Airline Pilot to Cyber Security Risk Consultant – How Dominique Fast-tracked Her Cyber Career

Airline Pilot to Cyber Security Risk Consultant - How Dominique Fast-tracked Her Cyber Career

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Former Airline Pilot – Dominique Cotte successfully transitioned her career during COVID-19 to the cyber security industry and became a Cyber Security Risk Consultant through the Institute of Data’s part-time Cyber Security Program with the University of Technology Sydney.

Coming from a non-IT background, Dominique was driven to create a change in her life and was focused on re-launching her career after facing redundancy.

In just 24 weeks, she expanded her long-term career opportunities. Despite the time zone differences, she dedicated herself to upskilling and completed her training remotely from England, and even used her previous non-IT experience to her advantage.

Once upskilled with a cyber security certification from the Institute of Data, Dominique committed to the job search in the following months, seeking close guidance and support from our Trainers and Career Coaching team. From this support and through her determination to apply for jobs and network, Dominique secured an accelerated job outcome and is now a Cyber Security Risk Consultant with QBE in London.

We caught up with Dominique to hear more about her remarkable journey:


Hi Dominique, would you please tell us more about your professional background and industry experience before making a career change to cyber security?

Before pursuing studies with the Institute of Data, I was an International wide-body jet pilot for Emirates Airline – for 4 years on Boeing 777.

I’ve also flown for Tigerair Australia. My career over the past 17 years has been in the Aviation industry. In terms of prior qualifications, I have a Bachelor’s in Aviation Technology from Swinburne Hawthorn University.

Did you leverage any of your previous work experience to enhance your skills in our Cyber Security Program?

I was introduced to the Institute of Data’s (IOD) Cyber Security Program through my sister actually – she is a travel agent for cricket in Australia and she recommended the program to me.

I thought it was a great transition from Aviation, especially due to my experiences in risk management, threat & error management, and critical thinking ability.

In addition, my previous focus on international standards, regulation and safety management was very helpful in my career transition.

What were your career goals moving into the cyber industry?

I was always interested in moving into coding or studying another career path alongside my aviation career.

The pandemic consolidated my need for this.

Cyber Security was also thriving during the pandemic! So many jobs became available worldwide, revealing a great opportunity for myself and many others.

You’re now working as a Cyber Security Risk Consultant—congratulations! How did you land a job in the industry after completing your training, and what guidance would you give someone applying for jobs after upskilling in cyber security?

My lack of experience in cyber and information technology (IT) was a challenge.

For a few months, I was repeatedly rejected from job applications and did not get any interview opportunities.

However, the practical knowledge gained from the Institute of Data program was great.

My breakthrough came when I personally contacted Qantas’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). We established a great relationship over time, and she provided me with guidance and insight into how I could better position myself in job applications as a cyber security professional. Due to this, I eventually landed the opportunity with QBE.

It helps to have the right connections.

What is also important is being open and proactive to receiving guidance from professionals who can help you find a job in the industry.

Do you have any tips on how do you prepare for a cyber security interview?

There are numerous ways individuals can prepare for a cyber security interview.

Here are a few tips that I would suggest:

  • Have a good understanding of the job description and employer’s expectations.
  • Have in-depth knowledge of your past experiences and qualifications, especially around what is written on your resume so you can readily answer any questions about it.
  • Preparation is key. I went back through the modules from the Cyber Security Part-time Program so I could confidently explain what I had learned.
  • If you can, do mock interviews with a professional who knows everything about the role you would like to go into.
  • Have good examples of your experiences handling different challenges i.e. “Tell me about a time when you had to work under pressure” etc.
  • Always remember to take your time answering questions. In my interview, I had to have them restructure the question until I was confident in what they were asking and could give them a strong, concise answer.
  • Always be confident in your abilities and experience.

These are great tips! How do you compare your career situation to 6-12 months ago?

It has been a humbling experience starting a completely new career.

I have had to develop skill sets I haven’t used in some time and face new challenges.

I’ve realised there is a lot of room to grow and develop within cyber security.

With hard work, I’m determined and driven to learn as much as I can.

I definitely have a better work/life balance compared to my time working as an airline pilot. Now, I can come home, spend time with friends and family far more often and have more stability in my life.

How did you determine the focus of your final Capstone project during the course – what did it teach you and how did you find the process?

My Capstone project was focused on a suggestion my lead trainer gave me.
It was suggested that I base my project around something that I wanted to work in – for me, I wanted to work in risk.

I really enjoyed the process – it honestly surprised me how much I had learned about the topic from the moment I started to the moment I presented it in class.

It was a great opportunity to hone my studies in an area I was motivated in. It also made my capstone project far more interesting.

How did the program change your perspective on what is required to be a modern cyber professional?

The program gave me far more clarity and understanding about the industry, where cyber security is heading in the future, and the modern-day threats associated with technology’s advances.

It also gave me great insight into my strengths and how I could use them in the cyber security space.

The program also taught me how to develop and learn the required practical skills for the job. Many of the technical and interpersonal skills that were taught to me were actually very applicable and relevant.

What did you enjoy the most about learning and up-skilling within the cyber security space? >

I enjoyed the challenge of learning and up-skilling, especially as a mature-aged student.

I learned so much from my counterparts and loved the community we created throughout the program.

I felt supported by our trainers and learned so much. They put in extra time to support each one of us throughout the course which I am very grateful for.

Their guidance allowed me to understand every program component as we progressed.

Do you have any final thoughts or advice for professionals making a career change to cyber security?

Don’t be intimidated by all the technical jargon associated with cyber!

There are so many different jobs to suit people from all walks of life – ranging from completely non-technical roles to more challenging positions (e.g. pen-tester).

Countless opportunities are available for open-minded individuals willing to learn and grow through the challenges.

If you are interested in up-skilling and transitioning your career into the Cyber Security industry, consider downloading a Cyber Security Course Outline to learn more about the programs.

Alternatively, schedule a consultation with a Data Industry Career Consultant today to discuss the program in more detail.

Connect with Dominique on LinkedIn here.

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