A participant’s perspective – the Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security programme

techUK’s own Raya Tsolova shares her thoughts on the significant value that the initiative delivers to those who take part.

When I first heard about the opportunity to join this year’s Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security London and Southern England cohort, I jumped at the chance to actively ‘do my bit’ for the broader cyber sector and also for my own personal development as an inspiring leader.

While I thought the programme would equip me with some useful skills on navigating the sector as a woman, grow my confidence and provide me with the opportunity to meet and network with some fantastic women, I really wasn’t prepared for the invaluable lessons that it would teach me.

Spanning over the course of three months, the Empowering Women, Cyber programme really explores the meaning of what it is to be a woman in a sector which – while improvements have been made – is mainly dominated by men. Throughout the four facilitated workshops, I realised that the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ couldn’t be more true; and while it may seem nerve-wracking and intimidating walking into a room full of, what I would consider, ‘powerful women’, it was difficult to place myself into that bracket.

There have been times throughout my career where I have questioned how effective a leader I already am and what type of a leader I want to be in the future, and the programme really enables you to uncover, unpick and delve deeper into how a problem you deem to be detrimental, is something that women, across all ages and backgrounds face every day. As sad as that may seem, it truly has empowered me to step out of my comfort zone, build collaborative and compelling relationships with other emerging women leaders in cyber security while opening avenues of aspiration in my career looking ahead.

From everything I have learned across the workshops, personal coaching sessions and dedicated team project that my assigned group has worked on, there are some elements which have now been engrained in how I lead in my professional work day-to-day. Ranging from the outcomes of asking powerful questions and being in touch with your own different levels of listening, to hearing from senior female leaders working in various roles for both FTSE 100 companies and innovative SMEs, and their experiences in the workplace.

The atmosphere throughout the programme has been one filled with motivation – a safe space for all personality types, very action orientated with an underlaying sense of championing yourself and those around you. They really encompass all the things that women sometimes feel they lack in the workplace. One of the pieces of advice that I was given was that, while being a leader may be about hard work and determination, it really comes down to passion, knowledge, sense of direction and, most importantly, having fun. Leaders are always ‘up to something’ and it is so important to engage with the immensely big pool of talent that is uncovered among women.

It is a unique time for women in cyber, whether that’s as someone who has just left school or university and may be feeling lost in the sector; someone who has dedicated their career to an alternative path and is only just getting into the exciting opportunities in cyber security; or even the women that have been lucky enough to have always been on this journey: cyber is most definitely everybody’s business.

I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned, the self-awareness I have developed and the amazing connections I have built with powerful women throughout the programme, and I am very much looking forward to presenting all of our hard work at the graduation ceremony in December. I would strongly encourage any woman who has been given the chance to apply for the Empowering Women to Lead, Cyber Security programme  to seize the opportunity with open arms and hopefully walk out with the notion that you can, you will, and you already are a powerful leader in cyber security.

techUK is delighted to support the Empowering Women to Lead, Cyber Security programme. Applications for the Spring 2023 cohorts will be going live soon, so stay tuned for more!

Raya Tsolova

Programme Manager, techUK

Raya Tsolova is a Programme Manager at techUK. 

Prior to joining techUK, Raya worked in Business Development for an expert network firm within the institutional investment space. Before this Raya spent a year in industry working for a tech start-up in London as part of their Growth team which included the formation and development of a 'Let's Talk Tech' podcast and involvement in London Tech Week. 

Raya has a degree in Politics and International Relations (Bsc Hons) from the University of Bath where she focused primarily on national security and counter-terrorism policies, centreing research on female-led terrorism and specific approaches to justice there. 

Outside of work, Raya's interests include baking, spin classes and true-crime Netflix shows! 

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