Renu Harshatha – Trainee Security Consultant at Meta Defence Labs

By on , in Asia, Interviews

IT is not only about coding, there are different paths and roles under this vast category.

Renu Harshata is a Trainee Security Consultant at Meta Defence Labs but apart from this specific role she is a Tech-girl who is not only passionate to succeed in Technology but also to pave a path for more Tech-girls by empowering both individuals, men and women despite their sex, age, religion, color and caste. She engages in volunteer activities at SHe CISO Exec and conduct workshops for students to identify themselves and improve their leadership and communication skills. She is an undergraduate at Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), reading her BSc (Hons) in IT degree specializing in cybersecurity.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

Well, my job is to perform duties that management of the Company may assign to me from time to time since I’m a Trainee security consultant, this period is where I learn all the aspects of the business and related tools, we use to conduct a vulnerability assessment. In simple words, we all know most businesses have started to perform their day to day business activities in online platforms, we secure and prevent these firms from cyber threats and provide security consultation services. To be honest it’s quite interesting working in this field and technology plays a vital part in my job. We need technology from testing the firms to securing and preventing it from cyber threats.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I would say the journey began from my childhood, I was never a bright kid at school but I was known for my tech skills. This decision was criticized by many individuals stating that “IT industry is for men not for women”. That is when my research began on “Women in Technology”. During my higher education (Advanced Level) I started an ICT club for my school where girls can play with computers, back then my priority list was only Software Engineering, so I did activities after school where I encourage my juniors at school to code. It was my IT teacher who identified that I was good at finding mistakes in the application and recognized that I understood about networks easily. She encouraged me to pursue a degree in Information Technology, not just software engineering something else, she showed me the path of Computer Networks. At that time when I searched about computer networks I ended up in the term “Cybersecurity”. I am a believer of “Make your opportunities”, I found this field had a high scope in future and decided to pursue it.

I come from a background where the community has stereotypical thoughts, I was pressured not to read this degree because I am a girl and I am not allowed to work in an industry which is suitable for men. I wanted to change it. I stood against them all. I asked my father to trust in me and give me a year to prove myself. First-year at college was interesting and fun; it was where everyone studied the basics of computing. I was questioning my colleagues in which specialization did they enroll in, most of them answered software engineering, and those who answered cybersecurity were boys, by the end of the year I found one girl like me who was pretty interested in cybersecurity. Efforts and smart work paid off pretty well, in the second year, I was selected to do my cybersecurity specialization. I was amused because we had 15 girls enrolled in this specialization. It was a great start, but after a few weeks later I noticed although they enrolled in cybersecurity, they did not speak up, they were scared to answer questions and ask questions in the lecture hall, it was noticeable by their looks, a fear of misjudgment. “What if I had answered it wrong?”, “What if the boys or the lecturer think it’s a silly question?”.  I wanted to change it. I wanted a platform to change.

Before joining Meta Defence Labs, I went for interviews with well-known companies who looked at my GPA and my gender. Although I received the 2nd call for my job interview I refused to attend it. In my opinion, “GPA” is just a number, an individual is not defined by their GPA and it doesn’t prove what I am capable of. that’s when I saw the post of Meta Defence Labs who were offering an internship, curious part was they asked for a cover letter with NO CV ATTACHED. They evaluated my thoughts and my personality not only my GPA. I soon learnt their platform SHe CISO Exec which helps to mould intelligent resilient cyber leaders was the golden ticket for Tech girls like me.

Around this time, I decided empowerment for women in technology is not only for women but also for men and I partnered with my colleague and started to do workshops for school students on Women in Technology and Leadership, Communication skills. That’s how I became the person who I am today.

Compared with other women interviewed in Gal Talks Tech, I haven’t succeeded much like they have but I have failed a lot and learned from it. This is just the beginning of my milestone. Girls can be tech-geek too and they will be.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed?

I have witnessed a few transformations in technology in the last few years.

Creating a website and application has taken a new transformation from coding to drag and drop which saves a huge amount of time. Computing storage has changed over the time period from local storage to cloud storage. Tools developed for testing an application for bugs and vulnerabilities. These are few of the greatest transformations I have witnessed over the years, but smartphone has always had me amused. It is still transforming, for an example SIM card to E-SIM and researches are going on with No SIM technology.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Evolution – women are capable of doing anything with their potential strength, but we can observe that the evolution has not yet taken place. It is still in the process. We can see women are emerging in the field of technology, compared to the past and more will in the future if proper guidance and support are given.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

Have we ever thought of empowering men on gender equality, feminism and equal rights? That is what needs to be changed both in life and tech.

That’s a good question, I asked the same question to the 18 year old me, and this was the answer I gave back then and I am giving now, Gender equality has been there since my childhood we only focus on empowering women to held on to feminism and equal rights but have we ever thought of empowering men on gender equality, feminism and equal rights? That is what needs to be changed both in life and tech. Men and Women need to be given knowledge and empowerment on Women In Technology and gender equality. Gender doesn’t define our capabilities, our knowledge does, Ada Lovelace was a woman who helped Charles Babbage and that’s how technology evolution took place.

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

As women we know we tend to do multi-tasks and we balance both work and family life. Women are good at problem solving, they tend to see the problems from different angles, and give creative solutions which might not have been thought of before. The community is in search of Emotional Quotient and Intelligence Resilient leaders simply, Emotional Intelligent Leaders.

Emotional Intelligent leaders are those whose capabilities is to recognize their own emotion and those of others to guide, think, manage and adapt to achieve a specific goal. Studies have proven women naturally have more EQ than men, which benefits everyone not an individual or a specific group. That is how our world would be if more women worked in STEM. They would create different inventions and innovations to make this world a better place and there will be a term “woman made things” instead of “man made things”.

Which was the best decision in your career?

My best decision in my career is when I chose to rebel against those who thought IT is not suitable for girls/women and pursued my path in IT, especially in cybersecurity. Although the domain of cybersecurity was around for a long period of time, it became more prominent in the last few years, I didn’t have much support from my family since they were unfamiliar with the technical industry, but my firm decision brought me where I am today.

What advice would you give to women who want a tech career?

Don’t wait till opportunity knocks your door, ask for opportunities else create your opportunity.

Figure out who you want to be, just because someone took software engineering, you don’t have to follow the same path, you might be good at different paths, you need to understand IT is not only about coding, there are different paths and roles under this vast category. Secondly, don’t wait till opportunity knocks your door, ask for opportunities else create your opportunity. Always remember you don’t have to be in a higher position to be recognized or to be successful, don’t stop what you are good at doing because somewhere, someone is watching you. Support each other, It’s okay if you don’t know something, ask about it and learn. The only way you learn is only if you ask questions. Tech is no more “It’s the men’s job”

Renu Harshata is a Trainee Security Consultant at Meta Defence Labs but apart from this specific role she is a Tech-girl who is not only passionate to succeed in Technology but also to pave a path for more Tech-girls by empowering both individuals, men and women despite their sex, age, religion, color and caste. She engages in volunteer activities at SHe CISO Exec and conduct workshops for students to identify themselves and improve their leadership and communication skills. She is an undergraduate at Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), reading her BSc (Hons) in IT degree specializing in cybersecurity.

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