Arctic Wolf’s Women Transforming Tech (WTT) Pack Unity Alliance serves as our platform for women and their allies to build community, create strong professional networks, foster career development, and identify informal and formal ways that Arctic Wolf can be more inclusive in our cybersecurity industry. Today, we’re sharing the perspective of Hannah Teel, a Security Awareness and Training Manager for the Managed Security Awareness solution and member of our WTT Pack Unity Alliance.
Can you share a bit about your personal journey in the cybersecurity field? What initially drew you to this industry and inspired you to pursue a career in it?
It’s a bit cliché, but true: I’m a millennial, and we seem to have a proclivity for cyber. A result of growing up in a time where there were so many rapid shifts in technology, I’m sure. I didn’t set out to be in this industry, I pursued higher learning in history and literature (I wanted to work in architectural preservation) but when the opportunity presented itself, I wasn’t going to back away from it. I love the growth potential and innovation that exists in this industry.
Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field. How do you stay up to date with the latest technologies, trends, and best practices? Could you share some strategies for continuous skill development?
A few things that I think are beneficial:
- Talk to your peers. Even though we’re in the same industry or even the same role, we all have different perspectives and nuanced interests. It’s amazing the information / skills you can learn from the people you work with every day.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to admit ignorance. The biggest detriment to advancement is insisting that you don’t need to grow.
- Pursue your interests, even if they take you on what seems like a tangent away from your primary focus. I think you’ll be surprised by how much will be able to relate back to your day-to-day (or potentially move you to a new path you’ve never considered before).
Photo of Hannah Teel
The cybersecurity field has traditionally been male dominated. Have you encountered gender-related stereotypes or biases during your career? How did you address these challenges and help break down barriers?
There are unconscious biases that we all carry with us, regardless of gender. For me, the most helpful thing is to remember that the only thing I can control in these situations is my own reaction, followed by resisting the urge to assume malice where ignorance will suffice. I try to respond to such instances in a way that will reflect well on me, and other women, so that it will help break down negative biases or stereotyping. I think we’ve seen a reduction in stereotyping over the last decade, and I’m looking forward to that continuing.
Balancing a demanding cybersecurity career with a personal life can be tough. How do you manage your work-life balance? Any tips for maintaining your well-being while excelling in your role?
Get a hobby. Or hobbies. And don’t let anyone shame you for it. One of the biggest issues I have with a stereotypical ‘career’ mindset is that it tends to result in a false sense of pride in being a ‘workaholic’ and derision towards those who don’t use their job as their main purpose in life. In my experience, having an outlet outside of work — especially one that you can participate in with your friends and family — does wonders for your work. Human beings are muti-faceted, and you need to address those facets to be your best self, which will result in a stronger performance at work.
For women who are just starting in cybersecurity, what key advice would you give them? Are there any resources, communities, or strategies you recommend for a strong foundation in the field?
I would give this advice to anyone, going into any field: you are your own worst enemy — figure out how to win against yourself. Introspection is not fun, but it is highly beneficial. Know yourself: what drives you, what distracts you, what your biases are, what your needs vs. wants are, etc.
Don’t be afraid of honest feedback (from others and yourself) — you will probably get your feelings hurt but use that to grow and push yourself forward. Don’t be afraid to learn or to be proven wrong. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Embrace it when it happens, raise your hand, and take responsibility if it’s you.
As an experienced professional in the cybersecurity field, what is your vision for the future of the industry? How do you hope to see it evolve, especially in terms of gender diversity and inclusivity?
Tech seems to be a very dynamic, ever-evolving field, and I think that puts us in a good position to see excellence in terms of diversity and inclusivity across the industry. For cybersecurity specifically, the threats we face are incredibly diverse, and I have hope that the industry will continue to embrace the reality that we will need diversity and inclusivity to stay innovating and keep our edge. Given the size and influence that our industry holds, we can also hope that this growth will bleed into other spheres and industries.