Navigating the tech industry with Dr Róis Ní Thuama
Navigating the tech industry, especially as a woman, can often feel daunting. But for Dr Róis Ní Thuama, being a woman in the IT world is exciting, meaningful, and, for her, almost natural.
Dr Róis is a lawyer turned cybersecurity expert based in the United Kingdom who began her career at a start-up company as a Business Affairs Associate, engaging in company law tasks, investor relations, and making technical information digestible for non-technical audiences, a skill she carries forward.
Today, she is a Doctor of Law and subject matter expert in corporate and cyber governance, risk, and compliance, an award-winning cybersecurity expert, and Head of Cyber Governance at Red Sift.
Numata had the privilege of gaining key insights from Dr Róis about her career as a woman in technology, navigating her way through the complex cybersecurity world.
Cybersecurity as a holistic corporate concern
In Dr Róis’s experience, it’s not just about understanding the tools but the people and the processes that drive cybersecurity. The information must be accessible, digestible, and actionable, the principle of communicating in tech.
Drawing parallels between law and cybersecurity, Dr Róis emphasises the importance of risk management.
“Cybersecurity should start with the end in mind,” she says, “assume a breach has occurred, how would you defend the decisions made to all your stakeholders?”
She believes the necessity of complying with international standards, such as ISO or NIST, cannot be overstated. And so is the importance of timely reporting of cybersecurity incidents. She adds, “Investors are now more savvy about cyber-attacks and can differentiate between sophisticated nation-state actors and basic security lapses which amount to unsophisticated acts.”
Her philosophy pivots on treating cybersecurity as a risk management problem that must be addressed with intelligence, similar to risk management in other areas of life, such as the military and police forces. She also stresses the importance of perspective, saying, “A blue screen of death isn’t actual death, and every person in cybersecurity goes home at the end of the day, unlike some real-world risk management personnel.”
Women in tech
“Don’t wait for permission to make your mark in the tech industry. If you ask permission to be at the table, the answer will be no. So, if you’re confident that you have the skill set and can bring value and defend any position you take, stick your elbows out and don’t be shy. Get in the game.”
Dr Róis is a staunch advocate for women in tech and believes that every voice has a place in the cybersecurity industry. She sees value in the diverse roles within cybersecurity extending beyond technical ones, noting that the field requires people who understand commercial aspects and the human side of operations.
She encourages women to assert themselves: "Women and men bring different perspectives and strengths to tech. Storytelling is crucial to identifying cybersecurity issues; this is where women can make a mark. A well-crafted story can change the world. Use your voice and tell your story.”
Dr Róis also believes competence in tech takes priority above all else. She warns against policies promoting unqualified individuals at the expense of diversity and inclusion, which could harm the organisation, and that promoting people beyond their capabilities and incompetency in positions of power are the real issues.
”Diversity for the sake of diversity is not enough,” she says. “The primary thing is to get whoever is the best person into that role, regardless of their background”.
Avoiding an “us versus them" mentality is critical in the tech industry. Instead, Dr Róis stresses the importance of unity and consideration, believing that women have a valuable place in tech and cybersecurity and should not be deterred by perceived challenges. She is optimistic that the cultural and societal norms of tech being a “man’s world” can change over time, citing examples from the engineering and finance sectors.
She says, “There is no better sector to be in than cybersecurity because there is much work to do. All hands must be on the pump, not just the technical people. Most corporations aren’t run by technical people but by those who understand business and law.”
Dr Róis believes that people shouldn’t just follow their dreams or passions but think about what kind of life they want to lead and the practical steps they need to achieve it, saying, “Put your own fingerprint on your field. You don’t have to be an expert on everything. Find a difficult niche, and master that.”
As Dr Róis navigates the tech industry, she acknowledges the role of a supportive network in her success. She advises others to avoid unnecessary distractions and maintain a practical approach to problem-solving. Her career is a powerful reminder that women can overcome perceived challenges, thrive in the industry, and shape it from within.
Everyone should seek to ally themselves with people they admire and respect, as it makes the journey through a career easier.
Dr Róis’s career serves as a reminder that women have and continue to make significant contributions to tech and cybersecurity. It’s about having a well-rounded perspective, being assertive, and creating a niche for yourself. She concludes,
Every voice has a place at this table in tech. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that there are roadblocks or stumbling blocks – they don’t exist. Stay on your path and persist.