Expert Spotlight: Lisa Jiggetts
Lisa Jiggetts is the founder and president of the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women succeed in the cybersecurity industry. The society offers workshops, training, networking opportunities, mentorships, and job search assistance to women around the world, in addition to running programs for young women through its Cyberjutsu Girls Academy.
While founding WSC is Jiggetts' proudest moment, her career began as an IT security specialist with the U.S. Air Force, where she worked for 6 years. Her military experience provided a varied skillset that served as an ideal springboard into other areas of information security. She has since worked as a government contractor in many different capacities, including senior engineer and penetration tester. Her favorite area, however, is ethical hacking. No one knows better than she does that the learning never ends in this field. "I've done network, web application, and mobile security assessments and truly enjoy finding vulnerabilities and figuring out how to exploit them," she says. And next up? "I'd like to get into IoT security."
How a Diverse Background Can Prepare You for a Cybersecurity Career
Jiggetts' diverse professional background prepared her well for the fast-paced field of cybersecurity, but her accomplishments don't stop at her work experience. She holds a bachelor's degree in information technology as well as an MBA, and she has her CISSP, CEH, and EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) credentials.
But for Jiggetts, it all comes back to the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu. She says, "I'm most proud of the work we've done [at] WSC. We've seen so many women grow in their careers and personal lives. When we get a testimonial from someone who is thankful for how our services helped her, it makes it all worthwhile." We talked to Lisa about her passion project, women in IT, and the tips and tricks she's learned from her unique background.
ed2go: What was the catalyst for founding the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu?
Lisa Jiggetts: I launched the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC) because I saw a need for what I myself was looking for, a place where I could learn and be among like-minded women. At that point in my career, I'd learned the basics of ethical hacking so I felt comfortable sharing what I learned. I held the first workshop and taught an intro to Linux and Auditor, which is now Kali. I had maybe 12 women show up and a couple attend online. That was in 2012. We haven't looked back.
ed2go: What are some of the specific obstacles women face in the IT field?
L.J.: Unconscious bias, work/life balance, good ol' boy culture, lack of sponsors/mentors — both women and men. We're seeing it's particularly difficult for women who've stayed home to raise children and want to re-enter the workforce.
ed2go: How have these obstacles stayed the same and what are some ways they've changed over the course of your career?
L.J.: Many of these obstacles weren't addressed as a whole because it wasn't seen as a problem. As the awareness increases as to how to get more skilled people in the field, some of these obstacles are being addressed positively. Employers are using different hiring tactics to encourage more women to apply for jobs, employers are offering more maternal leave options to both parents, and we're starting to see more women being considered for upper management roles.
ed2go: What special skills does someone need to thrive in a career in cybersecurity?
L.J.: I believe the way a person thinks and the ability to communicate are the most valuable qualities that someone can offer. You can teach people how to use tools, how to code, etc. ... I think to thrive in this field you have to have passion for it and want to be in it.
ed2go: Are there any tools that you think are indispensable for people working in cybersecurity?
L.J.: Learning how to use well-known industry tools will put you ahead of the next person that doesn't know them. Becoming an expert with tools in niche areas makes sense to keep up and combat new threats. Knowing a programming language is a definite plus.
ed2go: Where do you see cybersecurity headed in the future?
L.J.: Cybersecurity isn't going anywhere. There's still plenty of cybercrime, etc. using older technology that needs skilled professionals to understand the threats and provide solutions. Newer technologies like crypto currency, IoT, and electric cars make for an exciting time to be in the field for people in all cyber areas, from researchers to policymakers.
Anyone looking to get into the field of cybersecurity would do well to follow in Jiggetts' footsteps: taking every opportunity, diversifying their skillset, and always maintaining curiosity and passion. Successful cybersecurity professionals like Lisa Jiggetts know that opportunity is always knocking — you just have to listen.