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Turning challenges into opportunities in cybersecurity

Iqira Saed – Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University
Liliana Bowkett – Sunnybank State High School
Annie Truong – Sunnybank State High School
Mehrunnisa Hameed – Sunnybank State High School

Nasrin Jazayeri is a Senior Identity Support Specialist (Cyber Security) at Ernst and Young (EY), one of the big four consulting firms in Australia. Her story is one that should be heard by every young woman interested in a career in technology. Nasrin was born and raised in Tehran (Iran), a country that at the time, was free of defined gender roles and discrimination. From a young age Nasrin had an interest in computers and when her father bought her a computer at the young age of 14 it only fuelled the flame of her passion. With computers in mind, Nasrin went on to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Hardware Engineering at Azad University, Iran. Her motivation to pursue a career in technology came from her belief that “she wanted to do, what not everyone was able to do.”

However, the political climate in Iran started to decline. Nasrin strongly believes in freedom of speech and didn’t want to stay in a country where it is not valued or even seen as a basic human right, so she left her home, family, and friends behind, in the hope for a more peaceful future.

Nasrin moved to Dubai in 2009 and commenced work in a corporate setting. However, upon receipt of her Skilled Migrant Visa in 2015 she moved to Australia. Upon arriving in Australia, Nasrin knew she had to start from scratch. Coming from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background, making new friends and familiarising herself with Australian culture was a huge task. She found herself trimming her resume and simplifying her previous technological and corporate experiences to be better suited to junior positions in a retail setting, leading to her working at Dick Smith Electronics as a shift supervisor. While this role didn’t use her previous qualifications, it allowed Nasrin to better understand Australian culture, the language (particularly slang), meet diverse groups of people and start building a new network. Even during this time, Nasrin was adamant that “being patient and having a goal in mind, can make any struggle easier” as she believed that “steady growth is better than rapid growth.”

In her current role at EY, Nasrin works to ensure the Australian cyber space is safe, which includes protecting the identity of company employees and public servants. Nasrin shared that a large number of attacks happen when people get unauthorised access to tools used by organisations or governments. For example, if hacked, the Australian Federal Government is at risk of being exposed. And so, Nasrin’s role and goals are to maintain the security and integrity of their information technology (IT) systems, which we can consider as a first lines of defence against cybercrime.

Through her role at EY, Nasrin has learnt many important life lessons, including how to manage stress and develop interpersonal and communication skills with various stakeholders. Through her challenges she has learnt to be patient, courageous, open to feedback and the ability to implement that feedback. Nasrin believes the best parts of her job are to provide solutions to complex problems and the trust she has built with her clients.

In addition to working full-time in what society classifies as a ‘male dominant’ industry, Nasrin has always been a vocal advocate for Women in Technology. She provides her support through mentoring and training to young women to ensure they have the resources to build a successful career in technology. However, despite her efforts, a significant portion of society still believes that the technology space is predominantly for men. Using EY as an example, Nasrin wishes to reassure young woman that the opportunities are out there and resources are available. Hence, Nasrin regularly dedicates her time educating and creating awareness to change the mindset that society has built around women in technology. She believes that this education should be provided in schools and universities to share the amazing opportunities the technology field has to offer.

Finally, one piece advice Nasrin wanted to pass on to young women is, “Don’t be too attached to your work, as nothing is permanent. Work hard, find a mentor and kickstart your career in technology. The opportunities are limitless.”

Judges’ Feedback

“Really powerful, starting by saying that this was a story all young women should read framed it well. I could also easily see the impact Nasrin was having through her work, and on society.”

“Well done telling Nasrin’s story in a personal way.”