Ask a selection of cyber businesses what skills a person needs to do cyber well, and you’ll likely get a different answer from each one. The variety across sectors has proven that there’s something for everyone, even someone who discounted their technical abilities, like CEO and co-founder of Decoded.AI, Samantha Lengyel.
"When I was younger, I struggled with maths and related subjects, and I never thought I’d go into tech. Then I realised it was just the way it was being taught to me that didn’t click with how I learned.
"I started getting interested in how tech affects everyone and everything, how we interact with it every single day. There are so many avenues to explore with it throughout society.
"As well, I noticed only certain people were having a say in how it was being built and integrated into society, creating bias. So I wanted to learn about it more and contribute."
After university, Samantha decided to cross from linguistics and taught herself coding. This unusual but useful combination gave her an innovative approach to solving tech problems.
Her co-founder Josh Fourie (another self-taught coder, but with a law background) had already begun a Secure AI startup called Zalia Flow. Together, they noticed a business need they could fulfil: people creating machine-learning systems need help to express them to many different people who care about different things.
"People can’t even interact with this technology because they can’t understand it fast enough. Now we help people understand and trust AI by bringing it into their language."
Decoded.AI’s backend is the product of two minds that cross two worlds: complex tech and human communication.
"The way we think about what we do is the innovative part, the tech is actually quite simple, but we’ve stitched it together in a different way."
Decoded.AI gives AI creators a simple interface to expose their data models, rapidly creating a digestible interactive representation for people who need to understand them, improving trust and productivity. It can be tailored for any business need, for example, it can be set for financial, security or technical information.
"People creating AI spend their time coding, but they have to do so many other things: meetings, writing reports and PowerPoints.
"These things take away time from what they get paid to do and what they love to do. We get them back to doing what they do best."
The business is getting positive results, but it’s been tough for the co-founders whose youth often surprises their colleagues and customers. They’ve built a strong business and their own resilience by taking every opportunity within the Canberra cyber ecosystem to network and grow.
The pair was part of the first cohort to complete the Cyber Security Business Accelerator, and won one of the five Accelerator grants on offer. The team’s excited to have been accepted into the highly competitive CyRise Cyber Security Accelerator program, for worldwide participants. They’ll be flying the Canberra flag alongside companies from Melbourne, Silicon Valley, Singapore and India.
Now, Decoded.AI is looking for enterprises to test their product, and two new staff to help perfect it.
Samantha says cyber is a great career choice for people with a wide range of backgrounds.
"You can do it. It’s not out of your reach," she says. "There are so many opportunities, and you don’t need to be amazing at maths or know how to code. You just have to be interested and want to learn more about it.
"Representation is slowly becoming better with more women coming into cyber. Unfortunately, there was a drop in women entering STEM over COVID. But we’re resilient, and we can find and help each other."