Episode 15

Published on:

10th Mar 2021

Neurodiversity in Cybersecurity - Sandra Eriksson

People who are Neurodiverse often struggle to be accepted in today's world. Nathan Chung interviews Sandra Eriksson, SOC Analyst. She shares her incredible stories about her life, her struggles, and finding success. Very emotional and very powerful. Listen and be inspired.



Hi, welcome to the NeuroSec podcast where we unite people and organizations to support and advance Neurodiverse people in cybersecurity and beyond, to make the world more diverse and inclusive. My name is Nathan Chung. And today my special guest is Sandra Erickson. She is a SOC analyst. Welcome, Sandra.


Thank you, Nathan. Thank you for having me.


To start, what do you do in your current job? And why do you like it?


Yeah, so as you said, I am a SOC analyst. Being a SOC analyst is all about protecting the internal environment of the company I work for. It could be everything from phishing attempts to detecting malware. also things like you know, logging in from unknown IPs. So we just basically protect the the insights of the company. And what I love most about it, I think is I actually come from a consultancy background. So I actually love the practical parts of the job and really getting my hands dirty. And I can see the sort of the product or the results of the work I do straightaway, which I find really interesting. I think that's and also working with my team, because my team is absolutely amazing. They are really good people. And I learned from them every day.


Great. When did you first learn that you have ADHD? And like did? Did you get a formal diagnosis for ADHD?


what it was. I think this was:


Great. My journey is similar. It's, it's hard because with these mental health conditions, it's a lot of people like us, we, we know something we know, we are different. But it's really hard. Next question, cybersecurity is described as being a great field to work in for people like us, do you feel that having ADHD makes you better at work?


Not necessarily maybe better. I would say that I have a different viewpoint. And I may be interpret information differently than my peers. So not necessarily better, just different. But I do agree with you. I am a full advocate. I used to work in the bar restaurant industry. And one of the reasons why I want to come on this podcast is to give you know the ADHD kids out there a bit of a nudge that cybersecurity is a field where everything is constantly changing and that is so stimulating for someone like us. So it is actually the perfect work area that won't strain on your physical health in terms of you know, physical bodily like like it won't strain on your physical body and it will actually help stimulate your your mental state. And yeah, I just want to want to point out that it's a really good shot for people that have ADHD to actually look further down the path of especially cybersecurity but also IT in general.


Great, and you brought up a really good point. Because I think even in some official research documents, there is a strong correlation between Neurodiverse conditions and and cybersecurity making it a really good field. But one thing I learned is the importance of not pigeon holing people like and that makes sense because yes, it's a great field for people to go to like IT and cyber, but at the same time, there are so many other fields like Art or just just people can enjoy being creative. On to the next question, accommodations are often essential for Neurodiverse workers. But sadly, many do not know about them or not even not, and they're not even comfortable to ask for them. In your experienced, have you ever asked for accommodations? And what was it like? Were you comfortable asking for accommodations?


Um, I've actually never asked for them. But, and speaking of you know, I've only had two jobs in cybersecurity. In the restaurant industry, there was nothing, nothing like that, of course. But both of my managers when I told them I had ADHD immediately thanked me for sharing something so personal, but also can affect my work, but also asked me, you know, do you know that we have accommodations? Do you need me to look up what they are? Is there anything you need? But a part of growing up with ADHD and especially undiagnosed ADHD, I've always had to fight for myself, if that makes sense. So in a way, I kind of wanted to say yes, and and asked for, you know, what accommodations were available. But at the time, I actually declined and said, no, it's okay. But if I do need anything in the future, I'll let you know. Just because I didn't at that time feel like there was anything extra that I needed. working from home has given me a lot of space for myself to actually be able to focus and to, you know, to take my own time to read through things. And it's really helped. I think that working from home has really, really helped with with, with someone like me who has ADHD and has a hard time concentrating. But it would be something that would be you know, I have been offered it, I've just haven't maybe felt the need to explore it.




So, among neurodiverse conditions, ADHD is one of the most prevalent with ADHD, what have what has been some of your greatest challenges? And how did you overcome them?


I think my biggest challenge is being misunderstood constantly. Also, always being asked, you know, to step in line, why are you different? Why can't you be like everyone else? Why are you so sensitive? And I think my biggest challenge has been accepting myself. And listen, I've listened too much to other people and what their opinions are. And I think that, you know, with female ADHD as well is, is very, very different from the and now I'm talking in gender, non gender neutral terms, but they the science has basically recorded situations of female leaning ADHD and male leaning ADHD. And it's not until recently that female ADHD has taken a bigger place and actually being more understood. The way I overcame it was, I woke up one day and just said to myself, you know, what, do you like who you are? Are you okay with the person you are? Do you feel like you have good morals? Are you kind to other people? Yeah. If if people don't like you, or they misunderstand you. One, everyone can't love you. So just don't care about it, continue to do you do and you. And the second thing I promised myself was to be vocal about ADHD talking about it in a manner that can make other people understand because I've found, I've finally found my voice with my ADHD and I feel like I'm able to explain it in a good manner. And I feel like I can make people understand by speaking, maybe in neuro, like, neurotypical language. So that's also something I do to overcome it. It's just to educate and try to explain to people why it's different. What is it in my brain that doesn't work that makes me you know, do something that isn't normal to a neurotypical brain, if that makes sense?


Absolutely. And thank you for being an advocate. And a lot of things you you talked about, it is so critical to talk about all these issues and to spread awareness because in the past, and even now, there's still a lot of negative stigma around Neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD. Because quite frankly, people just didn't want to talk about it. So it's really great that you're talking about it and spreading awareness. What tips do you have for others who have ADHD and especially with coping day to day tips. What tips do you have?


I think my biggest tip is research and knowledge is power. One of the things is, you know, you're doing this podcast, which is helping people see, you know, different people that have different success stories, talking about how ADHD is, you know, helping them. Another tip that I would like to give us the ADHD side of Twitter is amazing how much information you can get from there, and also YouTube videos that can teach you about ADHD, and teach you about why, why the things happen that happen. And with that knowledge, you also do something that is so normal with ADHD people is that we get a side effect of anxiety because we blame ourselves for everything that happens. And having that knowledge, understanding why things happens is the first step to, to taking action into either, you know, changing what happens, changing your reactions, or actually just accepting that they're there. And that it's you. Also something that is super important is surrounding yourself with people that accept you for who you are. People who understand ADHD, who wants to learn about ADHD and isn't just you know. Some people just don't want to understand and those people are never going to be good for you. Of course, you can have people around you that have different feelings about different things, but surround yourself with people that support you and try to lift you up. Because as a person with ADHD, and especially the more female version of it, which is more internalized, which is more, you know, you push yourself down more, you push yourself down enough. Don't have people around you that also do the same, you know, have people around you that help you lift you up, and that is supportive of you. I think those are my biggest tips. And on a more general note, don't be so harsh on yourself. We're only humans. And you know, we have to, we have to it's a long way to figuring it out. You know, I'm 28 I've had my diagnosis for three years. But I've known since I was 11. I still haven't figured everything out. I'm still learning stuff day to day. But yeah, don't be so harsh on yourself. Surround yourself with people that support you and that wants to understand and knowledge, just read and read and read about it.


Yep, that those are very great tips, Sandra and very inspirational. Because quite frankly, for many of us who have Neurodiverse conditions, sadly, a lot of people just don't know they have it or understand it, tragically a lot of these people are alone and it leads to depression and or even worse. It's really great that you're spreading awareness. And unless I know I'm just curious, what what is it like in London in London right now during during the lockdown?


Um, yeah, as you can imagine, it's, it's completely alone. And lockdown has been very harsh in the UK. I think I calculated that out of like the last 12 months that I've lived here. I think we've had two to three months that have been more so free and then the rest of them have been complete lockdown, can't even go out. For me, it's been really, you know, it's been good and bad. I have been visiting a lot of like tourist attractions around London. When we have been allowed to go out for you know that one hour exercise and like Trafalgar Square has been completely empty. And it's been very relieving for someone with ADHD who has an issue with impressions and I really have an issue when there's too many people and one tiny space. So it's been really interest interesting to see these places completely empty. At the same time, as you know, it scares me and it's been bad for me because I moved to the UK in March last year. I haven't been able to make any friends I have been completely isolated in my apartment with my partner which has been it's been really good for me because I've been allowed to you know, rest. It's really bad for my social side because I am actually afraid for what's going to happen when lockdown eases and I have to get out into the normal world with all the impressions coming from the people you know, London Underground is going to be super busy, and I don't know how I will be able to readjust to that type of society. And I also do want to note you know that the pandemic is something very very, it's just a horrible thing that has happened. But for someone that and I can also maybe like tie this in with people who have social phobia who also have an issue with you know, going out where there's a ton of people. I'm not in any way saying that it's, it's, you know, it's been a good thing. But it's been, it's been interesting to, to see that, if that makes sense.


Absolutely. I miss London, but kinda like what you said especially for the capital cities, they are very crowded. So I do not miss the crowds. I do miss London and especially pub food. Okay, and, and another thing came to mind that you brought up is how during the pandemic, and, and with a lockdown working for them has been great. And I'm very happy that some global many, many global organizations throughout the world have recognized the benefits of working from home and how it benefits actually benefits people. Because, like, kinda like what you said for many of us, the transition back to, going back to normal and and going back to the office. So for some of us, it might not be a good thing to go back to the office and go back to how things were. For me personally, I would prefer to keep working from home because I just, similar to you, I just feel more comfortable I can take my time. It's just much better for my mental health and, and I don't crash as much. Okay, and overall. That was my last question Sandra. Thank you. Thank you for all your tips today. And thank you for your time.


Thank you

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On a mission to flip the script on Neurodiversity in Cybersecurity, Technology, Society, and Culture
Uniting people and organizations to support and advance Neurodiverse people in Cybersecurity.

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