Why I changed career and why I'd recommend it

Anneke Sissons

Anneke is a Security Lead in the Technical Testing Team and made the switch from teaching into security through the Nationwide Technology Development Programme (TDP). Wanting to provide assistance to others who may be seeking a career change into tech, this is her story. 

What’s your background and how is it different to life at Nationwide?
I was a maths teacher before joining TDP, which is of course a completely different scale of work – although it was as fast paced as it is here at Nationwide. A big difference though is that here you have to collaborate a lot more. I’ve had to learn the rules of business and security simultaneously – and a big part of that is communication. I often have to pick out the bigger picture from conversations with people who are super focused in one area. It can be a bit like piecing together a puzzle.

Why did you decide to change career?
I got to the point where my work felt repetitive, which is when I saw the TDP advert. All I knew was that I was technically minded, analytical and creative, but had never figured out how those things could merge. Even when I was interviewed I didn’t know enough about my own skills to know where I should be placed. When I did my first training in Network Plus it was like a whole world had opened up.

My day to day work 
I’ve been here two years, and working as a Security Lead for four months, but it still feels like I’m new because although I’ve learnt an enormous amount, there’s still so much more. It feels like I’m at the tip of a huge iceberg.

At the moment, I’m involved in arranging security testing and I love it to the point where I get up in the morning and really want to go to work!

It’s an area where a lot of what we do is hidden, so it’s like a quiet success every day that everything remains strong and gets stronger. I have to understand IT changes and allocate test resource from my team to the business. We’re part of a wider team that manages system vulnerabilities so we need to make sure we are up to date with everything from patching to keeping all our card and customer data secure.

Challenges so far 
To begin with, prioritising. Here, it’s down to you to negotiate how much work you can take on and that took me a while to navigate. In a way, every day is a challenge – but a good one. It’s kept me on my toes and I’ve had to think quickly. Luckily there’s a good balance of firefighting and thinking time.

What are the highlights so far?
A lot of the extra, non-tech training, for example around leadership skills and challenging your own mindset, has been really inspiring. It’s given me the tools I needed to be more resilient, work things out on my own, but also get help when I needed it.
We’ve started building more of a team social life which has been great. I’m a mum of a six-year old so a lot of my time is taken up at home but I’m hoping to get out more!

Next goals
I want to learn more about security and better understand how we differ from other financial institutions in the way we work. I want to keep challenging myself to think of new or improved ways to do things.

Advice to anyone thinking of joining TDP?
Don’t hesitate and go for it! I wasted quite a bit of time thinking about changing career and now I wish I hadn’t because TDP has been an amazing opportunity to learn quickly and challenge myself in a safe environment – where people want you to succeed.

Want to follow in Anneke's footsteps, click here to hear learn more about our Technology Development Programme. Or register your interest and one of the team will be in contact.