Women in Tech : Mona Yang Gousto’s Group Information Security Manager
This International Women’s Day we’re supporting #BreakTheBias to ensure we continue to create and celebrate a space that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive not only for our team, but every woman we are influenced by.
To kick-off things off, we spoke to Mona Yang from our Security Team, as she shares the challenges she has faced in the Tech industry, an insight into her role in the cybersecurity space, and how she and women in Tech are breaking the bias with ‘The Women in Tech’ initiative right here at Gousto.
Tell us about you and your role here at Gousto…
I started life at Gousto almost three years ago (so I’m now considered an old-timer in the Gousto world) as the first person dedicated to Security. Since joining, my role has been focused on building out the security function which has included growing an amazing team, as well as creating a culture around security across all functions and levels of the business. In my current role as Group Information Security Manager, I largely focus on defining and driving the execution of our security vision and strategy spanning IT, OT and DevOps. Combining Gousto’s rapid scaling and high pace of change, with the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape, it can be a challenge to keep up – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Prior to Gousto I spent several years as an InfoSec consultant, providing various services for clients across a range of industries including Financial Services, Legal, Charities and Insurance. In between, I also completed a Masters at LSE in Management and Innovation, following an Undergraduate degree in Maths and Economics. Notice my lack of educational background in cyber…
What are some of the challenges you have faced being a woman in Tech?
Generally in the Tech industry there is a huge gender gap, but when you look at cybersecurity, the disparity is particularly pronounced. When I started my career in consultancy it was even worse.
Being in the minority was and is tough. I would go to client sites and sit in Board meetings consisting of only white men. Regardless of gender, I think working in consultancy and being an “expert” when you’ve only just left university can create a massive sense of imposter syndrome. But on top of that, sitting in meetings as the odd one out, in terms of gender, ethnicity and age, was even harder.
It mostly came down to finding it difficult to have my voice heard and feel respected, and that the only way to achieve that was to be loud and overtly commanding which is definitely not in my nature. There have been times, when I’ve overheard people say that senior leaders won’t listen to me because I’m “just a girl”.
Although things have progressed slightly over the years I still get those same feelings and often find myself looking round the room and being the only woman. Working in tech and cyber can be a lonely place but one thing I will say is that no one is alone, there are lots of individuals and communities of women doing incredible things and offering huge support to each other – they can just be a bit tricker to find.
Can you tell us more about the ‘Women In Tech’ initiative you have formed here at Gousto?
The Women in Tech initiative started last year by myself, Morwenna, Mo & Miryana, with the aim of empowering our women and increasing gender diversity within our tech Team. We’ve already run lots of initiatives such as personal development clinics, speaker events and reviewing our promotion process to reduce gender bias. The group has recently expanded to include over seventeen men and women who are planning lots more exciting initiatives for 2022.
We’re discussing plans for more internal and external speaker events, female mentorship programmes and gender bias training. One initiative that I’m particularly excited about is exploring community outreach opportunities, which will enable us to connect and give back to our community, driving change beyond Gousto.
For any inspired women… how do you start a career in cybersecurity?
There’s no single answer to this question as there are so many ways to get into cybersecurity. Often cyber professionals will have an educational background in computer science or security and it will be a straight forward segue into security. However, it’s not the only way! I’m seeing more and more amazing individuals with backgrounds in social science, languages, and so on.. including many of my team, as well as myself. In my view, having a security team that can bring a mixture of knowledge and perspectives is so powerful. It helps to ensure that the full trifecta of People, Process and Technology is considered in everything we do, which drives highly effective and well embedded change.
I would advise anyone interested in a career in cybersecurity to get out there and talk to people. Get involved in various cybersecurity events, join different forums and connect with others. The cybersecurity community is super active and supportive. There are a lot of exciting initiatives going on (including female focused ones) which provide an opportunity to both learn and build a network – take a look at Meetup, LinkedIn groups, a Google search will no doubt return some interesting stuff. Explore events across a range of topics to find what truly excites you about cybersecurity. Being able to demonstrate your passion for cybersecurity in an interview will go a long way!
Disclaimer: yes, the gender gap will be evident at these events and yes they can be intimidating but don’t be afraid. As a female and self-proclaimed introvert, I’ll be the first to admit that I despise the ‘networking’ aspect of these events. But as a rule, I tell myself that if I can attend and take away one connection / learning / insight, then it’s much more than I’d have if I didn’t go. And one meaningful connection with someone means a lot more than multiple surface level ones. Remember there will always be someone there feeling the exact same way as you at these events.
What can we all do to promote gender equality?
Lots! Find out if there are any initiatives promoting gender equality in your organisation and get involved. If nothing exists, why not take the lead? There will no doubt be many others around you who would love to start something, and don’t be afraid to start small. Although, I warn you – there is so much energy around the topic that you’ll have a whole community around you before you know it.
For those of you who are managers, there’s a huge opportunity to make an impact by supporting the development of women in your team and creating an environment where they feel encouraged to talk about their wins, put themselves forward for promotions and raise any challenges they may be facing. In our research at Gousto, we’ve found that managers play a vital role in the growth of women. We see women often need a little more support in personal development than their counterparts and sometimes a little nudge of encouragement can go a long way.
Lastly, my personal view on the most impactful thing we can all do to promote diversity is to be curious. And by that I mean be intentional about creating and leaning into conversations on the topic, with the women in your team, your friends, family members. Listen to their stories so that we can all be more aware and use this knowledge to drive change. I’m sure the women around you will have a lot of stories that may surprise you.
Lastly… who are your personal female role models?
This is a tricky one because it’s never constant. I meet so many women who are inspiring in their own unique ways, including colleagues, friends, family, industry peers. Since recently returning to London, I’ve joined a community of women who are disrupting the norm in endurance sport, with ambitions of a 50:50 gender split in an Iron(wo)man event. I’m constantly in awe of the group’s resilience and unrelenting drive to push their limits and achieve some major athletic feats. As women, we’re united not only by the challenges we face, but also our strength to challenge the status quo.