Following on from her nomination in the Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2021 in the category Security Leader of the Year, we asked Katie McMillan, Information Assurance/Security Manager at Agilisys, to write about how we can inspire the next generation.

Inspiring the next generation of tech professionals has never been more important than it is in 2021. Currently, the skills gap in multiple technological sectors is very real and needs to be remedied. On top of this, our way of life for the past two years has caused a crisis of confidence, particularly for our children and young adults.

After many months of isolation, young people are having to readapt to the change in social interaction that they had just become confident with prior to COVID-19. As a Mum myself, I find it has been especially difficult for teenagers who are just beginning to find their way in the world. They are often unaware of their strengths and weaknesses and have no idea what they will become passionate enough about to build into a career.

As an Information Security Manager with a degree in Journalism, a Level 2 in Counselling and an infrastructure background, I am an advocate for trying lots of things until something feels right. I didn’t take the ‘typical’ route into IT and Information Security; I took a few diversions before finding a career where I wanted to progress. That is okay, it’s not about a singular destination, it’s always about the journey you have and the opportunities and experiences along the way. I’ve known friends and colleagues who have come from a mixture of backgrounds, some university graduates, some apprentices, some dropping out of education completely and yet, all have been on their own journey and ended up happy in the field they chose. My journey was no different and I have no doubt my career is not complete and I’m excited to see what the next challenge will be.

My advice and words of wisdom to the next generation will always be, do not feel the need to pigeonhole your passion, aspiration, preferred career or even hobby.

Don’t change to ‘fit in’, or to adhere to cultural or gender stereotypes or any other discriminatory factor being thrust upon you. Simply put, try everything to see what makes you tick.

Don’t ever feel too proud to ask for help and to receive criticism. But take it constructively and anything which comes across as mean, unfair or untrue, take with a pinch of salt. Chances are it is jealousy, or someone simply having a bad day. I’m fortunate to have known some great characters within my career to date. Each and every one of them have offered me a lesson, be it good or bad, but always something new to learn.

Trying new things, be it a new subject, a new hobby, or a new career doesn’t need to be terrifying, it’s all about experience. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.