Tuesday 10 October 2017

Bridging the gap between uni and industry - AWSN Cadets

By Jacqui Loustau, Founder and one of the Directors of the Australian Women in Security Network

I remember when I was at school, I always questioned why I was learning certain subjects (typical teenager I guess..!). Why we had to study maths, why I had to learn french. I didn't understand the importance as I couldn't apply it to real life situations. When I started uni, studying the Bachelor of Information Systems, I was lucky enough to also work part time at Australia Post in their helpdesk. It was then that I started to understand the point of all this learning.

Having a curiosity for technology is one thing, but to understand why you need to know something can enhance your learning considerably. Being able to apply and understand how things operate and work can be a great advantage before entering the workforce. 

Being in a male dominated field can sometimes make it intimating for some females to fit in and can make some of us shy away from asking questions in the fear that we will be judged. 

The importance of role models and finding great mentors is vital. To see someone working in an area and to understand what their everyday job entails can help shape where you want to go in the future. 

The AWSN Cadets brings together female students from different universities interested pursuing a career in the information security space.
It provides a safe environment to:
- meet others with similar interests and challenges
-  facilitate networking opportunities to help apply study into real life and relevant industry contexts
- practice hands-on technical skills
- helps broaden perspective and provides real insights into what it’s like to work in cyber security

- connect with industry
- build confidence

We are about to complete our first AWSN Cadets pilot programme - 5 technical workshops on the basics of malware reverse engineering. Our first mentor Noushin Shabab has been teaching us the difference between static and dynamic analysis, the tools analysts would use in order to understand and dissect what malware does. These have been very interesting sessions, and have helped these students understand why file types, address of entry points and size of code matter! 

To get this rare insight to what a malware reverse engineer does in her every day job is fascinating. I wish I had known this years ago, my life may have taken a different path! 
We are thankful for Noushin and our future mentors for the time they are giving in order to pass their knowledge onto to us.

The last session will have various companies come and present on what they do as a malware reverse engineer at their company. This helps provide different perspectives on what this type of job entails.

The group of maximum of 10, meets every fortnight and each topic runs for approx. 5 weeks after hours.Future topics currently lined up are penetration testing, blue teaming and digital forensics.The initiative is run and supported by Kaspersky labs, ANZ, Telstra and PWC.

We will be opening future places over the next few months. Places are strictly limited and selective due to the nature of what is being taught. If you are interested in participating, finding out more information or becoming a mentor, then please contact our AWSN cadet leaders Elizabeth Bonny and Diane Loi at:

Testimony from an AWSN Cadet:

The AWSN Cadets technical workshops with Noushin Shabab have been a rare and valuable opportunity for me to expand my info sec horizons! I have experienced a completely different side of the information security industry - malware reverse engineering - that I may not have otherwise had exposure to as a university student. The small class size of 10 students also means that you really get to know both your peers and the industry mentor well. I feel like I've formed some great friendships as a consequence.  
Thoroughly recommend AWSN Cadets and their workshops for their content, networking opportunities, and support - you'd be hard pressed to find opportunities like this anywhere else for tertiary female students interested in all things information security!" 

(c) AWSN 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organisation or association.

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