Ljubica Pendaroska: To grow in infosec, rely on the potential and abilities you already possess

Ljubica Pendaroska interview ladies in cybersecurity

Until now, Ljubica Pendaroska has relentlessly pursued a clear mission in her career: to promote human rights and freedoms.

From EU-wide and NATO projects to UNICEF and her home country, Ljubica has been applying her legal expertise to solving complex challenges around privacy and personal data protection and cybersecurity.

Last year, she was also featured in SC Magazine as one of the 50 most influential women in cybersecurity in Europe and we can’t wait for you to meet her on March 26, at Ladies in Cybersecurity!

In her current role as Special Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia, Ljubica continues to do the challenging work sitting at the crossroads of public policy and information security.

For women (and men) looking to pledge their wide-ranging skills and expertise to a worthwhile mission, her story is an uplifting example of perseverance and open-mindedness.

Protecting human rights in a hyperconnected world

What we strive to do at Ladies in Cybersecurity, DefCamp, and any other event we create for the community is this:

to bridge the gap between industry leaders’ achievements and their behind-the-scenes story, which often involves unseen challenges, personal growth, and essential lessons learned the hard way.

Through Ljubica’s generosity, we were able to learn more about her path so far. We all have something to learn from it.

“The days when I was taking pioneering steps in the cybersecurity world, I wasn’t aware that I’m actually entering into a “sea” of innumerable possibilities. Not even was I perceiving privacy and data protection as part of the cyber domain! Simply because I treated them as human rights, and that was triggering enough to me.

But digging deeper has clearly shown what I now admit as fact: if you want to be successful in advocating human rights, while living in the digital age, where the virtual world is slowly becoming “the new realistic one”, it requires a lot of understanding and knowledge of technologies, processes, operational programs, networks, and devices.

I was open to more, to new horizons, and, these fields which used to feel rigid and purely technical – suddenly I was capable of seeing them more human.”

Ljubica’s discovery that infosec is more about human nature than it is about tech is an important one that industry outsiders often miss. With this realization came another one:

“Actually, the cyber domain unequivocally affirms that phenomena are multidimensional and layered, and therefore the approach should reflect that reality.

In fact, it convinced me of what I believe in today: the best human rights fighter is the one who will come to know them from every aspect, both as a right and as a process. And that’s the core belief on which I’m building my professional path, incentivized and supported by the cybersecurity community.”

The security spectrum and slowly (but surely) changing attitudes

As seasoned practitioners will tell you, security is a spectrum, not an on/off switch. Ljubica’s experience reflects the same, especially in the course of building her career at the intersection of public policy and information security.

That’s why we wanted to understand how to keep focused, grounded, and motivated while on board a fast-moving car that’s our current world.

How did the infosec community’s role change for her in the past years?

“The answer largely coincides with the dynamics of what happens in the world of technical dеvices, social networks, information exchange, and communications. And that means that, no doubt, a lot has changed!

These developments have led to a gradual but constant expansion of the cyber community, which in turn is reflected in the quality of expertise that must be possessed. It fosters worldwide competitiveness, which on an individual level calls for daily improvement, professional certification, and exchange of experiences. It has also led to a change in the dominant perception, and thus privacy and personal data protection have gained their deserved place in cyberspace.

I find it very important to mention one of the biggest shifts that have taken place, with a rational tendency to increase, is the change in perception of cyber as a masculine world, both in the female and male community. So, as a logical consequence, the gender gap in this professional environment, which is still largely dominated by male professionals, slowly reduces.

The way women are perceived in cyberspace is much improved too. We have all come to appreciate the benefits of mixing male-female qualities in cybersecurity. As I said when asked how I feel in an environment that is usually dominated by male professionals: as an added value, the cream on top! :)”

These elements are working in your favor

Ljubica’s optimism and energy rub off on anyone but they especially speak to women who might be looking for a way into infosec. We honestly love that she advocates for using your transferable skills and experience in ways you may not even imagine!

“First, the cyber world is relatively “new” to women. So, their representation is still insignificant, especially at managerial level. This is certainly one of the benefits, considering the cyber community itself is now more open and ready to accept women into its ranks.

In addition to this, there’s the growing number of organizations at an international level that are undertaking numerous activities to involve women in cyber. For example, I find the Women4Cyber initiative, launched by the European Union itself and its national branches, as particularly important.

Working in a cyber profession, among others, implies healthily expressed curiosity to dive into the unknown, free from any prejudice. And women naturally own it, so we should use it to conquer these areas that offer a lot of freedom of expression, working environment without national boundaries.

Often, the cyberworld is seen as machines, technology without a soul. But, it’s not at all so! Just choose the aspect of cyber that suits you best, and then carefully select the appropriate education and training.”

This is personal, so bring your whole self

We’ve been taught there’s a clear separation between our professional and our personal lives, but that’s changing. This artificial boundary is finally coming down and it’s blatantly obvious in cybersecurity!

Ljubica emphasizes a key resource that most women don’t leverage when building their careers in information security:

“First and foremost, they don’t rely on the potential they possess within themselves, personal attributes, the natural giftedness that is much needed in the cyber world.

Numerous organizations, as well as the business community purposely provide comprehensive programs for acquiring professional qualifications required in the cyber world, specifically designed to serve women.

Furthermore, various funds intended to stimulate their activity in this field.

And finally, the number of networks that unite women interested in cyber spheres is increasing day by day. They are intended to act much earlier, in order to influence young girls when they are making a choice of education.”

Your natural abilities to build relationships, understand other people’s behavior, and your protective instincts can become core assets in your job.

Have you ever considered it?

The fastest way to cultivate this level of self-awareness is sometimes to see it in others, in person, when you’re talking to them or listening to them speak.

There’s a time and place for that.

Inspiration, ready for you to capture it and use it for your own development

“We all need inspiration! And, by giving, we are receiving.”

In a world that makes paranoia seem like a good defense strategy, Ljubica’s generosity is an important reminder that learning and growing together is a much more powerful tactic!

Attending a conference like Ladies in Cybersecurity is not a one-way street, no matter if you’re a participant or a speaker. Take it from this seasoned specialist who has been in a wide range of contexts and who’s dealt with complex issues that impact us all.

“In this spirit, I sincerely expect that sharing my experience with both ladies and gentlemen participants will provoke them to raise various questions that would help them understand how and why/what is positive about becoming part of the cyber community.

Being in the same place with other professionals dealing with similar topics opens wide opportunities for creating networks, based on mutual interests and affiliations. Looking forward to it!

Inspire and let yourself be inspired! :)”

If you want to meet Ljubica and nine other fantastic speakers of all ages in a cozy, open setting where learning and mutual support are key, join us on March 26!

Your time, energy, and curiosity will be rewarded and that’s a promise!

ladies in cybersecurity 2020 tickets

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