21 March 2024

Tackling cyber attacks makes for a more than ordinary office job for Riverina graduate

| Vanessa Hayden
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Woman in front of computer cables

Pooja Dhanwan says taking on a career in the cyber security industry has been one of the best decisions she’s ever made. Photo: Vanessa Hayden.

Working in the cyber security space is like playing a game of chess, says TAFE NSW graduate Pooja Dhanwan.

“You always have to stay one step ahead,” said Pooja.

A part of the IT team at Albury’s Joss Group, Pooja is using her skills gained in the classroom and on the job to help keep the major building and facility management firm safe from online criminals.

She’s also travelling the countryside sharing some of her skills and knowledge with 15 other Joss Group offices in NSW.

In her ‘spare’ time she’s teaching others at TAFE NSW and is able to bring her learnings from industry to educate the next generation of students, keen to complete their Cert IV in Cyber Security which is available at both the Wagga and Albury campuses.

She says it’s an exciting and stimulating role and encourages others, particularly women, to consider it as a career option.

Australia’s cyber security watchdog’s latest report shows a new cyber security attack is happening every six minutes and each cyber attack costs business between $46,000 and $72,000.

As one of a small but growing number of women working in cyber security, Pooja has entered the industry at a time when the Data Institute estimates Australia will need an extra 17,600 cyber security professionals by 2026.

A report from RMIT in April 2023 showed increasing female participation in cyber security was key to addressing the skills shortage in this industry; latest Census data showed only 17 per cent of the workforce were female.

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“I was the only woman in my class at TAFE NSW. Since then, I’ve seen more women coming into the sector and I tell them that if I can do it, they can too,” said Pooja.

“I first thought about cyber security after chatting with a friend and I was also very aware of the growing number of news articles on the issue.

“I knew there was a shortage of employees, and I had a relative in the industry who kept saying it was a good job with a good future.

“When I started the course in 2019 the Centrelink scams were on the rise as were the Medicare and tax office scams.

“I knew it was the field I wanted to go into and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

The 37-year-old said it didn’t matter what your business or profession was, everyone was vulnerable to cyber attack.

“I compare it to airbags in cars – people think they don’t need to know about them until they have a crash.”

The Cert IV in Cyber Security training is a 12-month course. Pooja travelled daily between Albury and Wagga to complete her certificate but says there is now an online training option.

She spends anywhere between three and nine hours a week working with TAFE students. She has forged friendships with former students and plays a vital supportive role to women who may need additional encouragement.

“The industry offers good job security as we know that the problem is not going to go away. It’s only going to get bigger.

“It’s an exciting role as you are constantly on watch and monitoring what is happening. It gives a little more kick than your typical office role.

“There is a lot of scope and if you like a little excitement in your life this will be a bit more interesting than filing and typing or your usual administration job.”

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Pooja is a member of the Australian Information Security Association and is about to embark on another qualification when Joss sponsor her through the CompTIA Security Plus program.

Man and woman in front of computer screens

Joss Group’s IT manager Adam Cardamone says recruiting graduates who arrive in the workforce with the practical and technical knowledge needed makes an immediate difference. Photo: Vanessa Hayden.

The Joss Group’s office-IT manager Adam Cardamone said Pooja was an important addition to the team, which was aiming to increase its number of women in IT.

“Recruiting someone of Pooja’s calibre has been great for our team and we’re already using her to train other staff which is a great testament to what she has learned on the job and through her studies at TAFE.

“The contribution she’s made in the IT and cyber security space reflects really well on the value to us of recruiting graduates who arrive in the workforce with the practical and technical knowledge needed to make an immediate difference.”

Pooja is reluctant to call herself a role model for other women, saying she’s still learning her profession, but she hopes her experiences will encourage women to train for an industry with strong job opportunities.

“Cyber security has a lot of scope and it’s a good place to be,” she said.

TAFE NSW have just launched a free, three-hour introduction to Cyber Security course Introduction to Cyber Security.

In addition, there are a range of courses, from an eight-week online Statement of Attainment in Digital Security and Privacy in the Workplace, through to a three-year Bachelor of Information Technology (Cyber And Network Security). Pooja studied the Cert IV in Cyber Security , which is available online and takes 12 months to complete.

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