A qualified information security professional and engineer, Jane Whitgift started Whitgift Security three years ago and works with SMEs to protect their businesses online.
Previously, she worked at BP for over 20 years in a range of IT roles before becoming Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for pieces of the global business in 2005.
Before moving into IT, Jane qualified as an engineer at the University of Sheffield.
Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?
I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and as a child my parents referred to me as the ‘little engineer’. I went on to study engineering at university and from there got a job as an engineer at a time when they were moving to computerisation. I was interested in the interface between engineering and IT, going on to study this as part of a computing degree. After joining BP in an IT role I moved into security and never looked back.
Have you noticed a gender imbalance in the IT industry?
On my engineering course I was one of the three women on a course of 30 students. The numbers weren’t much better when I moved across to IT.
ISACA recently published some research on women in technology and I thought one of the most frightening statistics was that the proportion of computer science degrees awarded to women today is roughly half that of the proportion awarded in 1984.
I had always hoped that the numbers of women coming in as graduates was getting better but I learned that in big global organisations the number of women coming into IT departments is still low.
What is your experience of mentoring? How useful is it?
During my time at BP there were a couple of powerful ladies who were extremely supportive and encouraging. I started mentoring myself in my early 30s as a facilitator on a ‘springboard’ initiative for women in business support, encouraging secretaries to look at where else their careers could go.
Since then I’ve been an active mentor – from taking part in graduate recruitment panels to mentoring my children’s school friends. Some of them are starting to work at big corporates and have been looking for insight into networking and increasing their visibility.
I’ve also been involved in more formal mentoring programmes for women at ISACA and now BCS. Having networks like this is so important – not only for support but for career opportunities outside of your organisation. Many posts are filled before they’ve even been advertised due to these networks and the connections people have.
How do you juggle your career and your personal life?
One of the biggest challenges of my career was having two children. They were only at school from 9 to 3.30 for 34 weeks of the year, so what do you do for the rest of it? By the time they were 8 and 10 we had au pairs and nannies but it was often a tense relationship.
I decided to go part time and had a very understanding employer. I did that for ten years whilst taking on three roles at work – change management, site security coordination and business continuity. It kept me sensibly busy!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I reached the top of my field, sitting in the BP management team for ten years. Since starting my own business, I’m really pleased that I’ve so far managed to get three organisations through the government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme and helped to make their security much more resilient.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I’m now building a portfolio career, volunteering and working with professional organisations. As part of this, I’d really like to encourage more women into STEM careers.