Celebrating Women's History Month & How Symantec C3 is Creating a Future in Tech for Females

Mar 14, 2018 9:20 AM ET
Layla Gardner's passion for and curiosity about technology led her to NPower and the Symantec C3 program where she developed the skills to start her career in cyber security.

Symantec blog | Corporate Responsibility

This month, in honor of Women’s History Month, we spotlight Symantec Cyber Career Connection (Symantec C3) alumna Layla Gardner.

Symantec C3 partner NPower recently launched their campaign “The Future of Tech Has a Name” to launch 15,000 digital careers by 2022.  Today we are excited to feature the second part of our three-part series, “The Future of Cyber Security Has a Name”, highlighting individual stories from our program that reflect a changing, diverse and qualified future pipeline of cyber security professionals. 

By the time Layla Gardner was in high school, she knew she was interested in technology, but she had no idea where it would take her. Growing up in the digital age, she was well versed on the internet, but had an extra ounce of curiosity. She began to experiment with coding and python, and quickly realized she could teach herself a lot just by leveraging the internet.   

“I wanted to learn how to make things, how technology worked so I went online one day to figure out how.”

As her interest increased, she bought herself a raspberry Pi, a small and low-cost computer that is used to experiment with and build programming skills. She continued to tinker with the raspberry Pi becoming more and more interested in the variety of languages and technologies, old and new.  

Looking back I can now say I had a strong interest in technology and was pretty proactive, however, I didn’t consciously notice it at the time. I was simply curious about how technology itself worked and what I could do with it, so I naturally went out and tried to learn more.

Following university, Layla began working at an IT help desk, but she quickly craved more challenge, more diversity in her career.  At the same time, she noticed the growing number of IT boot camps and began to realize the other options available. She heard about the NPower Tech Fundamentals and Symantec C3 programs and made it her goal to complete both (Tech Fundamentals is a requirement to enroll in Symantec C3 through NPower). Her path forward was suddenly becoming more tangible and less of a dream.

“The Symantec C3 program was a unique and life-changing experience. I was not only trained in the technical skills I needed, but I was also exposed to a variety of career options, what a career in different fields might look like and interacted with professionals themselves. It was a whirlwind in many ways, and I came out on the other side a completely new IT professional, ready to apply my skills and confident in where my career could take me.”

Her favorite part of the program – and one of the most valuable - was the guest speaker series where industry professionals and alumni from the Symantec C3 program share their experiences, and the site visits IT companies. 

“Why cyber security? I see it as a puzzle and I have always loved puzzles. Cyber security requires good analytical skills, the ability to diagnose a problem as well as out of the box thinking to find a solution. I was used to troubleshooting, experimenting and approaching problems in unorthodox ways. During the program, it was motivating to see that my natural abilities and passions applied directly to the field.”

As part of the program’s internship component, Layla worked with a leading financial services company’s software security group, the team that develops and reviews security code for external and internal company applications. She hoped for an extended internship and was happily surprised when she was offered a full time job.

 “I never really envisioned myself as that person who would be a technology professional. My school had honors physics, science, English classes, but no computer science. And my mother wasn’t particularly tech savvy, however, she was very supportive of my interests.

I really feel that if you start with something you are interested in and dive in, you can do anything. I never thought I would have ended up where I am, but somehow I grabbed ahold of my passion and it took me somewhere I enjoy. Continue to be curious and interested, you’ll be surprised where it might take you. I’m pretty excited where it’s taking me.”

And the proof is in the pudding. Little did Layla know when she bought that raspberry Pi just a few years ago that it would be the start of a future career.