People & Culture

From Apprentice to Advocate: A Personal Journey at the Uniting Women in Cyber Event

November 2, 2023

Elif Sumner, a GRC Apprentice with Aquia, shares her personal journey at The Cyber Guild’s annual Uniting Women in Cyber event. She shares about the infectious energy, valuable presentations, and networking opportunities. Elif notes that she left the event feeling empowered that there’s a community of women supporting her as she pursues her career in cybersecurity. We can’t wait to see what you do in cyber Elif!

As a woman starting in the field of cybersecurity, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a conference as an apprentice for the Aquia Accelerator program! I credit this program as the reason I can follow my dream of becoming a cybersecurity professional. This was my first time attending a cybersecurity conference, and I was excited to meet other women who shared my passion for this field.

First Impressions: An Inclusive Cyber Community

When I arrived at The Cyber Guild’s Uniting Women in Cyber conference, I was struck by the energy and excitement in the air. Women from all around gathered here to share their experiences, network with each other, and learn about the latest developments in cybersecurity. They were discussing what can be done better to reduce risks and improve extremely important subjects such as cyber accountability; organizations preventing, mitigating, and communicating to lower the risk of allowing cybersecurity incidents to occur.

One thing that impressed me most about the conference was the diversity of the attendees. Women of all ages, races, and backgrounds were represented, and it was clear that everyone was united by their passion for cybersecurity. It is extremely important to have people with completely different thinking processes on your team, and having diversity is the best way to ensure your team is always improving with rich ideas and even richer solutions. As one of the presenters said, “Diversity matters. Don’t fight it, embrace it.”

Top Takeaways: Education, Networking, and Community

Throughout the conference, I attended multiple classes, and I was very impressed by the level of expertise that was on display. From discussing the latest threat vectors to exploring emerging technologies, each session was packed with valuable information that I knew would help me grow as a cybersecurity professional. I was also inspired by seeing how cybersecurity can be applied to help stop criminal activities, such as human trafficking. Listening to a victim of human trafficking and where she is today despite everything she has been through was something I will remember for a long time.

Another highlight of the conference for me was the opportunity to meet and network with other women in the field. I had the chance to listen to very intelligent and successful women, and it was inspiring to hear about their experiences and the challenges they had overcome. I was also struck by the sense of camaraderie that existed among the attendees; everyone was eager to help each other grow and succeed. I was extremely surprised that in the past 5 years, 40% of the females left cybersecurity. Even though I am only one month into my journey as a governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) apprentice at Aquia, I couldn’t help but think about what I can personally do to improve the cyber culture and expand opportunities for more women to join this complex but vital field.

An additional aspect of the conference, that I appreciated, was the emphasis on mentorship and career development. There were plenty of opportunities to connect with experienced professionals and seek guidance on everything from career paths to technical challenges. I left the conference feeling motivated and empowered, knowing that I had a community of supportive women behind me as I pursue my career in cybersecurity.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, attending the Uniting Women in Cyber conference as an apprentice was an experience I’ll never forget. The conference highlighted the importance of diversity and collaboration in this field, and I came away with a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into keeping our digital world safe and secure. I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended and am excited to see what the future holds for women in cybersecurity. As the CEO of Vercara, Colin Doherty, said, “We didn’t end the Stone Age because we ran out of stones; we found better and faster ways.” I am excited about continuing to grow and help other women in this field.

This blog post was originally published on Aquia’s blog. You can read the original blog post here.

Elif Sumner Headshot
Elif Sumner - Aquia

GRC Apprentice with Aquia