While the Matildas were winning the hearts of Australians on the pitch in the Women’s World Cup, an equally dedicated group of women were working behind the scenes to ensure the tournament could be enjoyed uninterrupted by millions of people around the world.
Just before the World Cup, TAFE NSW Cyber Academy student Noor Zafar, 27, of Wollongong, got her call up to the Cisco Networking Academy’s all-female Dream Team, a job shadowing role where she gained hands-on experience installing, servicing and protecting the tournament’s entire communications system across nine cities in Australia and New Zealand.
“It was amazing to gain industry experience on a global event of this scale, knowing the system I was working on was making sure more than two billion people got to see the World Cup, and I learned so much to complement my studies at the Cyber Academy,” Ms Zafar said.
“The great thing about the Cyber Academy is that it provides both practical and theoretical training for an industry with huge demand for graduates and getting to shadow and be part of an all-female Dream Team was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m very grateful to Cisco and to TAFE NSW – without them I would not have had this awesome experience.”
Ms Zafar worked with Cisco, the Official Network Infrastructure Provider for the tournament, to protect the the digital network that connected the World Cup tournament’s ecosystem.
She was nominated by Shan Ansari, her teacher at TAFE NSW, where she is taking introductory networking courses through the Cisco Networking Academy, one of the world’s longest-running and purpose-driven IT skills-to-jobs programs.
“Cyber security is a booming industry with huge demand for qualified professionals and one of the ways TAFE NSW is working to meet that demand is to provide pathways into the career that support more women entering the workforce – which includes providing amazing on the job learning opportunities, like Noor’s experience with Cisco,” Mr Ansari said.
According to a report by The Data Institute, Australia is short 2,300 workers in cyber security, with an expected demand of at least 17,600 additional professionals in the sector by 2026.
Women account for 30 per cent of students in the Cyber Academy program, which is designed to address national skills shortages in cyber security through a collaborative approach between industry, and vocational and higher education.
Launched with seed funding from the NSW Government's Collaboration and Innovation Fund, and with ongoing funding for eligible applicants via the NSW Government Smart and Skilled program, Cyber Academy participants gain a nationally recognised Diploma and Degree over three years, while working in industry.
Ms Zafar, who is embarking on a career change after having worked in early childhood education, first developed a passion for IT by rebuilding computers with her father at their family home.
Now, with the cyber security world at her fingertips, she hopes to inspire other women to consider careers in the fast-growing sector.
“One of the biggest challenges for women is believing they can succeed in non-traditional pathways so I hope others can believe they can do it too,” she said.
“It shows that your TAFE NSW teachers can get you anywhere and that there are so many opportunities out there for women.”
The Cyber Academy is a collaboration between Deloitte, the University of Wollongong, and TAFE NSW.
University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) Professor Theo Farrell congratulated Ms Zafar on her selection.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Noor. She can be proud of being selected for an important role at a prestigious global event,” Professor Farrell said.
“UOW is proud to partner with TAFE NSW and Deloitte in the Cyber Academy to provide earn-as-you-learn pathways into careers in cyber security. Success stories such as that of Noor Zafar show this Australian-first program is already delivering on its promise to address the cyber skills shortage.”