3 mins read

To all the girls thinking about a career in STEM: Go for it!

02 November 2022

Meet Akansha Pandey | Information Security Specialist at Telstra | National Lead at AWSN Explorers

In my early days of studying, I thought I was headed for a career in engineering. Knowing very little about cybersecurity, it never occurred to me I could make it my career, but I always gravitated towards it as I love problem-solving. Then one day, a guest speaker came in to talk to us about security while I was doing my Master’s, and that was a real turning point for me. From then on, I knew this was the industry I wanted to be in.

I feel very fortunate to do the work I do as an Information Security Specialist at Telstra. I am surrounded by talented people, and the nature of cybersecurity means that every day brings something new, so the learning never ends. It’s for these reasons that I continue to share my passion for it, reminding women that there is a special place for females in this world.

Telstra is a very big supporter of women in STEM. This is evident in the number of initiatives throughout the company that empower women to succeed. Since the day I joined Telstra as a summer vacationer, I have felt supported, not least because we have some incredible women leaders, and the general culture among women is here to uplift each other. It’s one of the things that confirmed I had most definitely chosen the right employer.

Empowering women

The incredibly talented women in cybersecurity leadership at Telstra are very inspiring. I watch them working towards their goals while managing a thousand things at once, and they’re always available to you for guidance despite being so busy.

I’m also lucky enough to have a strong personal network of women here with whom I completed the graduate program. We’re always checking in on each other and catching up for a coffee or brunch. It’s nice that we all feel so comfortable sharing experiences and seeking advice from each other.

Within Telstra, we also have BCW (Brilliantly Connected Women) and BCW TechnologyEssentially, these are communities of women from various fields who come together to share their skills, networks, and experience and hold events that also focus on women’s health. They also invite many women-led businesses to participate in workshops or seminars.

On top of that, Telstra is a platinum sponsor for AWSN (Australian Women in Security Network). I am the National Cadet Lead for AWSN, and a lot of my cybersecurity colleagues are also involved with the organisation.

How Telstra is inspiring young women to pursue STEM careers

I believe in encouraging and educating women about opportunities in STEM careers as early as possible. I stand by the phrase “See you, Be you”: if young women see successful women thriving in STEM careers, they are more likely to think about pursuing it themselves.

Telstra is partnering with schools to do just that. I recently did a presentation at Yarra Tech, discussing my journey in cybersecurity. It was such an amazing feeling to see the level of enthusiasm in these girls who wanted to know more about opportunities and possibilities in STEM fields. We also ran a workshop to give them some practical experience.

I have participated in several other STEM panels and presentations too. I am also very active in mentoring at Telstra, where our early careers team does a fantastic job of connecting us with new grads and interns.

Go for it!

Whenever I meet any woman interested in a STEM career, I tell them, “Go for it!” Don’t let anybody stop you. If there is a particular area you are interested in, I can guarantee there will be a women’s community of support in that stream which you can join. You’ll not only connect with people who are well-established and can teach you a lot, but you’ll find friends to share your journey with. If you’re at university, look for relevant clubs on campus.

When I rolled off my graduate course into my first cybersecurity role, I worried I wasn’t ready. But I was, and I have come such a long way from there. I’d like to assure people that it’s normal to feel like that – most people do at one stage or another – just don’t get caught up in it. You are there for a reason, and you are ready, so have confidence in your abilities, recognize it’s just your brain playing tricks on you and keep moving forward. Eventually, you will look back and realize how far you have come.

Akansha’s Biography: I have been in Telstra for quite a few years. I started at Telstra as a Summer Vacationer and then joined as a Graduate in Cyber security. In my time at Telstra, I’ve had the opportunity to work in areas such as Cyber Security Risk & Governance, the Security Operations Center and have also worked on projects in areas of AI, emerging technologies and 5G. I have had the fortune of meeting some very talented people while working at Telstra. Outside of work, I am an interior design enthusiast, love baking, and am very active in various women in STEM initiatives.

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