Alumni Stories - Claudia Natanson

Name: Claudia Natanson
Job: Chief Information Security Officer
Employer: Diageo Plc
Degree: MSc in Computer Science in 1991; PhD 1995

I found the whole area of networks and systems exciting, intriguing and at the same time overwhelming. Based on my own experiences in coming to grips with a lot of the basics during my studies, I developed a passion to be able to in the future help people with techno phobias and computers.

On leaving Birmingham University in 1995, I pursued professional courses in networking and system administration, which led me to a job with British Telecommunications, to do testing of their networks and systems. This led to my setting up and forming the UK's globally accredited commercial Computer Security Incident response Team (CSIRT). You can see more of this organisation on www.first.org. I now also sit on the FIRST board and its Steering Committee. I then went on to form BT's commercial security services for its many global blue chip companies. Since leaving BT I took up the post of Chief Information Security Officer for the world's largest drink manufacturer, Diageo and its 180 global markets. Our products include instantly recognisable global brands such as Smirnoff, Guinness and Johnnie Walker.

I also work within the European Commission in a number of its expert computer security initiatives. I also currently chair the global Corporate Executive programme www.globalcep.com. The programme is for CEO’s, CFO’s, CIO’s, and senior executives. The programme looks at cross-functional risk management and communication of these risks at the board level.

What is the best thing you are doing now?

I thrive on a challenge and love to be stretched. It's fun, and my Computer Science MSc has to date provided the best challenge and stretch I have ever had. By actually completing the course successfully, it provided great self-confidence in the way I have continued to approach challenges and play to win at each challenge.

What was the best thing about your time as a student here?

Having had the opportunity to study not only on a campus in such an historic location and beautiful grounds, but lucky to have had lecturers who students could talk to outside of formal lectures on any course related problems and general well being. I also enjoyed the main library and its many nook and crannies in which you could loose yourself to study. To top it all the graduation with all its pomp and circumstance is a fine way to end your student's days at the University of Birmingham. It was a pleasure and privilege to have been a student at such an outstanding university.

In what way did living and studying in Birmingham live up to your expectation?

I can say that it surpassed my expectations. In halls of residence at Pritchett's House, I met some great people who although live in totally different continents, we have managed to maintain our friendship and actually visit each other!!

What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?

As with any area of work, it helps if this is something you really want to do. It also helps to keep an open mind when doing the course, as areas you might not necessarily like maybe be the very ones you end up doing on graduating. Finally, keep an eye on the industry and job pages, to see what the industry is looking for in terms of skills. Most technology areas require its employees to have not only technical skills, but also a general understanding of business and how organisations operate. So read the financial times as well and understand which businesses are doing well, which aren't and the reasons. This will help you to understand the value you as a person and your skills could bring to any organisation.