyber threat and how we must respond as individuals and as a community to keep Britain safe in cyberspace. The event is attended by over 2000 delegates and is the authoritative event for the UK’s cyber security community. It aims to demonstrate what we can do together as teams, as departments and as organisations to deliver a digital United Kingdom that leads the world in cyber resilience.

What are your favourite cyber security events and conferences, are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below! In my next top 5 blog I’ll be covering my favourite cyber security video series, so keep checking back for this and to see what my top 5 video series are in the cyber security space.

Happy 72nd Birthday to the NHS

Happy 72nd Birthday to the NHS

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday NHS….
Happy birthday to you.

Today marks the 72nd birthday of the NHS, and there is a final #ClapForCarers event taking place at 5pm tonight to mark the occasion. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for the NHS and what they are doing to keep everyone who contracts coronavirus safe and alive, while also attending to those with other illnesses and conditions. Everyone who works in the NHS, no matter what their role is, is a hero to me.

I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to access healthcare at source whenever I need it, and to book a GP appointment if I need one without having to pay. You could argue that we pay for it through our NHS contributions of course, but that is a small price to pay to be able to see a doctor more or less on demand and to have access to specialists, nurses and doctors when we need them. The NHS should be treasured, because I fear for a day that it becomes a privatised institution.

I’ve had my share of help and support from the NHS over the years – so have my family – and I can’t thank them all enough. We’ve all heard horror stories, and the system isn’t by any means perfect, but we are so lucky to have access to it. In 2013 I had incredible support when I was pregnant with my unborn son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura. When a severe cleft lip and palate was picked up in him during my 5 month scan I was referred within 3 days from the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to the Foetal Medicine Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham under obstetrician Professor Mark Kilby. When other problems were detected with him, I was supported every step of the way as I prepared to be a full-time Mum to a son who would need 24-hour round the clock care and support.

When my son was stillborn on 29 November 2013 the care and support I received at the Worcestershire Royal  Hospital was second to none, especially from the hospital Chaplain Rev’d David Southall who went on to become a good friend to myself and my family. I had genetic testing and so did my husband and family at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham when they found after my son was stillborn that he had a very rare chromosome duplication on his chromosome 15, and I know that would not have been cheap. I’m very grateful to the NHS for that and for their support.

With my son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura and my good friend Rev’s David Southall, Chaplain at the Worcesershire Royal Hospital. Rev’d Southall is baptising my son.

Today I am even more grateful to them for finally getting to the bottom of what was wrong with my Dad and diagnosing him with CASPR2 antibody encephalitis, which is extremely rare and only 45-50 people globally have been diagnosed with this particular kind of encephalitis, which is autoimmune. My Dad has had brilliant support from Dr Tom Heafield, his neurologist at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Professor Sarosh Irani and his team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who my Dad is now under due to the rarity of his autoimmune condition.

In addition to this my Dad is of huge interest to Dr Saiju Jacob, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and to Dr Mike Zandi, consultant neurologist at the Queens Hospital in London.  The only small gripe I have with my Dad’s illness and condition is that it took the NHS nearly 3 years to get to the bottom of it – my Dad was very close to being diagnosed with motor neurone disease with associated dementia – and he didn’t have either condition. But they got there in the end, and for that I am extremely grateful.

With my Dad when he was in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in March 2020, just prior to lockdown, getting treated for his CASPR2 antibody encephalitis under Professor Sarosh Irani.

I can’t even begin to imagine what every single NHS worker is going through right now with the coronavirus outbreak and pandemic, I am in awe of each and every one of them for what they do for us. They deserve our most lavish praise and most outstanding ovations (as the quote goes in the film “The Greatest Showman”). How they cope day after day, night after night is incredible.

If my Dad was living in the USA, even if he had the best health insurance policy that money could by over there, he would NOT be covered for CASPR2 antibody encephalitis. Autoimmune conditions are excluded from health insurance policies in the States and he would have to thousands and thousands of dollars for his treatment despite having insurance.  This brings it home even more as to how lucky we are to have access to healthcare when we need it.

Of course, if we have the money or insurance policies we can bypass the NHS and pay to have certain treatments and operations privately – but the majority of us are not so lucky – and this is only going to get worse as the pandemic grows, job losses occur and people lose their businesses and livelihoods. We MUST treasure our NHS with everything we have got. If I had the power to grant every specialist, professor, doctor, nurse, healthcare professional and person who works for the NHS a pay rise I would do so in a heartbeat. It is scandalous that they are paid so little for everything they do for us.

So happy birthday NHS, and THANK YOU for everything you do for us, especially during these unprecedented times with the coronavirus pandemic spreading like wildfire all over the world. I treasure you all more than you will ever know. On a person note, thank you for all the help, support, treatment and care I and my family have received from you. You all have my deepest and utmost respect for what you do.

Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: This Too Shall Pass

Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: This Too Shall Pass

I’ve seen and heard some pretty harrowing things this last week or so when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. And yet somehow I have to have faith and believe that things will get better one day.


They won’t be the same. I am sure we will all be forever changed as a result of the events of this year so far. It isn’t over yet and more is to come.


My heart goes out to:


– all the key workers in the NHS, supermarkets, carers, delivery drivers etc – you are all putting your lives at risk for us
– the families of those affected by coronavirus, and who have lost loved ones to the disease
– everyone else who is doing their part and helping in the fight against this awful disease

– all of those who have been furloughed or who have lost their jobs due to the virus


I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everything okay again, as it was before the virus came, but I know I can’t.


I am very lucky, I know that. All I have to do is stay in my own home apart from my daily bit of exercise to walk my dog Poppy and to do 1 food shop a week on a Saturday for myself and my parents. I hate leaving the shopping on their doorstep and not being able to see them. I am thankful to all my friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn who have taken time to chat to me on messenger and who have been checking in on me and my parents to see if we are okay. It means the world to me. I miss my family and friends, but I’m lucky to have Facebook messenger and other online tools to be able to speak to them and even see them on video.


It is truly at times like this that you realise what is important, that you chuck out what isn’t important and you get to see first-hand who is there for you and who isn’t. People show their true colours in a time of crisis, and I’ve certainly seen that with some individuals first-hand since the coronavirus outbreak happened. Good riddance to bad rubbish is what I say to that!


I hope with all my heart that this too shall pass and we will all be able to see each other again, hug each other and tell each other we love each other. Let’s all try to hang on in there and do what is being asked of us by the government to try and halt the spread of coronavirus. I know how tempting it is to go out on a lovely day like today, but we mustn’t.


We all have to keep calm and carry on as best we can, and as hard as it is. In the meantime, if any of you need to talk or just want to vent, chat or catch up, I’m there for you. Send me an email, find me on social media, and get in touch. Please don’t feel that you have to go through these crazy times alone…you don’t.
Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: Why I Am Self-Isolating as Much as Possible with No Symptoms

Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: Why I Am Self-Isolating as Much as Possible with No Symptoms

In early January this year news began to circulate about a new strain of coronavirus that was sweeping across China, and that originated in the province of Wuhan.  Dubbed COVID-19, this strain was deemed to be more contagious and deadly than previous strains of the virus. China moved quickly to contain it, but with international travel today it was inevitable that it would spread across the world. Unfortunately, it has spread globally, and at a rapid pace. As the news began to report more and more cases of the disease worldwide, and with so much still unknown about it, how it spreads and how to contain it, I began to get very anxious about it.

First Thing First – What Exactly is COVID-19?

According to www.nhs.uk, coronavirus (or COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is not yet known exactly how it is spread from person to person, but similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Unlike other flu and cold viruses’ symptoms of coronavirus have 3 distinct areas including a fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, it is still very hard to distinguish coronavirus from other flu and cold viruses.

Current guidance for dealing with the outbreak includes:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • Don’t touch your face or eyes if your hands are not clean

Those with underlying health conditions and the elderly are most at risk from coronavirus.

At first, government advice was to self-isolate at home for 14 days if you developed a cough, fever or shortness of breath, or if someone in your household developed symptoms. But as the outbreak has progressed, government advice is now to self-isolate for 7 days with ANY symptoms that are cold or flu like.

They also said that anyone who could work from home for the foreseeable future should work from home to help contain the spread of the virus. I’ve been working from home since 2015, and I am already used to doing this with no problems.

The Global Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Most countries in the world are now affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but the epicentre of it seems to have moved from China where it originated to Europe, and in particular, in Italy. Italy is currently on a complete lockdown, as is Spain, and other countries are following suit. Last week the coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a global pandemic.

Panic buying in the shops and supermarkets has been seen all over the world, with people clearing the shelves of items such as toilet paper, tinned food, pasta, UHT milk, rice and other non-perishable items. I’ve seen panic buying first-hand where I live in Worcester, with huge queues at supermarkets and people literally grabbing what they can off the shelves as if they are preparing for Armageddon, a nuclear war or the end of the world. It really is truly frightening.

My Personal Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak

On Sunday 1 March 2020 my Dad, who is my absolute world, was admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for tests and treatment after being diagnosed with an ultra-rare brain condition called CASPR2-antibody encephalitis on 8 January 2020. Due to this diagnosis my Dad is at HUGE risk as he falls into the “high risk” category due to his underlying health conditions. I am sure that if he contracted coronavirus, he would have NO chance whatsoever against it.

When he was admitted the number of coronavirus cases in the UK was still relatively low. Due to him being so far away from us, my Mum and I decided that we would visit my Dad twice a week. It is an hour and a half or more to get to the John Radcliffe Hospital in the car from Worcester and the parking there is atrocious. Instead we decided to travel by train and then a taxi or the bus when we visited my Dad.

My Mum and I made 3 trips by train and bus to visit my Dad while he was in hospital, and by the third trip I felt like I was playing Russian roulette with coronavirus. People had learnt NOTHING and were coughing and spluttering away without covering their mouth or using a tissue. By this time the death toll was up to 10 and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases was around the 750 mark, with 7 confirmed cases in Oxford.

While other countries including Italy and Spain moved to lockdown to try and contain the spread of the virus as well as cancelling mass gatherings including sporting events and conferences, the UK took no such stance. The USA closed its borders to people travelling there from Europe, and from tomorrow it will close its borders to people travelling there from the UK and Ireland.

Our government will possibly be taking other measures to contain the spread of coronavirus such as asking the over 70’s to stay at home for up to 4 months, but so far they have not closed schools or banned mass gatherings. Some have been cancelled or postponed anyway, for example, the London Marathon due to take place in April has been moved to the Autumn.

After my last visit to see my Dad in hospital in Oxford last Wednesday, I took the decision to self-isolate myself as much as possible to try and mitigate the possibility of contracting coronavirus.

Why Have I Decided to Self-Isolate Without Symptoms?

Before I go into why I have made a decision to self-isolate myself as much as possible, I should say that what I am doing isn’t necessarily right for everyone. However, I think we all need to weigh up our own personal risk factors when deciding what is best for us on an individual basis in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

I have made my decision due to my Dad’s poor health from CASPR2-antibody encephalitis, and because he falls into the high-risk category for contracting coronavirus. My Dad is my absolute world, and while I know I could potentially fight off and recover from coronavirus, I am sure that my Dad with all his underlying health problems would stand no chance against it.

Until further notice, I will NOT be doing any of the following things:

  • Travelling on any kinds of public transport including train, plane, bus, tube or taxi.
  • Attending any cyber security or work-related events, conferences or meetings.
  • Going to Costa coffee for catch ups with my friends.
  • Going to the cinema with my friends.
  • Eating out in restaurants with my friends.
  • Going into town shopping, or to Malvern retail park shopping.
  • Going to the gym.

As I work from home anyway, I will be able to continue everything I am doing with my work with the one exception in that I have pulled out of being a speaker at some cyber security related events and conferences. For example, I pulled out of speaking at this year’s Cloud and Cyber Security Expo and the Think Cyber Security for Government event. I’ve also been asked to speak at some other leading cyber security events and conferences, but I’ve said no to them all. I do wonder if they will go ahead in the light of the coronavirus outbreak, as many have been cancelled or postponed already.

I am always happy to take part in any online or virtual events and conferences (in fact, I’m taking part in one led by Infosecurity Magazine on 25 March) or have meetings via video call, Skype or Zoom instead of face to face. The next speaking engagement that I have in my diary is 28/29 April for the Identity and Access Management Summit event, but I will monitor things closely and if the situation is still bad with the coronavirus outbreak I will cancel that too (I have already been in touch with the organisers about it).

I had SUCH great plans for this year in terms of keynote speaking engagements and other speaking engagements, especially as I had to put these on hold last year to look after my Dad. But the risk is just too great, events and conferences are being cancelled and postponed left right and centre, and it is far better to be safe than sorry. If I can do them virtually or online, then great, but if not – they don’t happen. It is as simple as that.

The ONLY things I will be doing during this period of self-isolation are:

  • Walking my dog Poppy 2 – 3 times a day. I never encounter anyone on our walks, she still needs her walks and I need a bit of fresh air. Sure, someone could have gone past where I walk who has sneezed who has coronavirus, but I’ve deemed the risk to be a small one.
  • 1 x weekly food shop (as my husband and I still need to eat) early on a Saturday morning. That said, after yesterday’s experience of the weekly food shop, I am considering whether to do my food shopping online for a bit. I’ve never fancied doing that as I like to choose the items myself, and I am very funny about sell-by dates and always like to get fresh items with as long a sell-by date as possible. I can’t control that with online shopping.
  • Checking, if needed, on my parents (especially when my Dad is out of hospital as he is due out any time now). As I will only be doing the above two things, I have deemed the risk of checking on them low. However, again I will monitor this risk and I might have to take a further decision not to check on them.

I get that to some people this all might appear extreme. If you think that it is, that’s fine. I have weighed up my own personal risk to coronavirus and made my decision to self-isolate as much as possible accordingly. Of course, I will monitor the situation and make any changes based on how things go over the next few weeks.

Luckily my husband and I are home bodies anyway. We prefer being in the comfort of our own home, and he already goes out far less than I do and works from home like me (we are lucky enough to have an office at home each). For my husband self-isolation has already been a way of life for a long time.

If I need anything, I will order it online as far as possible. I will limit visitors to my home as far as possible. When deliveries arrive, I will keep a distance when answering the door. For now, my home is my castle – in more ways than one.

Ironically, my husband and I installed a home gym in January this year. In February we installed a home cinema system complete with retractable large screen and projector for films. At the time my husband said that if ever we are stuck at home, we have everything we need here to keep us busy and entertained. Little did I realise that a few short weeks later I would be making the decision to self-isolate in this way. We literally do have everything we need at home to self-isolate as much as possible and to ride this coronavirus storm out. We are very lucky indeed.

During this period of self-isolation I will be motoring on with the UK Cyber Security Association and working on that, and I have some plans for interviews, content, videos and podcasts under the UKCSA banner which I will get underway in the next few weeks. I will finish proof reading and launch my book “The Rise of the Cyber Women” (I had to put the release date back slightly as so much of my time last month was taken up with getting my Dad in front of Professor Sarosh Irani to be treated for his CASPR2-antibody encephalitis), attending to lots of small things that I have been putting off at home and enjoying my home cinema system and home gym. I have plenty of things to do, plenty of things to be getting on with, and I know I won’t be at all bored!

I have also made a decision to change the membership model of the UK Cyber Security Association slightly to being a virtual one with all future employees being based remotely from home and all events taking place virtually. That may change when the coronavirus outbreak is more under control, but for now it is definitely the right thing to do.

I know that I can’t control everything. Despite my best efforts I could still contract coronavirus, as so much is still unknown about it and how it transmits from person to person. But I am safe in the knowledge that even if I do contract it, I have done all I can to try and mitigate my risk of contracting it. And that is all I can do.

What are you doing to mitigate the risk of contracting coronavirus? Do you think the outbreak is a big storm in a teacup? What do you think about all the panic buying that is going on? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below!

8 Years Ago I Thought My Life Was Over: Instead I Thrived

8 Years Ago I Thought My Life Was Over: Instead I Thrived

I got some stories to tell,
And I don’t know if anyone knows them,
So before they throw me in my coffin and close it,
I’m gonna expose it, I’ll take you back to 2012, into the past I am going to delve,
Before I ever had an award-winning cyber security career….
I have adapted the above words from the song “Cleaning Out My Closet” by Eminem as the opening to this post. I want to show you all that despite how bad things might get in your life, despite how much you think you want to leave this world, that things will NEVER get better, they will. Or if they don’t, I want to show you that despite what happens to you, that it is possible to adapt and live your best life, and that it is possible in the words of Maya Angelou not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style. So, as it says in the words above, I’m going to take you all back to 2012.

As Big Ben chimed to welcome the new year, I smiled to myself. I was happily married to my ex-husband (or so I thought). I’d joined his cyber security software development business a couple of years earlier and it was doing brilliantly. Sure, things weren’t perfect. My ex-husband and I were going through ICSI treatment to try and have a baby and I was due to start my first cycle of treatment for this in early March 2012. I’d had 6 previous miscarriages all around the 6-week mark, and after god knows how much poking and prodding and every test imaginable in that department we were told that the only way we could have a baby together was to try ICSI treatment.

We’d been through a rough patch for a few months which knocked me for six, but we had a holiday in Florida in late January/early February 2012 and I thought we were back on track. That said, I had a lot of gut feelings that something still wasn’t right, but I brushed them all aside and thought that it was just the pressure of work and the business.

However, Saturday 25th February 2012 is a day I will never, ever forget. We were 10 days from starting our first ICSI treatment cycle.


It was a normal Saturday as far as I was concerned. I got up, took our dog Curley for a walk and then I was about to go food shopping to Tesco’s with my ex-husband. Instead, he was sat on the arm of our sofa when I came downstairs ready to go. The words he spoke cut me like a knife straight into my heart.


“I’m so sorry, but I don’t love you as a wife anymore, and I’m leaving.”


When he said those words we had been married for 16 years.


I stood as if I was frozen in time. It took me a while to fully process what he had just said. The next hour was a huge blur, but I vaguely remember begging and pleading with him to not go (not my finest or proudest moment, that’s for sure), to reconsider, that I would do absolutely ANYTHING to change and make our marriage work. I suggested marriage guidance counselling, I said I would go on courses to change myself and I would give up things I enjoy doing and focus all my time and attention on him. But no – his mind was made up.


He threw some clothes and a few of his personal items into a bag and rang his Mum and Stepdad to come and pick him up. At that moment it dawned on me that this wasn’t just something he had decided to say to me and do that day. He had PLANNED it. It then dawned on me even further that the gut feelings I had about things not being right for a few months leading up to what he did to me had been spot on. It wasn’t work or the pressure of the business that had changed him. Something else had, but I couldn’t work out what it was.


Within 40 minutes his Mum and Stepdad appeared and he was gone.

I’m not sure what I did after that, again it is all a blur. I think I rang my parents and they came straight over. We were all in complete shock. I do remember that I had arranged to go out with a friend for dinner that night as it was her birthday, and I still went out for that and didn’t say anything to her about what had happened as I didn’t want to ruin her birthday meal.

I was absolutely devastated. I thought my life was over and that I would never recover. Worse still, I had put everything work and career wise into helping my ex-husband develop his business, so not only was it the end of my marriage, it was also the end of my career at that point. I had quite literally lost EVERYTHING.

I met up with my ex-husband the following week and he said his mind was made up, he wasn’t going to come back and he put a settlement offer in front of me for a divorce. I consulted my solicitor to get the ball rolling, but things were happening so fast, I felt like I was on a huge rollercoaster ride that wouldn’t stop and one that I had no way of getting off. I didn’t want any of this at all.
One of the hardest things I had to do was ring the Priory Hospital in Birmingham where we were due to have ICSI treatment and tell them that my husband had left me so I had to pull out and cancel it. I so wanted to be a mother, and it broke my heart to have to make that call. Little did I know that with my ex-husband leaving me when he did, he would potentially save my life.
I went into survival mode over the next few weeks and I also realised that if I was to have any hope of ever being happy again I had to learn to love myself first and foremost. If my ex-husband didn’t love me anymore, I had to do it for the both of us. I went out for long walks every day by the River Severn with my dog Curley who my ex-husband left with me. I set about transforming my house into a home just for me. I took up tango dancing lessons (something that was completely out of my comfort zone) and I threw myself into working on a project to showcase the new library that was being built in Worcester, The Hive. I had amazing friends who all rallied round me. And then something happened to me out of the blue that I didn’t expect in a million years.
I got a message on Facebook from an old friend, Russell. He used to work with my ex-husband in Birmingham in the early 2000’s, and I met him through my ex-husband. We were all great friends and used to do a lot together, but when my ex-husband changed jobs in 2005, we all lost touch. My ex wasn’t very good at keeping in touch with people he used to work with – once he moved jobs, he moved jobs. I couldn’t justify keeping in touch with Russell, and I missed the times that we had as a group. We had a lot of fun doing things like going to Cadbury World in Birmingham, the Autosport Exhibition, Rockingham Race Circuit and the Leicester Space Centre. In January 2003 we went to a Star Trek exhibition in London where there was a recreation of the bridge of the Enterprise in The Next Generation. We were told not to sit in the Captain’s chair, but I did sit in it, and Russell got a quick photo of me in it. It is one of my most treasured photos.
I wrote back to Russell and explained that Ian and I had separated, and we began messaging every day. I invited him to come and see me, as he was living in Birmingham then, and on 6th April 2012 we met up for the first time since 2005. We got on SO well, like a proverbial house on fire, and ended up getting together. Eventually he moved in with me.
The divorce from my ex-husband came through in August 2012 and I got my decree absolute. He got together with my best friend from school who I recruited into the business as our Sales Manager. It took a huge amount of persuasion on my ex-husband’s part to even give her a chance as our Sales Manager, and they ended up getting married. I have my own thoughts, gut feelings and theories here, but as the line goes in the film “Forrest Gump”, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Despite all this I not only survived, but I thrived. Russell and I were very happy, and he helped me to see that there are still some lovely, generous and kind people out there. My friends were such a great help and support, and I picked up career wise too. I took a short contract at a locally based national charity, but I knew I wanted to stay in cyber security, so I got a corporate job working for BT on their Assure Cyber product. Slowly but surely I began to get my confidence and self-esteem back after it took such a huge knock.
Russell and I got married on 6 April 2013, a year to the day that we met up again for the first time in years. In May 2013 I was stunned but over the moon to find out that I was pregnant. It was a very fraught time because of my previous early miscarriages, but I got to the 6-week mark, then the 8-week mark, 10-week mark and finally to the 12-week mark – I couldn’t believe it! Due to the previous miscarriages I suffered I had a scan every two weeks to check how my baby was developing, and every time I saw my baby on the scan monitor my heart would fill with love. My dream was going to come true – I was finally on my way to becoming a mother!
When I attended my 20-week scan in early September 2013 Russell and I were thrilled to find out that we were having a son. But our world completely fell apart when we were told that he had a severe cleft lip and palate. What followed was a myriad of appointments, more tests and more scans, and I was also told that my unborn son had a type of talipes (club foot) that meant it was very unlikely that he would ever walk.
While I was reeling from finding out that my unborn son would be severely disabled, I was betrayed by a set of people who I brought in to help me with a literary festival that I founded, and who showed their true colours as bullies. Their actions and behaviour were cruel and unjustified but having caught me at such a vulnerable time, I had no fight left in me. I let those bullies win by handing over what I had created to them, which was my idea, and walking away from it. Bullies should NEVER win, but NOTHING was as important to me as my unborn son and his care and needs at that time. Had I not been reeling from finding out about my unborn son’s disabilities, I would not have walked away from what I had founded and started, I would have stood up for myself and I wouldn’t have let the bullies get away with what they did to me. As a result of this and what happened I do not trust people easily, and today I am a very guarded person.
I then prepared for life as the mother to a son who had significant disabilities and would need round the clock 24-hour care. But on 29 November 2013 my son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura, who I named after my Dad, was stillborn, and my heart was broken all over again.
Yet again I felt like I didn’t want to live, or to go on without my son. I had prepared for a life of being a a full-time mother, but instead that was cruelly taken away from me and I became an empty armed mother instead, and the member of a club that I never wanted to be a part of. As the line goes from the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Worse still, tests revealed on my son after he was born that he had an extremely rare duplication on his chromosome 15, which was on the maternal part of his chromosome 15 i.e. from me, and it explained the cleft lip/palate and talipes (club foot). Had he lived not only would he have had those physical disabilities but he would also have had severe learning difficulties, been non-verbal and had severe autism. As a result of losing Frankie I was diagnosed with PTSD, and to this day I have flashbacks to his birth at the most inopportune times that take my breath away.
In the year that followed after I lost my Frankie I had a further four early miscarriages with Russell, and eventually I was diagnosed as having a condition called hyperfertility at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. I was told that had I had the ICSI treatment I was due to have with my ex-husband it would have very likely been fatal, as my hormone and antibody levels were already in overdrive from the condition, causing the embryos to be “attacked” and I would miscarry as a result. I would have been at huge risk of ovarian hyperstimulation, which is a complication of IVF/ICSI treatment, and the treatment would not have worked for me. My ex-husband potentially saved my life by leaving when he did. I was put on a course of progesterone and steroids to try and dampen down the extra hormones I was producing, but it didn’t work, and I was very ill on the treatment. I then had to make the heart-breaking decision to accept that my journey to becoming a mother was over. I was approaching my mid-forties, and I felt my time had passed on the motherhood front thanks to being diagnosed with hyperfertility. I had been through enough.
I threw myself into fundraising in my son’s memory for the Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s bereavement suite for grieving parents to improve it, but within 6 months of my losing my much loved and much wanted son Frankie my father-in-law Allan passed away in horrific circumstances when the fact he was riddled with cancer was completely missed by doctors.
Then my cousin Brenda passed away.
Then my cousin Tony passed away out of the blue age 57 of a heart attack.
Then my beloved German Shepherd dog Curley passed away age 12.
I felt like I was attending a never ending long line of funerals and the bereavements were relentless. In early 2015 I began to notice some worrying things about my beloved Aunty Maria that pointed to her having dementia. In November 2015, after I witnessed the most horrific things with her as a result of the dementia she had, she passed away and I was devastated yet again. My Great Aunty Gert also passed away the following year, but she reached the grand old age of 98. I honestly thought she would be getting a telegram from the Queen for hitting the ton, but it wasn’t to be. I just couldn’t take the sheer amount of death, grief and loss that was happening to me so I sought bereavement counselling, which helped me a lot.
In 2017 my Dad was suddenly struck down with seizures and diagnosed a couple of months later with temporal lobe epilepsy. Overnight he went from an active and independent guy to one who was reliant on us all for getting from A to B. He developed other health problems as well and declined cognitively, mentally and physically. What was thought to be motor neurone disease with associated dementia turned out to be an ultra rare neurological brain disease called CASPR2-antibody encephaliltis, for which he is about to embark on autoimmune therapy treatment for. It has been devastating to lose my wonderful and amazing Dad to this awful neurological brain disease.
In 2018 my beloved Uncle Vincenzo passed away age 89, and last year my cousin Maxine passed away age 42 from bowel cancer leaving behind her 3 children all under 10 years old. It was one of the saddest funerals I’ve ever had to attend.
So you can see just how much death, loss and grief that I’ve been through and the myriad of other things that I have had to deal with. I knew that I could either survive, or I could thrive – and I decided to thrive. Somehow, despite it all, Russell and I are still together, still smiling and still laughing. Somehow, I’ve managed to forge ahead with my career in cyber security and in 2015 I left behind my corporate job at BT to work remotely from home.
It was the best decision I ever made. I founded the UK Cyber Security Association and today I work with some of the world’s top companies to deliver their cyber security awareness strategies, most recently I worked Pinsent Masons solicitor’s in this area. I’ve become a cyber security industry thought leader, author, blogger and keynote speaker. I’ve won numerous awards for my work, had numerous articles published in various magazines and trade publications, attended and been a speaker at various events and conferences and I am currently writing a book called “The Rise of the Cyber Women.” I love what I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else.
In June 2018 I was diagnosed as being #ActuallyAutistic, and SO much made sense about why I am the way I am. The pieces of the jigsaw finally fell into place, and having spent my entire life masking my condition and the fact that I am different to everyone else I made changes and adaptations to my life in the light of my diagnosis. Those changes have helped me greatly in my day to day life. I have endured much in the way of bullying, not just in the workplace but in other areas of my life as well, and it is soul destroying. I let bullies win once, and I refuse to let them win over me EVER again. Bullies should never win!
The point of this post is to let you all know that no matter how bad things get, no matter what happens and how devastating it is, there is a way out and you will learn to live again. Even if you think things will never get better, I promise you that they will. You will not be the same person though, you will be forever changed, and I can’t stress that enough. But you will learn to get through life with this new “normal” for you. I am not the same person today as I was in 2012. Back then I was carefree and trusting, today I am much more guarded and I don’t trust easily.
Despite it all I still have some lovely friends in my life, I have my family, I have my soulmate Russell, I have my dog Poppy who is an amazing therapist, I have a beautiful home, food on the table and I feel well and truly blessed. What I have learnt is to let go of all the things I can’t control, to forgive all those who bullied me, betrayed me and did me wrong (karma will do its job there, and in fact in a couple of cases I’ve been very lucky in that I have been able to watch) and to live day to day and for the moment. Things can change in the blink of an eye, so it is vital to enjoy what you have and what you do, and don’t worry about the things that you don’t have. Life is fragile, precious and should be cherished.
On Saturday 25 February 2012, the day that my ex-husband left me, I thought my life was over. On Friday 29 November 2013, the day my much loved and much wanted son Frankie was stillborn, I thought my life was over yet again. I’m here today – eight years since my ex-husband told me he did not love me as a wife any more and left me – to tell you that that was not the case. My life was not over, far from it, even though it felt like it was. Yes, all those things happened to me, yes, they changed me, but I am surviving and I am thriving. And that is all any of us can do.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my wonderful husband Russell. He is my soulmate and partner in EVERY way. After I swore blind that I would NEVER work with anyone I was with relationship wise in a work situation again, I now find myself doing exactly that. Together we are unstoppable, an amazing team and we are definitely a dynamic duo! Sure, we have moments where we totally get on each other’s nerves – you can’t go through what we have without that happening – but I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff and just let it go. Does it really matter if he leaves things in the sink without them making their way to the dishwasher, for example? I surely don’t think so! One of the most surprising things I’ve found is that it turned out that Russell and I thrive best together
So why did I decide to share what is essentially some quite personal things that are part of my life journey? I am sharing all this in the hope that it helps anyone who is going through tough times to know there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. But I also decided to share it because I remember how devastated I was when my ex-husband told me out of the blue that he “didn’t love me as a wife anymore” and that he was leaving. It is a feeling I hope that I never have again.
I suspect that many of you will know that feeling of devastation when something happens to you that changes your life and your world completely. I know first-hand and from bitter experience how overwhelming it all feels. You will think that life will never be the same again.
To all of you reading this I will say one thing – if things aren’t good right now, I promise that they WILL get better. I promise that you will learn to live again, and you will thrive again.
You can’t control the things that happen to you – boy do I know that one first-hand. I’ve had SO many course changes, direction changes and moments of “oh my god, what the hell is going to happen next” that I’ve lost count. Seeing my Dad so ill with CASPR2-antibody encephalitis has broken me, and I wish I could wave a magic wand and make him all better, and for all his health problems to be resolved, because he is my world. But I can’t, and I can’t change what has happened to him. But I CAN control how I deal with what happens to me and how I move forward with my life, and do the very best I can to look after him and support him through his illness.
Don’t ever look at what you have lost, or at how much you have been hurt and betrayed. Not everyone is a bully or is intent on hurting you. It took me a very long time to realise that, but thanks to some truly amazing people in my life who I am proud to call my friends I learnt to trust a little bit again. I say a little bit because I will never be the person who I once was, who took people at their word and who thought their intentions were good, when it turned out they weren’t, and I got burnt. Instead, I chose to learn from those things and put them firmly in the past where they belong.
My advice is to choose life, whatever it throws at you. Start anew, begin a fresh chapter, take those scary first steps – even if they are only small ones. Likely as not they will lead to new and more beautiful destinations. Those small steps that I took back in 2012 certainly did that for me.
Keep going, keep smiling, hold your head up high and NEVER stop. Don’t look back. Most importantly, keep being YOU. Keep being your beautiful, amazing, awesome and brilliant self. And keep thriving. Always continue to thrive
Finally, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who stuck by me, for being there for me and for all your love, support and help. If you are in my life as a friend, even if you are one of my online friends and we’ve never met in person, please know that I value your friendship and support more than you know. You all rock, and I’m so grateful for all of you. If you need any help, support or just someone to lean on and talk to, I’m there. Let’s keep on rocking life together.
This week I shall drink a toast to my ex-husband. That might sound strange, but I am so grateful to him for setting me free, and for leading me to where I am now despite all the grief, loss and trauma I’ve been through and for potentially saving my life as we didn’t go through that ICSI treatment. I’m grateful that by him leaving me I found my way to Russell. He is my soulmate in every way, and I can’t imagine my life without him. My ex-husband saved me more than he will ever know.
8 years ago I thought my life was over. Since then I have made it my mission in life not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style. If I can manage to do that no matter what new challenges and trauma is thrown at me, I will be truly blessed.
If I can do it, so can you….I promise xx