#MIWIC2024: Jan Carroll, Managing Director at Fortify Institute

Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2024’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.

In 2024, the awards were sponsored by BTThink Cybersecurity Ltd. and Plexal, with Eskenzi PR, Assured and Women in Cybersecurity UK & Ireland Affiliate as partners.

What does your job role entail?

Everything. Create and deliver quality cybersecurity training and education. I work with training providers, organisations and individuals. Currently delivering professional diplomas in cybersecurity, postgraduate diplomas, industry certificates with partners EC-Council and Cloud Security Alliance. I spend a lot of time supporting the Cybersecurity community. I’m a member of an ENISA ad-hoc working group, a member of the Cyber Ireland Business Growth Committee. I’ve recently embarked on a Professional Doctorate to investigate the challenges faced by micro SMEs and cyber resilience. I am constantly learning and adding to my skill set. I love what I do and feel very privileged to be able to do it.

How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?

My journey into cybersecurity started with a strong foundation in technology and education. I began my career as an apprentice electrician, then studied electronics while working as a technician. Eventually, I found myself in a role in computer services at a college.

Teaching in further education introduced me to diverse learners, fueling my belief in accessible and flexible learning. This ethos would later lead me to found Fortify Institute, with a mission to make cybersecurity education available to all.

The idea of cybersecurity came up during a conversation with adult learners, prompting me to pursue an MSc in Applied Cybersecurity. Graduating with top honors, I seized opportunities in Ireland’s growing cybersecurity sector, especially after the onset of GDPR.

With the pandemic, I reassessed my career and realised my passion for teaching was still strong. Combining this with my expertise in cybersecurity, I founded Fortify Institute in 2022, offering flexible training solutions.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve dedicated time to various initiatives, including volunteering and community involvement. I’m also pursuing a professional doctorate, focusing on research that benefits the cybersecurity community and Ireland’s national security. Through these efforts, I aim to make a positive impact while empowering others in the cybersecurity field.

My Success Story Jan Carroll

Jan Carroll

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?

While instances of sexism have been rare in my direct experience, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry is balancing career growth with raising a family. To navigate this, I made the decision to transition into teaching when my children were small. This allowed me to prioritise my family while still staying engaged in the industry.

Now that my children are more independent and don’t require as much of my time, I’ve found the time to start my company, Fortify Institute. This journey has not only allowed me to fulfill my professional aspirations but has also empowered me to contribute to the growth and diversity of the cybersecurity industry.

What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?

I’m constantly striving to do more in supporting women and increasing diversity in the tech and cybersecurity industry. I founded, Fortify Institute, with the goals to close the cyber skills gap and boost diversity. Currently, our student groups boast a 30% female representation. I actively mentor women in cyber/tech, guiding them on their professional journeys.

Additionally, I use my platform to write blogs encouraging women to consider cybersecurity careers upon their return to the workforce. I collaborate with Zerodays.ie and the Irish squad of the European Cybersecurity Challenge to recruit more women, organizing CTF boot camps for girls and young women.

In partnership with EC-Council, I advocate for free Certified Cybersecurity Technician Scholarships for women. I’m also a proud member of WiCyS UK & Ireland, furthering our mission of empowering women in cybersecurity.

Outside of direct industry involvement, I’m part of AwakenAngels, an angel investment syndicate investing in female-founded tech companies. Personally, as a mother of two daughters, I’m committed to raising them with the belief that they can pursue any career they desire, whether in tech or beyond.

Ultimately, I aim to lead by example, demonstrating that it’s never too late to embrace new challenges and learning opportunities, regardless of sex or background.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?

Don’t hesitate—dive into the cybersecurity industry with enthusiasm. With so many diverse roles available, you have the freedom to explore and find what truly resonates with you. And remember, it’s okay to switch paths if you discover a different aspect of cybersecurity that interests you more.

Be kind to yourself along the way. It’s natural to feel like you’re ‘winging it’ at times, but that’s all part of the learning process. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and don’t let setbacks discourage you.

Don’t feel pressured to meet every single job requirement perfectly. Cybersecurity is a field where hands-on experience and a willingness to learn often outweigh job specs. So, focus on showcasing your strengths and passion for the field, and the rest will follow.

Lastly, read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and get the men in your life to read it too.

The post #MIWIC2024: Jan Carroll, Managing Director at Fortify Institute first appeared on IT Security Guru.

The post #MIWIC2024: Jan Carroll, Managing Director at Fortify Institute appeared first on IT Security Guru.

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Author: Charley Nash