Tech Bytes Q&A: Alex Keedy
To kick off our new Tech Bytes Q&A column, we’re thrilled to feature Alex Keedy, a notable leader in cybersecurity. Currently spearheading Strategic Operations at ZeroFox, she shares her journey, expertise, and invaluable insights on navigating the cybersecurity landscape. Brace yourselves for actionable tips to elevate your understanding of this critical industry.
What got you interested in working within Cybersecurity?
Since post-9/11, I have been very interested in security in general. However, I don’t have a traditional technical background like computer science. Cybersecurity programs or anything technical outside of coding were non-existent at my college when I was an incoming Freshman.
In 2015, my school test-piloted a cybersecurity course which was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet in the industry. Soon after, I graduated and took my first full-time position with Booz Allen. I was focused on Cyber Threat Intelligence – an ideal role for someone trying to get into this field. We analyzed the type of threat and provided the “so what” factor in the analysis, which helped me merge into the field.
While it’s a hot job right now, Cybersecurity can also be a somewhat intimidating field. Especially as a female. What have been your biggest challenges, and how would you suggest taking that leap into the field?
One frustrating challenge is that females themselves often have this imposter syndrome. They assume they won’t meet the requirements, so they won’t even attempt to take it on. I struggle with women not wanting to take that risk. The industry is still much like the boy’s club but improving. From a sector perspective, federal is a much more challenging space than the private sector for females – so consider entering via a private company.
For women looking to either major in cybersecurity or pivot into a career in cyber, what are 3-5 pieces of advice you could offer them?
- Attend industry events regularly
- If you are interested and you put in the effort, hiring managers will most often hire based on your drive versus your technical experience. I love seeing that someone has done their research, is interested, and is willing to put in the effort.
- Read up as much as you can about the industry!
- Get certifications! It’ll give you a leg up against your competition. And supports #2.
You do a great job of staying top of mind and present in the industry and at industry-related events. How critical do you think it is, post-Covid, for people to get out there and engage again in industry networking events? Does your attendance in those have made a big difference for you?
In this economy where there have been a lot of layoffs and the job market isn’t as strong, it’s so much about who you know. Events enable you to build that connection and stay top of mind by being there in person.
From a job perspective, your technical skills get you in the door, but your soft skills help you advance your career. Go to every social and networking event that you can. Doing that got me my last three jobs. I didn’t even have to apply. I was top of mind by being there and showing up when and where it counts. I also learn much more from these conferences than reading a blog or watching the news. People are more forthcoming in person than they are when it comes to putting something in writing.
Let’s talk Cyber Guild! You were the one to introduce me to the organization, and I couldn’t say enough positive things about the conference. How can those interested get involved, and what are some of the best Cyber Guild-hosted events they should register for?
I like the Cyber Guild mainly because it’s focused on inviting students looking to enter the industry and those transitioning from the military. They’re very good at connecting people.
The Annual Conference is held once a year in October and is my favorite industry event. The Guild also has different volunteer and internship opportunities, a Leaders Brunch, and many great panels. I suggest keeping a regular cadence in attending these. Back Hat, Def Con, B-Side, and Rise Conference are significant event as well. For a virtual option, consider joining SANS.org!
To that end, the Cyber Guild offers a fantastic opportunity to participate in a Cyber Mentorship Program. Do you have a mentor within the industry? For those looking to move into cyber, how critical is it for them to consider having a mentor?
Mentors have been critical to me. I wouldn’t have gotten into some of the outside groups that I have without the guidance of my mentors. I also have been granted a lot more visibility by having a mentor. Reach out to people with your desired job and invite them to coffee to see if they will share their perspectives to help guide you on the right career path! Lastly, don’t be scared of rejection or people not responding. Stay focused on the best-case scenarios.