Women in cyber: Rania Bilal
Rania Bilal is a rare breed. Working in cyber security, Rania is one of the only women in a field dominated by men.
Women make up just 11 per cent of the global cyber security workforce and 10 per cent in the Asia-Pacific.
Rania loves her job.
“Working in cyber security gives you a sense of achievement every day,” Rania says.
“We are protecting our cyber borders every day by working in the field of cyber security.”
Rania Bilal started working as a software engineer in Pakistan in 2004.
She actually wanted to be a doctor, but won a scholarship to study software engineering so pursued that career instead.
Fourteen years later she is still working in the field, but now is with the Australian Government in the CERT Australia operations team.
Rania is a technical officer focussing on cyber threat intelligence.
With a smile permanently on her face, Rania is one of the most friendly people around.
“Every day it is a challenge,” Rania says with a grin.
“Every day there is something new… a different incident, a unique campaign and it’s so interesting.”
You don’t need a technical mind
Rania says many women are turned off cyber security by the impression that it is really difficult work, sitting in front of a computer all of the time.
“It’s not true!” Rania says.
“I know that people think that cyber people just wear hoodies and play with zeros and ones only — but that’s not true.”
Rania says cyber security has many branches.
“If you are working in operations then you have to have technical skills… you have to have some analysis skills, some knowledge of programming, or reverse engineering so that is important.
“But if you are working in the supporting fields, you don’t have to have that technical experience – but still you can work in cyber.”
There are many other areas in cyber security — from communications to policy work.
“Operations cannot work alone on these things. All of us are working towards a common goal.”
Rania’s work in the public service gives her a good work-family balance.
She has been working for the Australian Government for more than a year after spending about six years out of the workforce to care for her two children.
During her time out of the workforce, Rania extended her software engineering qualifications with certifications in software testing.
Settling back into work was intimidating at first, she says, but in reality, it was easy.
“I was well supported and I was enthusiastic and told myself I have to do it!”
Secure, satisfying work
Rania encourages other women to plunge into this emerging field, to exercise and test their full potential and abilities.
She says there is an abundance of work in cyber, both in the public and private sectors.
“If you want job security, cyber is there for another thousand years,” she says.
“It is not going anywhere. Cyber incidents will never stop and it’s a perfect work-life balance.”
Women: Get involved
International Woman’s Day (March 8) is a chance to celebrate the work that women do in cyber security and encourage more women to become involved.
The Australian Government has launched a number of initiatives with industry partners to encourage more women to join the field.
To read more on these and other initiatives, visit the Women in cyber security page on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.