"I was so grateful to receive access to Infosec Skills through WSC. As someone who puts the ‘pro’ in procrastination, I did not want to let this opportunity slide by. After confirming there was an official PMP exam prep, I booked the exam two weeks out." We sat down with Mansi Thakar, a cybersecurity professional and Women’s Society of Cyberjustu (WSC) scholarship winner. With her scholarship, Thakar earned lifetime access to Infosec Skills, which she used to pass her first certification exam. Learn more about Thakar’s journey and certification success.
What drew you to the field of cybersecurity?
I did my undergrad in chemistry — I like to joke that the only thing in common between chemistry and cybersecurity is that they both start with the letter “c.” While I was applying for a graduate program in nanotechnology, my mom noticed that her email had unauthorized access. I remember Googling “what do you do when your emails disappear?” — that’s the first time I came to know about cybersecurity. I decided to shift gears and become a digital superhero without the cape. I never thought that I would find not only professional success but also my tribe within this industry!
What has your experience looked like so far?
One word: Exponential. Not just career growth but also interest. The more I learn, the more interested and invested I become. Cybersecurity is so transferable across industries like healthcare, fintech, entertainment etc. I love that I have been able to apply my skills in various contexts. Plus, the cybersecurity community is one of the best out there. It is so supportive, whether it be nonprofits like Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC) or hacker conferences like DEF CON.
Could you tell me a little bit more about your involvement with WSC?
As a newly enrolled grad student, my cohort members had more years of experience within the IT industry than I had years on this planet! Add on top of that being a transplant from life sciences and not from the world of C++ and Java, and it got pretty lonely pretty quick. Thankfully I got selected for a PBS Documentary, Life Hackers, where I drove a bright green RV across the country to interview leaders and trailblazers of the industry.
One such pioneer was Lisa Jiggetts, the visionary behind WSC. I immediately connected with her and joined WSC officially the moment I got home. What a world of difference it made! I found my #cyberjutsutribe and haven’t felt like an outsider since then. My technical skills improved with their workshops, and so did my leadership skills as I gained experience managing volunteer teams. I ended as the Chief Operating Officer, and by far, it has been the most fruitful experience. Where else would they allow someone who was still climbing the ladder herself to lead? My experience with Cyberjutsu really embodied “Lift while Climbing, ” which makes this nonprofit stand out from the rest for me.
What motivated you to earn your Project Management Professional (PMP)?
With a master’s in cybersecurity, operations and leadership, I’m always looking for certifications that will complement that background. I recently read that certain countries in Europe are now considering CISSP to be equal to a master’s — so I didn’t want to study for a certification that could be redundant. The PMP added the management techniques needed for my nine-to-five job, which is highly visible and deals with stakeholders ranging from executives to engineers.
With a master’s in cybersecurity, operations and leadership, I’m always looking for certifications that will complement that background.
Why do you think certifications are important?
When you work in security, you can’t be a road blocker. To even engage in those challenging conversations with other business units, it must be clear that you know what you’re talking about and having those extra letters after your name goes a long way. Especially as a minority female, I’ve noticed my credibility is automatically reduced on some level to some degree. I remember this really hit me in the face recently after sending an email to another team — it’s clear that people look at that signature line with your name and credentials.
How did you prepare for your PMP exam?
I was so grateful to receive access to Infosec Skills through WSC. As someone who puts the ‘pro’ in procrastination, I did not want to let this opportunity slide by. After confirming there was an official PMP exam prep, I booked the exam two weeks out.
Not only this but I also emailed Camille Raymond, Infosec’s client advocacy and community manager, to have that extra accountability factor. I started out with the on-demand PMP certification course — the videos themselves were great, but the practice exam at the end was really helpful. I took the practice exam and associated quizzes before going out and passing the official PMP exam.
I started out with the on-demand PMP certification course — the videos themselves were great but the practice exam at the end was really helpful. I took the practice exam and associated quizzes before going out and passing the official PMP exam.
What do you think it takes to be a successful cybersecurity professional?
Technical skills for sure — on some level — but you can always develop those. To me, it comes down to having grit. Grit is defined to be the combination of passion and perseverance. Passion because cybersecurity roles are most likely not just nine to five, so liking what you do is vital. That being said, there are various domains within cybersecurity that allow flexibility to move within the industry. Perseverance is also needed because you have to be willing to follow up and follow through to really enjoy what this community has to offer. If even with grit you find your success to be limited by XYZ factor, direct message me (@mansimusa) and if nothing else I can listen and do my best to connect you with someone who can help. I’m offering this because that’s what I was offered by this community, by my #cyberjutsutribe.