#WEDAsks – Kat Walker

Kat Walker is a Technology Consultant at Networkology, providing professional services to UK defence, government, and other public sector clients. Specialising in data solutions and defensive cyber operations, her goal is to transform data into meaningful results, helping organisations to detect and mitigate cyber attacks. Kat is passionate about helping people to upskill in cyber and break into the industry, she has delivered talks in group settings, at conferences, and on the international stage. When she’s not working, Kat can be found exploring National Trust and English Heritage sites across the country or curled up in a blanket at home with her cat, Percy Jackson.

Tell us about yourself, your background, and your current role.

Hi – my name is Kat, I’m a 30-something year old tech enthusiast with a passion for data.

I entered the workforce straight out of college, initially in retail and sales roles. I later moved into an office-based job where I became a ‘tech champion’ for our department, I found myself knee-deep in projects that required close collaboration with the IT team. From user support and training to documenting processes and basic troubleshooting, I discovered a new world that resonated with my love for problem-solving and innovation.

In 2016, I transitioned into my first IT role. In 2020, a year that brought unprecedented challenges for many, I seized the opportunity to level up my career and embark on a new adventure – a cyber apprenticeship with the UK government.

Today, as a Technology Consultant, I deliver data management and cybersecurity solutions to our customers across UK public sector and defence industry. My day-to-day involves a variety of responsibilities aimed at ensuring the security, efficiency, and resilience of technological infrastructure. This can include assessing the current state of infrastructure and systems, supporting the implementation of technical solutions, and providing recommendations to detect and counter cyber threats using machine data.

My role provides an environment where I can channel my enthusiasm for problem-solving into meaningful contributions that directly impact the security and integrity of critical systems and data—I love it!

Was your current role ever in your plans when you thought about your career?

Throughout my school years I wanted to be a maths teacher. I only did a half GCSE in IT which resulted in my lowest grade, I remember being taught how to use a search engine (Ask Jeeves!) and how to use Microsoft Word. I didn’t enjoy the classes, or the coursework, so pursuing a career in technology didn’t even cross my mind. 

It wasn’t until I landed my first office-based job in a call centre that I started self-teaching useful skills such as using Excel. I hadn’t changing my career to technology until I became involved with IT projects, and I didn’t understand what a job in cybersecurity could look like until I researched the apprenticeship. I’m a firm believer in the importance of pursuing a career that you’re passionate about and keeping an open mind to new opportunities.

How have you built confidence and/or resiliency over the course of your career?

As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve realised the importance of individuality and the unique value each person brings to the table. Getting comfortable with being my true self at work has been a liberating experience which has reinforced the idea that authenticity and individuality are strengths to be celebrated. 

Learning from colleagues is an essential component of my personal development, by actively listening and observing those around me I have learned invaluable lessons. It’s not just about technical skills; it’s about understanding the art of collaboration, effective communication, and problem-solving by seeing these principles in action.  

Over time I have learned to accept that I will make mistakes, and I won’t have all the answers, but that does not detract from my technical abilities or my dedication to seeing an issue through to resolution. I continue to learn something new every day, it is expected that working in technology means you will be learning on the job. We all have something to offer, and something to learn.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them?

A significant challenge has been the overwhelming volume of information available online. Staying current is crucial, but it’s easy to get distracted by topics which might be “easier to learn” or get lost in endless internet rabbit holes. 

Working in cybersecurity demands a broad knowledge covering diverse topics such as networking, cloud security, risk management, security standards and frameworks, scripting languages, systems engineering, and cryptography. It’s essential to acknowledge that becoming an expert in everything is impossible, and the goal posts will always be moving as cyber threats are continuously evolving.

I’ve come to realise that spending too much time learning can lead to burnout, so it is important to strike a balance. Setting smaller learning goals, taking breaks, and ensuring that my personal and professional life are well-balanced are key to my wellbeing. This mindset shift has helped to ease pressure and fosters a more realistic and adaptable approach.

What sacrifices have you been willing to make to reach your peak potential?

Before joining the cyber profession, I held a team leader position on an IT Service Desk. It was a permanent role with a comfortable salary, and I genuinely enjoyed the work. However, after a few years, I found myself at a crossroads. The progression had plateaued, and I felt a yearning for a more technical path.

A job advert for cyber security apprentices caught my eye, its carefully crafted language emphasising desired behaviours such as being “naturally curious” and “a keen learner” resonated with me. I initially thought that apprenticeships are only for 16-24 year olds, I clicked on the advert to learn more about the careers which it could lead to. Admittedly, I was equal parts confused and excited when I realised that there are no age restrictions, and this could be exactly what I was looking for.

The decision to take on a fixed-term contract with a substantial drop in pay during a global pandemic was difficult, but I adopted the mindset that I was investing in my career by gaining hands-on experience and obtaining industry certifications. I seized every opportunity for extra courses and exams, often spending evenings and weekends immersed in study. The sacrifices were a small price to pay for the invaluable experiences and knowledge gained.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

The most significant barrier to female leadership in tech is a combination of persistent gender stereotypes, a lack of effective representation, and systemic biases.

The prevalent image of a ‘techie’ is often masculine, potentially impacting perceptions of women’s suitability for careers in technology. Media portrayals further contribute to this bias, depicting computer science and cyber security in dimly lit rooms filled with energy drinks and fast food. Tech careers tend to be associated with a specific lifestyle, catering to gamers and programmers, which are most often seen as male hobbies. 

Women may be discouraged from applying for jobs in this sector because this career path is perceived to be unattractive, not compatible with a balanced lifestyle, ‘not for us’. There is an implicit assumption that men will both fit in and perform better because of the traits that are typically associated with their gender.

Concerns about hiring women who may be considering starting a family, or have young children, or those of ‘a certain age’ can perpetuate inequality. These are common challenges which expand beyond our profession but are pronounced within technology when combined with other stereotypes and perceptions.

Have there been times when gender discrimination has affected your career advancement or opportunities?

Unfortunately, yes, I have had challenges in being heard and having my perspective valued because I am female.

Throughout my career I have;

  • Offered valuable advice and insights to colleagues, only for them to wait for a male colleague to confirm and echo the same advice
  • Been spoken over, cut off, or not given the time to express concerns in meetings
  • Witnessed male colleagues presenting my ideas as their own
  • Felt the need to prove my authority during a technical meeting
  • Been challenged to test if I ‘really know’ what I’m talking about
  • Been addressed as ‘darling’, ‘sweetheart’, or ‘love’
  • Been labelled as ‘overly emotional’ or ‘too soft’ for having conversations about mental health, while male colleagues are viewed as ‘brave’

Microaggressions are not always easy to recognise. Navigating gender discrimination requires a keen awareness of personal tolerance levels. It’s about recognising what you are willing to accept in terms of workplace behaviour and advocating for equality.  

What do you think are the greatest opportunities for women leaders today?

In recent years there have been numerous well-documented cases highlighting gender bias within the technology sector. From algorithmic biases like the reported case of the Apple Card credit limit settings being inherently biased against women, to instances of gender-blindness, such as Siri responding flirtatiously to verbal sexual harassment. 

Women have a unique perspective to offer, our leadership is essential for future innovation. We can bring attention to and address biases in critical areas, such as medical equipment, motor vehicles, and other wide ranging technologies. Having diverse voices at the table is becoming a pressing concern for organisations, we’re seeing more initiatives and programs aimed at hiring women but we still have a long way to go.

What do you think the defence sector can do to support and encourage more women to take on leadership roles?

Diversity and inclusion efforts should not be one-time campaigns but ongoing commitments. There are several initiatives and changes which could help to foster a more diverse workforce. Some initiatives which have resonated with me personally are:

  • Blind hiring practices – remove gender identifiers to ensure decisions are based on skills, qualifications, and merit
  • Flexible working arrangements – prioritise and offer flexibility from the start
  • Visible female role models – promote and celebrate the achievements of women in leadership (more often than once a year on International Women’s Day!)
  • Salary transparency – alleviate the gender pay gap 

Organisations need to create an environment where women feel empowered to pursue and thrive in leadership roles, this is not an easy challenge. Despite discussions about diversity, the conversation is not always inclusive, and women’s voices may not be heard. 

Continuous work is needed to develop, maintain, and cultivate a culture that values diversity at all levels.

Do you have any advice for young women who are starting their careers?

Technology is a flexible, exciting, and opportunistic field that welcomes creativity and new ideas, but there’s so many other roles in this sector. Here’s the short version of my advice:

  1. Feel the fear and do it anyway – embrace risks, be open to new opportunities, and view challenges as opportunities for growth.
  2. Find your passion – focus on roles and opportunities that you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to take a left turn if it aligns with your passion.
  3. Build your network – surround yourself with people who inspire, support, and encourage you.


As we conclude this insightful #WEDAsks interview with Kat Walker, we’re left inspired by her journey and empowered by her words of wisdom. From her humble beginnings in retail to her current role as a Technology Consultant, Kat’s story exemplifies resilience, determination, and a passion for continuous learning.

Kat’s career trajectory reminds us of the importance of embracing change and seizing opportunities, even when they may seem daunting. Her transition into the tech industry and subsequent foray into cybersecurity serve as a testament to the power of perseverance and self-belief.

Throughout her career, Kat has faced challenges head-on, from overcoming gender stereotypes to navigating the complexities of the cybersecurity landscape. Yet, through it all, she has remained steadfast in her commitment to personal and professional growth.

As we reflect on Kat’s journey, we’re reminded of the invaluable lessons she has shared with us. From building confidence and resilience to breaking barriers and championing diversity, Kat’s insights serve as a beacon of inspiration for women in all stages of their careers.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Kat for sharing her story and wisdom with us. Her passion for empowering others and driving positive change is truly commendable, and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her experiences.

As we look to the future, let us heed Kat’s advice to embrace fear, find our passion, and build strong networks of support. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

Thank you, Kat, for being a shining example of leadership and empowerment. Your journey inspires us to reach new heights and break down barriers, one step at a time.

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