We love to profile incredible women in tech and we were lucky enough to meet Tessa Bridgeman, Cyber Security Analyst at KPMG, at our last #WITLiv meet-up. When asked to summarise what Cyber Security is, Tessa stated that “Cyber Security involves protecting all things connected to the internet (hardware, software, infrastructure) from unauthorised access, harm or misuse. The security controls that can be implemented can cover a wide range of technical and organisational areas that should be chosen based upon an organisations risk appetite and the data and services they need to protect.”

Tessa Headshot

We were blown away by her passion for cyber security. Here’s her story…

Can you share any interesting facts about yourself?

This year was the first time I’ve ever attempted to do a charity hike up and down Mount Snowdon, an experience I’ll never forget thanks to the amazing weather we had on the day and the breath-taking views we had on our way up to the summit.

Tessa on a charity mountain hike
Tessa on a charity mountain hike

When did your journey into tech start?

From a very early age I found computers, technology and the web fascinating and I was lucky enough to be bought my first desktop PC and very noisy dot matrix printer to play on when I was about 9 years old. Much to my Mum’s horror at the sheer size of the thing that had to sit in our living room, I quickly got bored of playing on Microsoft Paint and Encarta Encyclopaedia CD-Roms, and it wasn’t very long before we also had it hooked up to a very noisy dial up Internet connection! Throughout school it was my favourite subject and I’d spend hours after school using the Internet to help me do my homework and chatting to my school mates on MSN messenger. At that point I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up but I just knew that I enjoyed using technology and was keen to learn more about it.

This interest then led on to completing a Foundation Degree in Computer Science in college, followed by a BSc in Information Systems at Edge Hill University. During which I also entered the world of work and gained my first IT position working as an IT Service Desk Analyst for a pharmaceutical software company in 2009. After a few years learning all about the world of ITIL and a small step into the world of IT management, I then decided I wanted to do something a bit different and learn more about Cyber Security.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at KPMG?

Since joining the company in September 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to carry out a large variety of work for different companies, within industries from fashion to finance. Every project is different and the type of work carried out depends upon the requirements of the client; from assessing a company’s data protection or cyber security maturity, to carrying out technical security audits at one of their suppliers. This is my first role working within Cyber Security since gaining my Masters in Info Sec from Edge Hill University in 2013, and although I was brought in as an experienced hire, I’ve found all of the training I’ve received extremely valuable and there have always been lots of chances to challenge myself and come out of my comfort zone.

I’ve recently been transferred from Manchester to the Liverpool office so that I’m based closer to home and to avoid spending too much of my working week commuting by train. I normally work with clients who are local to Liverpool but sometimes I have to go further afield across the UK, with my first foreign trip taking place towards the end of this year as part of an ISO27001 engagement.

A normal day for me is carrying out interviews or presenting on a client site, writing a report, responding to emails and more recently I’ve also become involved in helping out with the firms Cyber Champions initiative. This is a not-for-profit organisation and internal volunteering scheme that allows members of KPMG teams from around the UK to go out to local schools and carry out workshops for Children and Parents about how to use the Internet safely.

What’s your favourite thing about working in Cyber Security?

There will always be something new to learn about, it’s a fast paced industry that will be kept on its toes by each emerging technology and new set of threats. I didn’t once think that in my lifetime the sale of Petrol and Diesel cars could potentially be banned in Britain by 2040 or that I would be regularly talking to a small device called Alexa! There will be an increasing need for more Cyber Security as we start to trust robots more with making decisions that could impact our own lives as well as the lives of others. It’s exciting to be working in this field and I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry is set to develop.

Tessa at a Cyber Bootcamp in the Netherlands
Tessa at a Cyber Bootcamp in the Netherlands

Who is your role model or who has inspired you?

I’d say my Mum and Dad have always inspired me to work hard, push myself, and never give up on things no matter how tough they get! My working life has never been smooth sailing, I was always pretty rubbish at interviews due to nerves and unfortunately like a lot of people in the workplace, I’ve struggled to build up the right amount of confidence. But with the support of family, friends and some special work colleagues over the years I’ve managed to rise above some of those challenges.

I recently watched the 2015 film Suffragette and I was really inspired by their spirit and strength despite the sacrifices they made and the amount of knockbacks received, all because they wanted to make our world fairer and workplaces more diverse. They set out to prove that women were just as capable as men at making decisions. Although we still have a long way to go, I’d like to think that their cause lives on through the increasing amount of initiatives out there today, such as the #mettoo campaign and the research being carried out on the gender pay gap.

During college and university, there was a distinct lack of females enrolled on my courses and after hearing about the work the Liverpool Girl Geeks have been carrying out, I really wanted to get involved and offer my support!

Do you have any top tips for those considering going into tech or cybersecurity?

There are lots of different roles within technology and cyber security which don’t necessarily require a degree in either of these fields in order for you to be successful. if you have the right attitude and work ethic, there is no reason why you can’t pick up some of these skills whilst on the job. Also, soft skills are extremely important in cyber security and I think schools, colleges and universities need to place more emphasis on teaching these skills going forward.

If you’re just starting out on a tech or cyber security course as you’re really keen to get into these fields then that’s a fantastic start. However, try not to forget that it’s also important to understand your strengths and weaknesses in areas of your personal development and find out what you can be doing to improve all of those other skills you might require one day.

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