October 15, 2019
From model to cybersecurity specialist: why taking a new career direction could be the best thing you ever do
By: Lina Lau

Lina Lau is on the cyber security frontline, responding to critical hacking incidents for Australia’s biggest companies. But her career journey was anything but conventional.

It’s easy to underestimate Accenture ANZ’s Threat Hunting & Incident Response Lead. A former model – Lina Lau has walked the runway at Fashion Week and graced the pages of Australian Vogue – her aethereal looks hide a steel-trap mind and a ruthless obsession to take down cyber criminals.

When a major hacking incident occurred, Lina was a key player in the incident response team. "I was in the middle of moving house when I got the call. It was a bit surreal.” She had only been with Accenture for 2 months. If a debilitating distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack hits a global company or a government suffers a crypto hijacking, chances are Lina will be there.

Sydney Fashion Week Alannah Hill Runway

A career in cyber security wasn’t even on Lina’s mind when she graduated high school. She started a degree in Law at the University of Sydney, but her trajectory to a marble and glass firm was short-lived.

While she performed brilliantly academically, the problem was: “I didn’t like uni!” But then, instead of dropping Law, she picked up an additional degree in computer science. The reason? She wasn’t ready to give up yet and wanted to try something that had a more immediate impact.

Moonlighting as an IT gun for hire, she set up a digital advertising capability for a marketing agency. Initially, she was busier, but not happier. Then everything changed when her IT course included a module on cyber security. “I fell in love,” she says seriously.

Her passion translated into her work. The Faculty asked her (an undergraduate) to teach a post-graduate course!

Competing in the national cybersecurity challenge at USYD

Within a year, Lina had won the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence and was poised to graduate with a double degree… Instead she dropped out to help an American security start-up build a proof of concept. “This was a chance to do something real, challenging and exciting. I was working with teams in Copenhagen and Kuala Lumpur.”

Having succeed with a start-up, she was curious to see what the corporate world was like. At first, she was wary of big consulting firms.

“I didn’t know if a company like Accenture would want someone like me. I wanted to drive change and do leading-edge technical work. I didn’t want to be a little cog in a hierarchical machine. I worried that my voice wouldn’t be heard. They assured me it wouldn’t be like that – and it wasn’t.”

Since joining Accenture in August 2018, Lina has built ANZ’s threat hunting and incident response practice and helped her peers across AAPAC do the same. As well as heading up incident responses, she’s currently getting threat hunting off the ground in Japan and working with our local Cyber Defence practice.

Playing foosball with colleagues at Blackhat Asia 2018

“I like the scale of the projects we work on. These are organisations with hundreds of thousands of employees and multi-billion-dollar revenues. When you have that much money, your attackers are also at the top of their game. I get to solve the world’s hardest problems.”

Lina’s passion for cybersecurity rolls over into her private life, where she works on her own research projects in new security problem areas and blogs to her community. Her friends are mostly cybersecurity people. “My best friend and I are both working on a paper for a conference. I spend my money on certifications and courses.”

When Accenture gently suggested she take a holiday, it was her first in three years. “I went to Japan. By the third day I really wanted to fire up my computer because I genuinely love what I do and I missed it. Next time I take a two-week break it will be at a security conference.” She’s not kidding.

Hanging out with cats in Tokyo

Lina’s career advice is to be bold and follow your passion:

“Don’t worry about doing the ‘normal’ thing. Don’t go into something just because you had the marks. Do what you care about. Listen to yourself and don’t be afraid to do something different. Innovate your own career!”

Keen to join work with the sector’s brightest, using the coolest tech to out-hack the hackers and help clients build resilience from within? Explore opportunities at Accenture here.

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