We sat down with Sophie Wade from Modern Methodologies to find out what it was like building a career in cyber.
Locking the doors on cyber risk
When Information Technology emerged in Australia, with all its new legal and safety risks, Sophie Wade thought it looked like an interesting area to explore after university.
She’d just finished an unusual degree combining law, mathematics and computer science. She was possibly the only person to do so, which made her an attractive candidate for the big law firms in Sydney as they picked up early software licensing cases.
‘Anyone who knew a bit about computers looked pretty attractive for the graduate program,’ says Sophie. ‘I was offered a lot of amazing jobs, which I took. In the end, I needed to use my mathematical brain and do something I loved.’
Opportunity in cyber keeps growing
So Sophie jumped into the world of computers. It was an exciting frontier, where new jobs were being created all the time to meet challenges never seen before. She worked with and within the federal government and has owned small web businesses. But nothing compares to the way it is now.
‘At the beginning of my career, when the internet was new, there was so much opportunity,’ Sophie reflects. ‘I had a web development business, and you could do no wrong at that point in time.
‘In all my career, I’ve never seen the same level of opportunity as I’m seeing now. Cyber is a massive concern for a huge number of organisations. They might not all be operating at the level they want to be, but they’re all on the journey and know where they need to get to.
‘Any young companies cutting their teeth in Canberra are on the front of the wave, and can take and transfer those skills to help other organisations on that journey. You get exposed to progressive and modern innovative challenges.’
Finding a home in identity management
Today, Sophie heads a business called Modern Methodologies from her sprawling property in wine country: Murrumbateman, NSW. Her team of identity and access management experts help organisations know who’s accessing their system, then what a person can do when they access it.
They then work with other cyber disciplines to bring the organisation into the right security ‘posture’. Sophie compares it to being one element of protecting a whole house.
‘When you’re trying to lock the house up, you don’t want to lock the front door and leave the windows open. You want your levers up all at the same time,’ Sophie says.
‘We’re one aspect of cyber. We make sure the door is locked and sealed harder, and make our clients confident about who’s walking through the door. We bring that lever up to an acceptable security “posture”: the more sensitive the data, the higher the lever needs to be.
‘We have to leave the client better than we found them – we love helping clients do access and identity management better than they were before we got there. We show them how to streamline processes and build in automated cheques and balances and leave them in a more robust position from a cyber perspective. It’s improving the client’s efficiency and security and adding value, and it’s what we love to do.’
Success is built on communication and support
Sophie attributes building a successful business to hard work and ‘network, network, network’. To succeed, she says you need to reach out. But you’ll always find support in an industry in need of fresh perspectives.
‘I’m making a concerted effort to transfer skills and knowledge in my organisation,’ she says.
‘I’ve been in the industry a long time. I’ve seen it grow and I have a lot of detailed comprehension on what’s happening in my domain.’
Like other Canberra cyber businesses, Modern Methodologies is open to people with transferable skills. Working in cyber doesn’t have to mean having an IT background when mentors like Sophie are there to skill you up. She knows the value in building a team up.
‘It’s really hard to find people with specific cyber skills, but there are many people who might be brilliant analysts, or brilliant communicators who want to get into cyber. I then pair them with a team of mentors, and we work with them.
‘As business expands rapidly, I dedicate 50% of my day working transferring knowledge and skills to the team. The other 50% is spent on developing customers and bringing work into the business.
‘If you’ve got the great skills that every organisation needs, go find a company with strong mentors that can transfer the cyber skills to you and do the educational courses. But the best way of learning cyber is on the ground at the coal front managing cyber risk.’