We interviewed Kwailan to help you learn more about her and her IT career.
PS This October Kwailan passed ISACA’s CRISC exam. Congratulations Kwailan!
Q. Who is Kwailan Bridgewater?
A. Currently I’m the Manager of Administration and Technical Operations for Bridgewater Maritime and Security Services. It is a family-owned consultancy business. We specialize in services in the area of marine operations, asset management, project management, port facility compliance and security. It’s built on a foundation of about 40 years of expertise working in the marine industry.
I wasn’t always in the company. I recently transitioned actually from the financial sector where I was working for about 17 years. I have diverse experience in IT working in multiple positions, from the service desk and everything up to management of disaster recovery and auditing risk and governance.
I have a degree in Utilities Engineering with a specialisation in Electrical.
Kwailan is a member of Woman in InfoSec Caribbean (WISC) and is an IT professional in Governance, Engineering and Cyber Security. She is the Manager of Administration and Technical Operations at Bridgewater Maritime and Security Services Limited in Trinidad and Tobago.
Q. So you have a degree in Utilities Engineering but ended up in IT?
A. Yeah, I ended up in IT. I was in IT for about 14 years but worked in the financial sector for a total of 17 years. I have a few certifications such as the CGEIT, the CDCP which is a data centre certification from EXIN and a certificate in Cyber Security audit (from ISACA).
Note: Since this interview Kwailan has acquired 2 further qualifications: an ISO certification in the Management of Information Security Systems which is the ISO 27001 Lead Implementer (ISO 27001 LI)., and she has passed ISACA’s CRISC.
Q. How did you get started in IT your degree with a degree in Utilities?
A. Well, I started working in the banking area, straight out of A-levels. I always wanted to go into engineering, but while working in the financial area, I just found myself getting more and more interested in IT. So eventually I moved over as an IT network technician and gradually just moved from there upwards towards management.
Before that, I was a recoveries officer. I didn’t like it very much because it just was not a happy part of the banking area. You know you’re always recovering someone’s car or something. I didn’t do that for too long, though. I really started as a CSR within the electronic banking unit which dealt with credit cards, and then I moved over to Recoveries and finally IT. While working in IT I was a network technician, network administrator, disaster recovery manager and from there to audit and risk.
Q. Tell us about your experience of being in IT for so long?
A. It’s been very, very interesting. There’s such a broad spectrum of things that you can learn in IT. I started off and just gradually got my hands into everything, wherever I could, you know. So maybe once you are interested, you can get involved in so many different aspects of IT because there is such a full range of it. I enjoyed my time in networking and then disaster recovery when I had to do simulation tests and all of these things. To me, it’s just been all around very exciting career.
Q. What were some of the difficult points of trying to build a career in IT?
A. I think the most challenging thing was work-life balance. Because when you’re in IT you have to focus on always keeping abreast of new things that are coming out. And so you have to be consistently training and certifying.
Q. What about the working hours? Was that also a problem in the work-life balance area?
A. Well because you’re in IT you tend to be on call, so you’re usually at the beck and call of an organisation at times. So, yes, it could be a challenge as well. I don’t have kids though, so I don’t know how the other women deal with balancing it, I suppose that’s a huge challenge with family and all of these things as well.
Q. What’s it like being in a family-type business vs when you were working in the financial sector?
A. Working in a family-type business, you have a more significant portfolio and a smaller team.
I was a manager for a while in the financial area for five years. So I’ve been managing for some time. I feel now, working with my family, it’s a bit more aligned with my purpose, which is to help people. I enjoy the aspect of playing this kind of supportive role in something that we own compared to working for someone else.
Q. What are some of the study techniques that have helped you earn your qualifications?
A. Well, for me. I read the book. I might read the book twice and I do the questions, whatever questions that I can get my hands on, that’s what I do. I don’t have any kind of rocket science type of you know (techniques). I might look at some YouTube stuff as well.
Q. What about enrolling in classes?
A. No, all the exams I’ve done so far was self-study.
Q. What guidance do you have for women who are trying to start in the field?
A. If you really want to achieve anything in life, you have to be willing to invest your time, your finances and resources into your self-development. So, if you’re a young woman interested in information security, I would recommend that you just take action. There are simple things they can do. You can download the NIST guidelines, standards and become familiar from that point of view. There are several free webinars online, and YouTube has several things on security and in all different realms.
Of course, joining groups like the WISC (Women in InfoSec Caribbean) and CCST (Caribbean Cyber Support Team) are very helpful because I thought it was such a nice organic kind of approach with everyone. Just being in a Discord group and sharing information and having the ability to possibly mentor others or even partner with others.
There’s one other Discord group called Start Cloud Now, which is also excellent on content for cloud and some security.
Q. You’re already highly qualified but have more lined up, so what are your plans?
A. Well, under the Bridgewater Maritime I’m spearheading services in the area of Cyber Security. I also want to do more with disadvantaged youth in the community as well.
Q. What are your final words of encouragement?
A. This quote is from Tony Morrison, and she said: “If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down”. So, my final words to aspiring women in information security are to give up whatever is weighing them down, if it’s like fear or lack of confidence.
I’d encourage them to remain focused on doing their best. Once they focus on that, then God will do the rest.
How to reach Kwailan
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