NATALIE FORRESTILL ON HER JOURNEY TO CYBER SECURITY CONSULTING AND ACHIEVING ASSOCIATE CHMC

Senior Cyber Security Consultant

AtkinsRéalis

My journey to become a consultant has been more roundabout than direct. I graduated with an engineering degree but could not see myself becoming an engineer. Following university, I worked in telecommunications as a project manager but realised I wanted to be more involved in the delivery of projects and to combine my analytical skills with business problems. This is when I applied to join the Management Consulting team at AtkinsRéalis and eventually decided to focus on cyber security projects. Cyber Security programmes within organisations are a huge disruptor and change instigator. To me, this makes it a very exciting area to work in as it blends complex technical and business problems in a unique way.

What does my usual day look like as a consultant? I can happily say there is no standard day or week, it really depends on the client I am working with. Currently, I am working in the aviation space, fully remotely from home. I sit within a small team but I engage with a diverse group of client stakeholders to conduct cyber security risks assessments of new technology projects. On a day-to-day basis this requires stakeholder interviews to understand the technology being implemented and drawing out the potential cyber security risks associated and their mitigations.

What I enjoy most is the variety, 5 months ago I was working in a larger team in a business change and engagement role with one of our government clients. This was a fast-changing programme where we had to frequently adapt our deliverables whilst working closely with senior sponsors to keep the project outcomes on track. Before that I was leading the delivery of a review of guidance documents, leveraging business analysis skills and conducting stakeholder interviews to provide recommendations.

There are challenges, being a consultant means taking on a variety of roles and juggling many hats. I am often trying something new, which can be daunting but you do learn to adapt quickly. I have also always had guidance from colleagues, be it my project team, team lead or line manager, which ultimately has been the best support.

I think something I didn’t fully realise before becoming a consultant is the many directions being a consultant can take you. This can feel overwhelming, but also exciting. This is something only you can take charge of, to pursue areas of interest and find the specialisms that you prefer or to discover new opportunities.

The Associate ChMC appealed to me as I felt it important to cement my experience to date and the skills I have learnt. The most surprising part about completing the application process and interview was appreciating just how much I had learnt over the past 3 years and recognising how many of the competencies I used without realising.

On a practical level gaining this accreditation demonstrates to clients my experience and growing expertise. It has also given me an indication of the skills I need to develop further to gain my full chartership in a few years’ time. Most importantly, by achieving the Associate ChMC, I have gained a sense of validation of the consultant I am becoming.