I graduated in humanities in Poland with no idea what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I was interested in social sciences and crazy about film – I even thought I might try to become a critic! At that time, Poland was entering the EU, so a lot of universities in Europe were open for me.
I managed to get a place at a Kingston University in London. After three years combining studying with low-paid part-time jobs I returned home to get a masters in sociology. While studying for my master’s degree, I spent a couple of months on a student exchange at the University of North Carolina, which gave me an opportunity to experience a new culture.
After graduating I spent a year working unpaid internships, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, until one internship turned into a job in compliance. Despite having no legal background, I did my best until I realised it wasn’t an avenue I wanted to pursue. I shifted to two different risk management positions, learning the basics of project and risk management and developing a keen interest in risk.
The experiences I've had taught me about myself and what I can give back to the community
Shift into cyber
After a few years in risk management I decided I wanted to become an IT auditor but was told I didn’t have enough experience and wasn’t technical enough. I was determined to get that tech knowledge so I looked for jobs that would give me the desired skills. A couple of years ago I moved to the Polish coast, to take a new job as a risk manager in IT – another new set of skills to learn!
I was surprised when I got promoted quickly. I was a young woman promoted into a group of people much more senior and experienced than me. I battled impostor syndrome and had trouble deciding whether I wanted to be liked or respected – it was difficult to have both. That position taught me a lot about myself and my core values and I admit now I had too little belief in my abilities. I was lucky to have people who were there for me and believed in me.
I moved internally to another position, finished a project I was passionate about, decided it was time to move on and joined Standard Chartered around a year ago. I was inspired by the ‘can-do’ attitude of my colleagues and learned gradually to make use of my contacts and abilities to make an impact. I work in a field in which I feel confident and knowledgeable and have been constantly pushing myself to try new things, such as speaking at a cyber security conference for the first time. And with this confidence came the belief that I have something to share with others.
Helping others find their path
I used to struggle with the idea of what I would leave behind and how I would like to be remembered, but I realised that my experiences can be useful to people aspiring to reskill themselves and I’m trying to pass on that experience. It’s new to me to think of myself as a role model, but I see how people can benefit from my knowledge, whether it’s at a volunteering event or guidance around a cyber certificate I took recently.
I realise now that in the past, I used to put on armour – I felt I needed to make up for my imaginary shortcomings. Volunteering allows me to remove that armour, to be vulnerable and to give more of myself. I bring my real self and others can benefit from it. That’s a great feeling.
The pandemic has made me realise that I’m like a German Shepherd. I need to gather people together! I can use my abilities and experience to help others, and I’m going to keep doing that even as my career progresses. I’ve just signed up for a postgraduate degree in coaching on top of my daily duties, so I can encourage others to tailor their careers to what they want.
Looking back at my career path – which has involved a lot of hard work and some luck – it has taught me that the things I used to think of as shortcomings (I’m not technical and mostly a self-learner) are actually my biggest assets, as I can bridge the gap between technical people and management. My career path wasn’t exactly planned but looking back I wouldn’t have changed anything. And now I know I can leave a legacy by helping future generations find their own paths.