Every single person in this world has a story. Every single person has something to contribute and to give, even if they think they don’t. I have spent many, many years thinking that I don’t have a story, that I don’t have a voice and that I don’t have anything to give back to anyone.

In 2018 I finally realised that that is not true. I do have a voice, and I do have a story. A story of success, failure, betrayal and hurt, but ultimately a story of how I found happiness in a career in cyber security.  But how did I get there, and how did I enter the cyber security industry and achieve success in it?

This is my story……

I was born in October 1973 in an age where technology was in its infancy. Despite this, I had a huge interest in pursuits that are not necessarily female orientated. I had a Scalextric set, I loved Queen, Freddie Mercury, rock/heavy metal music, sci-fi, Formula 1 racing and cars (especially Ferrari’s). My biggest interest though was technology, and I was the first person in my class at school age 8 to have one of the first generation of home computers. It completely changed my life.

The other thing that I loved more than anything else was writing. I would spend hours and hours writing essays, short stories, poems and anything else that took my interest. I wrote my first full-length novel age 12, inspired by my love of 80’s American soap operas such as Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years I struggled to relate to my peers, and I also struggled to make friends. I didn’t feel that I fitted in, that I was “different” to everyone else and that I didn’t have a place in the world. Yet I was the first girl in my class to get a boyfriend (who I was with for nearly 5 years) and I also had a close friend from school who I also felt was different like me. I think that is why I related to her.

After I studied English and Literary Studies, I got my first proper full-time job, although I’d had a couple of student jobs waitressing and running the check out in my local supermarket. It was as an Office Administration Assistant for a company that managed the interests of many of the UK’s leading television personalities, together with a few classical musicians. Within 2 weeks of getting that job the secretary to the Managing Director left suddenly to relocate to Gibraltar where her husband came from, and at the very young age of 22 I sort of “fell” into that role. Not long after that I found myself managing the interests of the likes of Chris Tarrant, who was the host and presenter of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in the UK amongst others.

At the same time in 1996 I also got married to my first husband, who I got together with after I split up from my first boyfriend. He worked in technology and computers and had an ambition to earn as much as his age with what he did. Our home office set up was incredible, we had the latest PC’s, technology, gadgets and equipment and we even had dial up internet and email in 1996. My interest in technology grew from this and I was always fascinated with his work. He was in document management, then in disaster recovery and in the mid 2000’s he entered the ethical hacking/cyber security industry and became a penetration tester.

I spent seven years working at the TV, Radio and Classical Musicians management company and then moved on to working in Education at what is now the University of Worcester. I worked on the Marketing and PR for the bid for it to become the University of Worcester when it was previously known as University College Worcester. After this I did some contracting work for local and regional government, and worked at a marketing and PR agency.

I was very interested in what my husband did as an ethical hacker and I used to quiz him a lot about his work, although he could never tell me a lot as he had signed the official secrets act here in the UK. I became fascinated with the psychology of hacking, the mind of a hacker and why hackers are driven to do what they do. I read numerous books on the subject and read everything I could on the internet about hacking and the psychology of hacking. I was like a sponge, soaking up everything I could about the subject.

In 2008, while working as an ethical hacker for a cyber security company based in North London, my husband invented a software tool to help him do his day job more quickly.  He shared it on the Open Source network, and it took the community by storm – everyone loved it and he had great feedback about it. The tool essentially scanned firewalls, routers and switches and quickly identified vulnerabilities that were undiscovered, which would then give organisations the insights they needed to fix any cyber security risks they had.

The company that he was working for saw that the tool had great potential as a commercial product, and offered to help him take the product to market. In April 2009 he incorporated a limited company and I joined it to help grow the business and manage a growing network of resellers and distributors.

The business grew organically and quickly and we soon sourced offices and took on our first members of staff, including my close friend from my school days as our Sales Manager. I was keen to pay her a good salary for her to join us, but my husband was not, as he was quite risk adverse. But I could see the huge potential of having someone work on the sales of the product while the company was still in its infancy. Speculate to accumulate was my motto at the time!

Coming in part 2….how my life takes a devastating turn when my ex-husband says the following words to me, “I’m so sorry, but I don’t love you as a wife anymore and I’m leaving”, and how I had to pick up the pieces of my life in every way.

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Lisa Ventura is an award-winning Cyber Security consultant and is the CEO and Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association (UKCSA), a membership association that is dedicated raising awareness and educating small businesses, SME’s, large corporate companies and the general public as to the importance of cyber security. Lisa is also a thought leader, author and keynote speaker and has been published in various publications globally. She is fascinated by all things related to nuclear war and loves dogs, the gym/keep fit, the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury, sci-fi, films and TV series from the 1980s, especially American soap operas such as Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Knots Landing.

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