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  • Writer's pictureEmma Osborn

Meet the NeuroCyber board!

As NeuroCyber moves forward, and with our new status as a CIC, we’re hoping to build on what we do – more projects, more working groups, more talking about neurodiversity. However, at the heart of each of these projects and conversations is a member of our advisory board … so we thought you might all like to meet us before we ask for your help!

Mike Spain

I founded NeuroCyber in 2018 after my son was diagnosed as Autistic, age 2. It prompted me to investigate what employment and opportunities he might expect and was not satisfied with what I found. There is huge potential and opportunity for neurodiversity to thrive sustainably in cyber and could for many provide a very rewarding path. There is still much to do in raising awareness, increasing knowledge and aligning skills and aptitude with opportunity. We work hard every day to progress this aim.

The group has grown and evolved considerably since launch and it has introduced me to so many wonderful people. There is so much passion and commitment amongst the board and our membership to develop the cyber sector into the truly equal, diverse and inclusive sector it has the potential to be. The variety of experience and background, diversity and neurotype of our contributing members propels the group forwards towards achieving our goals.

There are some really promising initiatives coming through that are gaining a foothold. The challenge is to continue the momentum to move from niche to business as usual across the sector. This will only be achieved through coordinated effort – to learn what works well, to share knowledge and experience and to develop a strategy that will lead to an equal, diverse and inclusive pathway of opportunity for neurodiversity in cyber.

Steph Aldridge

I have been interested in the topic of Neuro Diversity since listening to Steve Silberman and reading his book Neuro Tribes.

I was able to push the agenda through the Cyber Centurion competition I ran for five years as well as organising the first UK event focusing on Neuro Diversity into the Cyber industry. The event was so successful it was the catalyst which formed NeuroCyber which I have been part of since 2017.

Making connections with those grass root networks, highlighting the people behind them and the work they do can only build the understanding we already have: that those with the skill set or aptitude, if included and supported into cyber roles, will create better working environments for their colleagues; add innovation to their department products; and create wealth for the companies they work for. This isn't rocket science or new theory.

Do one thing today. Ask yourself what IS diversity to me? I think it's talking to someone who doesn't look, sound or feel like you. Try it.

Nicola Whiting MBE

I got involved with Neurocyber as someone who believes passionately in the power of diversity. My company (Titania Group) was invited to speak as an employer of Neurodivergent people, sharing how valuable their unique contribution is to creating our products and serving our clients.

Little did I know how much the fellow speakers stories would resonate with me. Their experiences of “seeing the world differently” – were my experiences, their challenges – were my challenges, even how their sensory needs differed from their colleagues – were the same as mine! It was a complete revelation and like many speakers and delegates I left the event enriched (but also with so many questions!).

Needless to say, following a lot of soul searching, discussions with family, friends and colleagues and finally a formal diagnostic process, I discovered that I’d lived for over 40 years as an undiagnosed Autistic. It explained so much of both my success areas and where my personal challenges lay.

Today, I am so blessed and fortunate that I can use my skills to accelerate others journeys – whether it’s through speaking and writing (I’m an Amazon best-selling author and contribute to numerous magazines) or through helping boards harness the improvements in innovation and resilience, that only come from having diversity of experience and thought – right at your organisational core.

In 2020 I was awarded an MBE for services to International Trade and Diversity, one of my proudest moments.

My work with Neurocyber allows me to serve a greater number of people – and I’m honoured to be part of this dedicated community, who are all passionate about diversity and inclusion – at all levels.

I hope our work, and the work of our colleagues in industry bodies, charities and support groups, will ultimately change the landscape of inclusion. Leading to better solutions to our most pressing issues – in cyber security, business, and in life.

Neil Thacker

I first met Mike at InfoSec Europe in 2018 after he delivered a brilliant presentation on neurodiversity in cybersecurity. I had been looking to get involved in a working group on this subject as its close to my heart. My passion is cybersecurity (after spending 20+ years in the industry) and NeuroCyber has given me the opportunity to give back to the industry, help enrich the sector and champion neurodiversity all at the same time.

My eldest son is autistic and he amazes me every day. He is the smartest person I know and has much to offer the world yet like most parents of neurodiverse children, I had worried he may not always get a fair and equal opportunity. He has alleviated all of my concerns and is doing amazing, however I want to ensure I share my knowledge, support others and continue to champion that neurodiversity is understood as a strength. I have always been an advocate of diversity and have seen first-hand that bringing people together who think differently is far more effective and achieves much greater results.

The goal is to make the cybersecurity industry an even more diverse and inclusive industry. Through raising awareness, championing research and supporting case studies, NeuroCyber will continue to be a catalyst for support and inclusion in the industry.

Dr Sam Healy

I had just started our Neurodiversity programme as part of our D&I strategy at QinetiQ and I was looking for other people and companies to talk to, when I heard about NeuroCyber. I joined the network because it’s a fantastic way to learn and share ideas, and to collaborate.

Embracing human diversity is essential to being a healthy society and a successful business. Neurodiversity is perhaps something people know less about and I want to make sure we understand the value of different thinking.

I would like to see collaboration across our sector (and beyond) to raise awareness of neurodiversity and I am very optimistic that we can change perceptions, create opportunities and really appreciate talent in all its forms.

Colin Gillingham

I first Mike Spain and then became involved in a neurodiversity event with the Cyber Security Challenge, which made me more aware of neurodiversity within the cyber industry and also the challenges to those looking for a career in our industry. I wanted to improve my knowledge and support of neurodiverse colleagues. Since then, it has also helped in my understanding of those family and friends who are also neurodivergent.

I strongly believe that our industry can benefit from better awareness and understanding, as it is not always obvious who is neurodivergent. As a member of a large team, I am also conscious of the strengths such as concentration, focus, creativity and other skills that neurodiverse colleagues can bring to the greater benefit of all. Given our current global pandemic, I am also aware of the impact of working from home and the importance of helping neurodivergent colleagues adapt and support them.

Being involved in NeuroCyber will not only benefit me, my team and my employer but it will also raise greater awareness to other employers in the industry, which in turn will also help individuals and eventually our industry will benefit. NeuroCyber has the potential to be the focal point and “go to” forum to drive this.

Dr Emma Osborn

I first met the NeuroCyber folks at Infosec. I'd got to that point in my networking where I'd lost interest in all the things fighting for my attention and had had enough of the crowds ... in my hunt for the quietest corner to relax in, I instead found a stand that asked "know what it feels like to be a square peg in a round hole?" And so I found my people 😉

Irrespective of how someone’s way of being or appearance has affected their life experience, it’s critical to me that we each make space for others’ differences to thrive and compliment each other. For me it’s personal - I need associates who are looking for great individuals, not resourced functions ... but shouldn't that be important to everyone? Isn't it time that we move beyond workplaces that ask us all to wall off parts of ourselves to fit a corporate cut-out?

I’m hoping that NeuroCyber can be a platform for building awareness; a space for cyber employers to debug some of their diversity and inclusion practices; and an opportunity for me to meet more like-minded people!

Berta Pappenheim

I met Mike as part of one of our events about neurodiversity and we got chatting over the various complexities being a parent to a child on the spectrum. I was very keen to support his initiative of uniting similar minded individuals in the sector, where neurodiversity is so important.

I believe that difference is strength, but more people need to recognise and embrace the concept of making the most of it. We need to be able to provide people with different skills and talent the right opportunities, where thinking outside of the box is celebrated.

I’d like the cyber industry to evolve to be able to help recognise talent and apply non-conventional selection methods to attract it, developing management and leadership styles to engage and nurture individuals who think differently.


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