After completing her undergrad course in Cork, Aisling looked to do a masters in cyber security and chose to apply for the Advanced Security & Digital Forensics (now MSc Cyber Security) course at Edinburgh Napier, which helped her land her dream job.
Graduate Aisling Freeman with her dissertation
Above: Aisling with her graduation certificate at the Meadows, near Merchiston campus.

“I wanted to continue down the path of cyber security and secure a role I was passionate about having a career in.”

I studied two security modules in my undergraduate course and I knew this was an area I wanted to get into. I didn’t have any interest in going on to join a generic business graduate programme, like many of my fellow classmates did. I wanted to continue down the path of cyber security and secure a role I was passionate about having a career in.

At the time there were no security postgraduate degrees in Ireland, so I decided to look elsewhere. I researched several post-graduate programmes in my area of interest, and I was advised that the Advanced Security & Digital Forensics postgraduate course (now MSc Cyber Security) at Edinburgh Napier is of the highest standard and incredibly well recognised, hence my decision to only apply for this masters programme.Aisling Freeman 3

“The Advanced Security & Digital Forensics course (now MSc Cyber Security) is of the highest standard and incredibly well recognised”

This course covers just about everything! You study three modules per semester and then complete a dissertation in the summertime.

Like anything, there were some modules I preferred to others - I particularly enjoyed Network Security and Pen Testing. The Network Security module covers the fundamentals of networking at an advanced level and gives you exposure to key security tools and technologies that I now use in my day-to-day work.

Pen testing is always fun! You have access to pretty much every tool in the lab - use them! Malware analysis and reverse malware analysis, e-security, incident response, security compliance, forensics, the list is endless.

“The courses are taught by highly skilled individuals with tribal industry knowledge and experience.”

However, you should know that this is a very technical course, so at times I struggled with topics that were brand new to me. This just meant that I had to put more of my time into studying certain modules over ones I was more familiar with.

The transition between undergraduate to postgraduate studies

Going from undergraduate to postgraduate study is certainly a big shift and requires a lot more commitment and dedication than your undergraduate course. You are examined frequently to ensure you are staying on top of your work, whilst simultaneously balancing many coursework assignments.

Studying at postgraduate level is hard work and you must be willing to apply yourself in order to achieve your desired results.

Student life in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is an amazing city and I miss it a lot! I had never been to Edinburgh before moving to study, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was lucky enough to live in a beautiful area next to the Meadows, a walking distance to my campus. You can pretty much walk everywhere in Edinburgh, it’s a very accessible city.

“After I handed in my dissertation, I packed my bags and headed for New York…it certainly ended up working out for me.”

I didn’t have any leads to jobs at the time, but I knew it was where I wanted to be, and it certainly ended up working out for me.

I currently work as a Security Intelligence Engineer for a Cyber Security Service Provider in New York and have been here for nearly three years now. I started off working in the SOC as a Security Analyst and transitioned over to the engineering side. I mainly work on post-sales deployments and the management and configuration of a range of security tools for our clients.

Working in security as a womanAisling Freeman 2

The perception of women working in “Tech” is a gap I certainly see narrowing as the need for women working in security grows. For me, it has never been an issue or something I have had a negative experience with. Don’t get me wrong, I am the only woman currently on my team but there are other women around me working as pen testers and in audit and compliance. I’m lucky I work in a company that supports the hiring of women in the security space.

I certainly notice the gender gap when attending vendor training and/or conferences - these are always male-dominated. At the start it was quite intimidating, but once you put yourself out there and prove that you deserve to be there as much as anyone else in the room, people will respect you for it. Try not to be intimidated and push for what you want to work your way up the ladder, the same as any man would.

“Cyber security is an ever-evolving sector”

Working in cyber security means that every day is different. It’s an ever-evolving sector, therefore you are always working on something new. Be confident in your abilities to do well in the industry and try not to fall into a trap of self-doubt. Be open-minded and ask questions, even if you think they are ‘stupid’. Reach out to other females in the industry and form connections to stay up to date on the latest and greatest emerging technologies.

Advice for those looking to do a masters in Advanced Security & Digital Forensics (now MSc Cyber Security)

It’s certainly not an easy course and it’s going to test you at times, but I don’t know of any other masters that prepares you with the knowledge and expertise needed for a career in security.

Be willing to put in the hard work from day one and it will pay off! Don’t be afraid to reach out to any of the staff for help, they are all extremely knowledgeable and brilliant at what they do!

“I would undoubtedly recommend the Advanced Security & Digital Forensics course (now MSc Cyber Security) at Edinburgh Napier”

I came from a broad IT undergraduate degree with little experience in security, aside from two modules in my final year, and had I not completed my masters, I never would have secured a job in the security field I am in. My degree has been instrumental to my career.