#WomenInCyber: Apolline Aigueperse, Head of Cyber

Mar 07, 2018
Apo Wording Edit

#WomenInCyber is a series where we speak to some of the women who are instrumental to the success of CybelAngel. Today we are talking to Apolline Aigueperse, Head of Cyber at CybelAngel.

Tell us about your role at CybelAngel?

I am the Head of our Cyber analyst team. When our solution detects a data leak for a client, my team qualifies the incident before conducting in-depth investigation. Finally they produce a detailed report for the customer with all the information they need to swiftly remediate the leak.

How did you end up in cybersecurity?

It’s a good question - actually, I don’t have a techy background at all! I studied political science at Sciences Po Paris, which is more focused on politics and humanities. But I was alway interested in cybersecurity - I followed industry trends and attended seminars on the topic during my studies.

Straight out of University I worked for NATO Communications and Information Agency, in the department handling the procurement of tech solutions (often with a focus cyber solutions). However, I soon decided that I wanted to join the cybersecurity industry, specifically for an early-stage startup. I arrived for my interview with CybelAngel directly from the NATO office in Brussels. I was dressed in my formal suit and welcomed by a bunch of guys in hoodies!

It was a steep learning curve at the beginning. Straight away I was profiling hackers and investigating vulnerabilities, cyber attacks and cyber leaks; I was reading hundreds of documents and even interpreting bits of code! But it’s amazing what you can achieve when necessity calls for it, and after the first 6 months I had got my head around it, and was a fully-operational cyber risk analyst.

Is it ever challenging as a woman in cybersecurity?

The CIO / CISO world is dominated by men. As a young woman in the industry, I challenge people’s preconceptions about the industry, which can lead to some challenges. For example, people often assume that I am a Business Developer; or they direct questions to my male colleagues during meetings - even if they work in non-technical roles such as Sales! Women need to work harder to overcome these biases, and to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts.

When I first arrived at CybelAngel there were two women in a team of nine. Since then, we have managed to increase the proportion of female employees to 40 percent. It was never really bad in those early days, but a masculine atmosphere naturally develops when women are so greatly outnumbered. In my experience this was never ill-intentioned, although you can’t help but feel a little alienated. It’s easier to feel comfortable and at ease in a company when you are surrounded by people with whom you can more easily relate.

How has CybelAngel increased its female proportion so significantly?

Once we started hiring in the field of Data Science we actually came across a lot more women who matched the profile we were seeking. This helped to redistribute the balance a little, and afterwards the trend started to feed on itself. Once people saw there was a strong percentage of women in the company, we started to get more female candidates.

Do you think it helps that we have women in leadership roles, such as yourself?

Yes, I think it helps. For the time being, the company is still at a size where I can participate in the interview process for most of our candidates. I think this helps to reassure female candidates that this is a working environment where they can fit in and succeed.

What do you think we could do to encourage more women to work in cybersecurity?

I think that women hold back from entering cybersecurity because they still have the feeling that it’s a man’s world. I believe that the private sector needs to play a role in talking about and highlighting women in technical fields, such as cyber security, technology or engineering. They need to do this in order to break down the masculine connotation that still surrounds these fields. I also think the public sector has a role to play in communicating this message to young women, and in opening their eyes to the opportunities that exist for them in science and technology.

Don't forget to tune in throughout the coming days to read the rest of our #WomenInCyber profiles.