How SEEK’s APAC Cyber Security Team Embraces Diversity

Members of the APAC cyber security team for one of Australia’s best-known employment marketplaces, SEEK, discuss their career journeys into cyber, the value of diversity and inclusion and their personal achievements

Organisations across the globe are adopting diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage business strategy.

This has given rise to D&I programs across internal departments, with cybersecurity teams recognising that diversity of thought and capability is a key element to advance their company’s frontier protection.

We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Deepa Bradley, Sarah Iannantuono, Adam Hallyburton and Hashim Khan, who are members of SEEK’s APAC cyber security team.

SEEK encompasses a strong international portfolio of employment and education businesses and is a market leader in online employment marketplaces, with deep and rich insights into the future of work. Australian owned and operated, SEEK employs more than 1000 people in Australia and over 10,000 people around the world.

Who They Are

We asked each member of the SEEK security team to share a bit about their background and how they came to be in their current role.

Deepa Bradley, SEEK’s Head of Cyber Security Strategy and Program Management for APAC, had been a transformation and business turnaround director for 15 years before entering the cyber space for the UK Government in 2017.

“Originally from England, I have been fortunate enough to work as a consultant globally with clients in the United States, India, Middle East and most recently Australia. This diverse exposure has been rewarding and positively character building,” she says.

“In 2021 I started work in Australia and was tasked to lead cyber security strategy and program governance. My passion is in leading improvement and facilitating dialogue between subject matter experts, technical teams and the business to deliver collaborative and fit for purpose outcomes.

“My brilliant and diverse team are currently uplifting capability and improving the maturity of practices by facilitating the review and design of the security strategy, operational plans and reporting framework for cyber security and building project management capability to enable successful delivery of complex and growing portfolios of work.”

Sarah Iannantuono, SEEK’s Security Strategy and Program Lead, says her cyber security career has sat at the intersections of data protection, cyber strategy and security culture.

“As many do, I started out in ‘Big 4’ Risk Advisory, working in the cyber security GRC space prior to moving ‘in house’ to Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi. Jumping back into Big 4 consulting, I led Deloitte Australia’s internal Confidentiality Office and operated as the Deputy Confidentiality Officer for Deloitte APAC,” she says.

“In this role, I had the pleasure to lead data governance initiatives, the data loss prevention program, confidentiality incidents and (co- lead) the security awareness program.”

“At SEEK, I was recently promoted to the role of Security Strategy and Program lead, working to define SEEKs APAC Security Strategy and initiatives across APAC. The best advice that I was provided in my career is to be fearless when taking opportunities that may come to you.”

Adam Hallyburton, SEEK’s Security Project Manager, has been working in the IT industry for more than 20 years, in roles from support, operations and leading teams to portfolio and program management. 

“I stumbled into cyber security at a previous employer who, like a lot of companies, had not had sufficient monitoring and controls in place and was hit by an almost devastating attack,” he says.

“I led a project to implement a SIEM and SOC to uplift the company’s security posture. This has brought me to Seek, where, led by an amazing leader in Deepa Bradley, our team is uplifting the team’s capabilities in various areas in strategy, governance, and reporting.”

SEEK Cyber Security Projects and Governance Lead Hashim Khan says he spent a lifetime in consultancy and services, working on various enterprise programs where security was a core feature.

“I had the privilege to deliver enterprise-scale software and apps for the public sector where secure architecture, secure programming and coding practices had been my emphasis,” he says.

“Being a specialist in digital solutions, security will always play an integral part. Sometimes you will have to integrate with security systems. For instance, I lead the IAM implementation for one of my Insurance Industry clients, while at others I had to contribute to the wider security strategy, adhere to PCI-DSS and other industry standards, as well as stand up a Microsoft-based secure coding practice for the development teams.

“Realising that cyber security has always been a part of my professional life through all the digital and customer journey’s I delivered, sparked a keen specialised interest in cyberspace and when I was presented with this opportunity at SEEK last year, I had no choice but to take on the challenge.”

Diversity and Inclusion in Cyber

While diversity and inclusion initiatives have increased in prominence in the industry, this was not always the case. The SEEK security team discuss how D&I initiatives have emerged and changed throughout their careers.

“D&I has evolved beyond the early narrative of addressing gender and race inequalities in the 1960s to working towards recognising and implementing true acceptance and balance in the world,” Deepa Bradley says.

“I see the power and visibility globally as D&I initiatives lead discussions across social media, which is incredibly refreshing and insightful. I do however feel that D&I initiatives require ongoing investment of time, effort and budget to continue to raise awareness of good practice through powerful and mandatory campaigning.

“I wish I had been proactively taught more about the breadth of D&I with vignettes allowing me to actively champion awareness and action uplift in behaviours.”

Sarah Iannantuono says that D&I is an infrastructure of processes and cultural norms, behaviours and attitudes that should be embedded through all stages of the employee lifecycle.

“This may include ‘blind hiring’ to mitigate underlying and inherent bias in the recruitment process or equal leave opportunities for parental leave to allow parents to have more balanced discussions on who takes the primary caregiving role,” she says.

“Importantly, we should also not forget or underestimate the Inclusion part of D&I. It is important to move beyond best intentions and ensure people are treated with fairness and respect. This may mean, getting uncomfortable to call out bad behaviours and championing others.”

During his days as a team leader in support and operations, Adam Hallyburton says he took a key role in hiring after seeing a lot of staff turnover.

“My philosophy was to hire based on drive and cultural fit first and foremost, as role responsibilities and duties can be taught along the way.” he says.

“At this stage in my career, I was thinking that D&I only included gender, age and sexuality primarily and was not aware of the myriad other D&I definitions that I should have been aware of.

“These are now front of mind. For instance: religious belief, ethnicity, education to name a few. The company could have done more to include D&I as part of the managerial training along with onboarding.”

Hashim Khan says that growing up in Dubai meant culturally diverse experiences and working with people from all over the world always presented him with the opportunity to appreciate the uniqueness in perspectives and strengths brought to the table.

“In recent years I have started to realise how to harness all other aspects of diversity, especially in age, biology, psychology, and cognition,” he says.

“I understand now through participating in D&I training and events that an A-Team does not need consistent personalities but people that bring their own unique perspective and strengths which contribute to the greater balance. D&I has to be presented and celebrated more in organisations to provide the opportunity for others to learn and evolve faster, since it has become a need in this era.”

Retaining and Keeping the Best Talent

Recruiting in the cybersecurity sector can be challenging. Finding, hiring and retaining people while maintaining the integrity of diversity and inclusion can compound the difficulty of the hiring process.

We asked the SEEK security team what approaches they take to track and keep the best, as well as how they feel about the value the extra effort brings.  

Deepa Bradley says fostering diversity and embedding inclusion is increasingly critical in bringing rich experience in to solve complex customer and business problems.

“It is not a stretch to say we greatly benefit from individuals with different life experiences, genders, religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and more,” she says.

“Recruitment should deliver balance and embrace the opportunity to bring variety to the table. Imagine not leveraging the power of diversity of thought because you opt for a model of a small team of clones.”

Sarah Iannantuono adds that the unprecedented change brought about by Covid-19 has seen an embrace of work-from-home and hybrid working models, further exacerbating the skills issue.

“Within cyber security, wages remain high, but the workforce gap is very real. I see tangible investment in employee career growth and opportunities have become key enticements to secure and retain talent,” she says.

“The development and implementation of clear talent standards and role expectations alongside opportunities for growth can be a big differentiator for companies. “

Adam Hallyburton says considering diversity and inclusion has become especially relevant given the effects of the great resignation, where market conditions have enabled job searchers to demand more of their potential employers.

“Employees are now looking for more than the normal things such as great wage, interesting work or a supportive manager,” he says.

“I feel that employees are now looking for greater work-life balance, whether that be hybrid or full-time work from home/anywhere depending on the role along with location to be able to work from anywhere in the world, better growth pathways that allow upskilling and career development, increasing employee happiness with regular surveys with actionable results, along with increased gender diversity.”

Hashim Khan also comments on the changes that have occurred in the job market over the past two years.

“People have realised that they can not only deliver up to the mark but also independently of how they work and where they work from,” he says.

“Apart from the standard expectations of good pay and team culture, location and time independence have become a valid question for recruiting and retaining the best.

“It relates to empathy and as leaders, we need to understand that people have lives and personal ambitions which a good flexible work environment and a goal-oriented (rather than time-oriented) mindset will supplement and nurture. In return, your teams, as well as the organisation, will have greater business continuity.”

Successful Achievements

To round out the discussion, we asked members of the SEEK security team to share what they feel have been their biggest successes from 2021-2022.

Growth and teamwork have been areas that Deepa Bradley says have been particularly important to her.

“Leveraging my diverse network of global leaders to help me remain resilient as I adapt to a new life and culture through the pandemic has been pivotal. However I have been most fortunate in being able to build an exceptional team that inspires me each day with their amazing capabilities and versatile strengths,” she says.

“My team are my biggest success, and they are a truly diverse and exemplary group who make me shine each and every day as they share their amazing experiences, contributions and discussions to enable the delivery of valuable business outcomes.

“In 2022 I also celebrated being awarded the American Australian Chambers Global Leadership Program Scholarship 2022.”

It was inspiring to see that Sarah Iannantuono is absolutely thrilled to have been chosen as one of eight women leaders in cyber security to undertake a targeted development program aimed at accelerating the path into an executive-level global security role.

Iannantuono says that the program provides practical skills to build effective cyber resilience strategies, high-performing teams, and to influence the C-suite and Board.

Adam Hallyburton says he has two successes that he is very proud of from 2021.  

“The first being the completion of the workspace technology program implementation for the new SEEK HQ in Cremorne Melbourne that I managed throughout 2020 into 2021,” he says.

“The second being the move into the SEEK security team from the wider technology team to form part of the strategy, governance and portfolio team.”

Hashim Khan says that his biggest success at work has been the privilege to join a wonderful team.

“I feel highly supported by my leader and team,” he says.

Speaking about wonderful news outside of work, Khan also mentioned the joys of being a new father.

“My wife and I had our first child after much waiting which changed our lives. I am loving it,” he says.  “I also aced all of my exams in my Master of Cyber degree”.

The SEEK security team will be speaking as part of CISO Melbourne, which will be held on 12-13 July 2022. Check out the full agenda and sign up to attend by following this link.