Career Profile: Nathalie Ngongo, Senior Manager, Security Operations
When we’re using our smartphones every day, listening to music, sharing photos or mapping directions, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the work being done behind the scenes to keep our data safe. That’s a big part of the job for Nathalie Ngongo, a Senior Security Operations Manager at Bell.
A trailblazer by nature, Nathalie immigrated to Canada from France over 11 years ago, after studying in Congo. With a background in telecommunications and network engineering, Nathalie supports a large team of security analysts and specialists at Bell, working on solutions to safeguard data and information for customers.
Read on to learn more about Nathalie’s career and the dynamic field of cybersecurity.
What has your career path been like so far?
After studying mathematics and physics in Congo, I joined a Network Engineering program in France, and then jumped at the chance to visit Canada on an exchange program. During this time, I explored Québec for 6 months and loved it.
After returning to France to work for a telecommunications company, I knew I wanted to go back to Canada someday. After immigrating, I joined Bell in 2009 as a contractor, before being hired into a permanent position as a security analyst in 2010.
How did you progress to the position you are in today?
My path is a little unorthodox. I was actually offered a manager role twice by 2 different leaders. I turned down the first offer, fearing it wouldn’t be right for me since I’d never studied management or HR subjects. But after being assigned to a project, supporting a team that was integrating with a new group, things shifted. I felt confident dealing with issues and interacting with the team – and once my leader said she saw something in me too, what was once a clear “no” now required more serious consideration.
Before making the decision, I spent 4 days on a silent retreat that gave me time to think, then chatted with some former technical employees who’d made the jump into management positions. In the end, I decided to take a chance and said yes.
Do you find your talents are best used in your Senior Manager position where you can oversee things or do you prefer a more hands-on technical role?
Both feel natural to me. Many of the same traits that contribute to success in my technical role also help on the management side. I think it has to do with the way I was raised with some rigor. I was encouraged to be responsible, manage workloads and take care of others. While I enjoy both types of roles, I prefer the Senior Manager position. This role allows me to have more visibility and vision, influence, change and move things, build teams and people towards a better future. Leading by example and continuously working to transform myself is a real motivation to make a difference.
Are there many women in the field of cybersecurity?
When I graduated 15 years ago, women represented approximately 10% of the students in my class, and unfortunately, this hasn’t changed much since. Women who study IT are often encouraged to go towards the more creative fields, like coding or website creation. I was also encouraged to go in those fields, and did so before going into security. Only a few move towards network field roles and even fewer go into cybersecurity.
We’re now trying to drive more women towards security, because diversity in any field is key. One strategy is to visit universities and schools to raise awareness about the various areas of security, including physical security, cryptography, application security and more. There are so many different areas in security that if one does not appeal to someone, there likely will be another that will.
With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, has maintaining cybersecurity become easier or more difficult to execute?
I think the difficulty has increased because of the sub-technologies popping up every month. Cybersecurity attacks today are more complex and can target anyone and and any company.We need additional security solutions in addition to firewalls and antiviruses. This makes finding solutions more complex and requires more specialized skills sets, but it’s also what makes this area so dynamic and interesting to work in. It is crucial to stay up to date, trained and technically certified.
How can individuals best protect their data in our cyber world?
The best advice is to stay well-informed. Don’t assume nothing will happen to you, everyone is a potential target. Be aware of the best practices. Easy everyday habits in your personal life can be as simple as doing a back-up of your important personal data on an external disk, keep patches and anti-virus up to date to increase your protection, and don’t sign in to your banking app while connected to public Wi-Fi. Be conscient of your own data value knowing that everything shared is public and may be used, be vigilant on emails and posts received and don’t trust unknown sources.
Any final words of wisdom?
Be proactive in your life and your work, and take your future in your own hands. If you don’t enjoy your daily work, it’s your responsibility to change it or at least improve it. Change the task, the team, the company; you are the only who can better your circumstances. A former leader always said: ‘’organize yourself, otherwise someone else will organize you’’ That truly resonates with me.
Do you feel ready to take on your next career challenge? Visit our Career site http://bit.ly/2SC1Nwi to find out what opportunities are available.