So here I was, having lost my much loved and much wanted son Frankie, wondering what the hell had happened, feeling like I wanted to die myself to be with my son and praying that every day would be my last. I had prepared for one life, a life as the mother to a son who would need 24 hour round the clock care, but I was cruelly thrown into another one, and I had to start from scratch all over again a second time.
Yet again I didn’t want to carry on, I didn’t want to live without my son, and I threw myself into fundraising in his memory while also still working at BT on their Cyber Assure product. I also started a blog called “Frankie’s Legacy: Love, Loss Grief and Recovery” in which I write about the loss of my son, how I coped with losing him and how I would go on to cope with many other bereavements and much more grief, some of which I have not gotten over to this day, and I don’t think I ever will. I will never, ever get over the loss of my son, but I wrote a letter to Frankie and made a promise to him that I would survive. That I would go on, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless things might seem. The letter was inspired by the end scene of the film “Titanic”. I would go on, I would survive, and I chose to channel my energies into my cyber security career.
My husband and I tried again for a baby, but I had a further four early miscarriages in one year, all at the 5-6 week mark, which led to my being diagnosed with a rare and little-known condition called hyperfertility. Had I gone through with the ICSI treatment that my ex-husband and I were going to have, chances are I would not be alive today due to this underlying condition that I have, and my ex-husband leaving me when he did potentially saved my life. It was a sobering thought.
There was no treatment for hyperfertility as such, only a couple of things that Professor Jan Rosens and Professor Siobhan Quenby at the recurring miscarriage centre at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital said might help, but there were no guarantees. The treatment I was put on did not work and my husband and I decided enough was enough. My dream of being a mother was over.
I also went through a myriad of different family bereavements after my son, one after the other. They started with my father-in-law Allan, my cousin Brenda, my cousin Tony, my Aunty Maria, my Great-Aunty Gert, my Uncle Vincenzo and my cousin Maxine. I never got the chance to recover from one bereavement, as another would come along, and the next few years was a blur of funerals and arranging funerals. It got to the point where other family members would ask me about all the practicalities, how to arrange a fuenral and what to do when a loved one dies, as I had “first hand experience” of it. It was certainly something I didn’t want to have experience of! How I did all this while still working in the cyber security industry I will never know, but I persevered and never gave up.
In 2016 I was asked by PGI Cyber Academy in Bristol to evaluate their 2-day Cyber Security Awareness training course. The course was aimed at the C-suite and at doctors, lawyers and other senior professionals and I was asked to provide them with detailed feedback as to how I found the course and how easy it was to understand. It was led by 2 technical guys who were nice enough but who confused their their audience with acronyms, jargon and terminology that wasn’t easy to understand, especially when they were trying to explain what a DDoS attack is, what ransomware is and how to protect yourself and organisations from phishing emails.
I spent the breaks and the lunch break explaining what the two technical guys meant to the other participants on the course in easy to understand language, and they understood and got it. It was at that moment that my idea for the UK Cyber Security Association was born.
The UK Cyber Security Association (UKCSA), is a membership association that is dedicated to raising awareness of the growing cyber threat to its members who range from individuals who actively work in the cyber security industry, businesses of all sizes from small to SMEs to large corporates and the general public. The association provides information that is easy to understand and assimilate so that all members and subscribers can understand the growing cyber threat and how they can take an active role in preventing cyber-attacks and cyber fraud.
I realised that there was a big gap in the marketplace for a trade association for cyber security that was aimed at small businesses, SME’s and individuals that weren’t necessarily in the cyber security industry but who wanted to be more cyber secure and who wanted to access the latest up to date information and cyber-attack threats that they might face. I also realised that I had a talent for taking what is essentially an extremely jargon heavy and confusing subject matter and turning it into easy to understand language that those who are not technical will get and understand. My experience of evaluating PGI Cyber Academy’s 2-day cyber security awareness course led me to this realisation.
I undertook extensive research for the association and in 2018 I incorporated the UK Cyber Security Association as a not for profit limited company by guarantee. I decided that I wouldn’t take in members straight away and alongside other marketing and content writing/copywriting work that I did for various technology and cyber security companies I undertook a further research exercise to assess the viability of the association. My husband developed the website for me and helped me launch an “expressions of interest” phase of the association to assess its interest to my target audiences.
The expressions of interest phase went better than I could ever have hoped for. I was inundated with requests to join when the UK Cyber Security Association is fully launched and that being the case membership packages will be launched in January 2020. I also found other ways to monetise the association through events, round tables, conferences, seminars, networking events, media partnerships and sponsorship.
To promote the association and to establish myself as a cyber security industry thought leader I utilised LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and grew my networks on those platforms considerably. My husband build me this website to help me promote myself and I was approached by leading trade publications to give interviews and write pieces for those publications, which helped to propel the UK Cyber Security Association into the forefront of people’s minds.
I was asked to take part in various cyber security conferences and events as a keynote speaker and as a panellist/moderator for group discussions on various topics in the industry. I wrote numerous blogs, white papers, articles, bench marking reports and surveys, and worked with some of the largest organisations in the world on these including Microsoft, Paxata, Accenture, Visa, BT, HSBC and more. I also work tirelessly to raise awareness of women in cyber security, the cyber skills gap and neurodiversity and cyber security.
I am currently writing a book entitled “The Rise of the Cyber Women” which aims to be a collection of first-hand and personal accounts from women who have entered the cyber security industry. It is designed to inspire other women to consider cyber security as their profession.Recently I put the idea of the book out on my social media channels along with guidelines for the submission of chapters, and I was overwhelmed with the response it got. I can’t wait to start working on the project.
I also founded #CyberSecurityHour on Twitter and I’m working towards launching a series of cyber security meet ups and networking events, as well as a yearly cyber security conference and expo. In addition, I work tirelessly to raise awareness of the cyber skills gap and neurodiversity and cyber security. As someone who was diagnosed as autistic in June 2018, I am a huge supporter of cyber security as a career path for those who are neurodivergent.
Alongside my work as the CEO and Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association I have become a cyber security thought leader, author and keynote speaker at conferences and events. I have been published in various publications globally including Counter Terror Business Magazine, FC Business Magazine, Global Europa, SciTech Europa, International Financial Law Review and more. I’ve also taken part in numerous panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and videos.
Coming in part 4….how a diagnosis of autism in January 2018 helped me understand myself and what I needed to do help me live my best life, and how it helped me propel my career in cyber security even further.