“The mentorship, resources and community support I received through WiCyS opened doors to the cybersecurity world and shattered long-held misconceptions about my capabilities. WiCyS empowered me to believe in my worth, leading me from financial instability to financial independence in under three years. The journey wasn’t just about finding a career—it was about rediscovering my confidence and ability to provide for my family. WiCyS transformed my life, and I am committed to paying it forward by mentoring other women entering the field.”


—Alexis Watters, Technical Lead / Senior BEC Forensic Investigator, Solis Security

 

Alexis Watters discovered the Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) organization at a pivotal moment in her life. Freshly divorced and a devoted mother of two, she faced financial strain and an uncertain future. Equipped with a degree in mass communication and a focus on electronic media, Alexis had previously navigated the frenetic world of broadcast journalism and TV film production, often burning the midnight oil on set. However, the arrival of her children prompted a shift to full-time motherhood. Following her divorce, she faced the daunting task of re-entering the workforce with somewhat outdated skills. Little did Alexis know that WiCyS would become the key to her transformative journey from financial instability to financial independence in less than three years.

 

In 2018, Alexis attended a Women in Tech interest meeting hosted by her local community college. Initially drawn towards web design because of her proficiency in graphic design and communication, she received unexpected advice—to delve into the world of cybersecurity. Despite feeling daunted by this unfamiliar territory, the meeting sparked a newfound curiosity within Alexis, challenging her to confront long-held misconceptions about her capabilities in the tech realm. Alexis’s high school experience with programming classes in the late 90s had left her feeling out of place in the male-dominated field, instilling doubts about her capabilities in tech. However, the advisor’s confidence at the interest meeting gave Alexis the push she needed to explore cybersecurity further, leading her to discover WiCyS through a Google search for “money for women in cybersecurity.” Motivated by this encounter, Alexis resolved to pursue cybersecurity, marking January 2019 as the moment she decided to return to school.

 

Stumbling upon the WiCyS website marked the beginning of Alexis’s support network within the cybersecurity field. The abundance of resources and nurturing environment fostered by WiCyS inspired her to actively participate in the community, attending webinars and expanding her LinkedIn network. Amidst her journey, one pivotal element was the mentorship Alexis received through WiCyS. Under the guidance of Ebudo Osime, a seasoned cyber threat intelligence professional, Alexis gained technical expertise and invaluable life skills. Ebudo taught Alexis to negotiate her worth, empowering her to advocate for salaries that reflected her value. This mentorship, bolstering Alexis’s confidence and decision-making abilities, was critical in her swift career progression. Alexis attributes her mentor for imparting advice that she now shares with junior members of her team, thereby perpetuating the cycle of support and empowerment within the cybersecurity community.

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexis faced formidable hurdles, struggling to stay afloat amidst trying circumstances. Dwelling below the area’s median income, she found herself in a precarious position—earning just enough to disqualify her from government aid programs designed to assist her children with essentials like free lunches. This left her trapped in a frustrating limbo, earning too much for assistance yet struggling to make ends meet. Balancing her responsibilities was a constant challenge. Not only did she have to navigate her children’s engagement with remote learning, but she also endeavored to pursue her own educational aspirations, attending virtual seminars, networking and tirelessly seeking internships and job prospects. The sheer weight of these demands nearly drove her to the brink of abandoning her studies altogether, but the unwavering support from her manager at the time emboldened her to persevere through the storm.

 

As a single mother, Alexis grappled with relentless financial hardships. In her time of need, the Last Mile Education Fund emerged as a lifeline, providing vital support precisely when she needed it most. When her windshield unexpectedly cracked, making her car unsafe to drive, the fund stepped in to cover the $500 repair bill. This assistance went beyond merely addressing a practical concern; it served as a poignant reminder to Alexis that she wasn’t alone in her journey. It provided a much-needed morale boost, reaffirming her belief that her endeavors were valued and supported, instilling the determination she needed to press forward with her studies.

 

The WiCyS Security Training Scholarship gave Alexis a gateway into the multifaceted world of cybersecurity, igniting her curiosity and expanding her horizons. Engaging in the CyberStart challenges, she discovered a passion for forensics. Observing a scarcity of participants delving into the intricate forensics challenges, where higher points were at stake, Alexis strategically focused on this domain. This decision paid off as she realized how much she enjoyed the detective work involved in forensics, prompting her to pursue this specialization further.

 

Networking through WiCyS opened a crucial internship opportunity for Alexis. Dave Alton, a CTO she connected with on LinkedIn after attending a webinar, offered her an internship at his company despite them having never taken on an intern before. In this role, Alexis was tasked with writing an incident response plan, allowing her to gain invaluable hands-on experience. After completing her internship and earning her Associate’s degree in cybersecurity, Alexis attended a webinar on incident response planning for MSPs and small businesses, where she met presenter Chris Loehr, the CTO of a tech company in Austin. This connection introduced Alexis to her current company and ultimately led to a full-time analyst position, where she quickly rose to become the technical lead of the email forensics team.

Through hard work, perseverance and the invaluable support of WiCyS, Alexis achieved a level of financial stability she once deemed unattainable, granting her a sense of security she had previously thought out of reach. Following this milestone in her career, Alexis seized the opportunity to pay it forward, generously donating to the Last Mile Education Fund. Just as she experienced the profound impact of others caring about her success, Alexis now endeavors to extend that same support to individuals facing challenges similar to those she once confronted, affirming that someone believes in their potential as well.

Now, as a successful cybersecurity professional, Alexis is passionate about mentoring other women entering the field. She shares the lessons she learned about valuing oneself, negotiating salaries and navigating the cybersecurity landscape. Her journey from near poverty to prosperity is a testament to the power of perseverance and community support. WiCyS played a key role in transforming Alexis Watters’ life, providing the resources, mentorship programs and nurturing community that gave her the confidence and support she needed to break into the cybersecurity field. Alexis’s story exemplifies how women, with the right determination and opportunities, can achieve financial independence and a fulfilling career in cybersecurity. WiCyS is proud to have been part of Alexis’s journey and looks forward to empowering many more women to realize their potential in this dynamic field.