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It's about skills - not about gender

Pernille Kokholm, Inside Sales

When it comes to the administration of sales, purchases and deliveries, Pernille Kokholm from Orange Cyberdefense Denmark manage it with a sure hand. She thrives when there is a good atmosphere in the office and when a difficult task finally gets sorted out, she feels good. Pernille strongly believes that women and men must have full freedom to choose careers based on their interests and skills, without discrimination based on their gender.

If you ask Pernille Kokholm what she thinks about Orange Cyberdefense Denmark as a workplace, she answers quickly: "I have some wonderful colleagues." It is quite clear that this is very important for Pernille and her working life.  There must be room for both seriousness and humor at the office, because then you get to know each other as whole people. It creates meaning, trust, and results.

"I think we have an inclusive company culture where it's perfectly okay to ask for help if we need it. We don't have to pretend we know everything. In reality, no one does. It creates a nice and trustful atmosphere, which is inspiring and makes us more efficient. When someone puts their own things aside to help me with a difficult task, it makes me really happy and motivated to do the same the other way around when the need arises", says Pernille.

As an example, she mentions the coordination of deliveries to countries outside the EU. Here, it can sometimes be difficult to foresee all the obstacles, and the process can take a long time. But when it finally succeeds and the goods are sent, the joy over the job well done is correspondingly greater.

It's about interests – not gender

Although the cybersecurity industry employs far more men than women, Pernille does not experience this as a problem in her everyday life, which, as she explains it “is free from unpleasant male noise". Therefore, she does not believe that it is the gender balance of women and men at the workplace that is central. The most important thing is that women know about the IT and cybersecurity industry – and know that it is an interesting industry, which is also open to them - if they want to pursue a career.

According to Pernille, everyone should have the freedom to choose the work they find most interesting, challenging and awarding. Since more men than women are traditionally interested in technology, according to Pernille this has a certain logic, because it explains a lot of the gender imbalance in the industry. Men and women are different and have different interests; but as Pernille strongly points out: women are equally competent to men when it comes to technical cybersecurity jobs – it’s all about interest and about them seeking the opportunities in the business.

"Everyone should be allowed to be who they want to be. Although at times I think the debate can be a bit narrowminded, I also think it is super important that we tear down the old gender stereotypes. Why should society dictate what men and women can and should do? If a woman wants to be a really good security consultant, and that’s her ambition, then that's what she should aim for - and then I'm 100% sure that the industry will welcome her with open arms. At least Orange Cyberdefense will", says Pernille with pride in her voice.

Growth creates new challenges

Pernille has worked at Orange Cyberdefense Denmark for nine years. When she was hired, she was employee number 15, and today that number has almost quadrupled. This is course something that has had a huge impact at the whole administration department, which now deals with many more tasks than just a few years ago. But many of the qualities that Pernille originally found in the small organization are still there. This is also a huge part of the explanation for why former colleagues often return to Orange Cyberdefense Denmark, after having been employed elsewhere for a shorter period or even years.

"We are growing quite rapidly, and this sometimes cause a bit of the usual "growing challenges", where we deal with extra tasks at times, until more employees are hired to take over some of them. It's hard to avoid, and here tolerance and flexibility are extra important. It is easier to cope with work pressure when you have a strong culture of helping each other. Instead of just crossing your arms and saying: "Sorry - but it's not my table", says Pernille.

Many already know each other

The trusting working relationships that characterize Orange Cyberdefense Denmark is, in some extend, build on the fact that many of the employees has known each other really well, and have been colleagues for many years – or have been colleagues before. But with the rapid growth of the business many new colleagues have been hired within the last couple of years – and some of them start from scratch and have no previous relationships in the company. Pernille knows from experience how important it is to embrace all new colleagues and make sure that everyone feels welcome from day one, and she emphasizes that it is a shared responsibility to make sure that all new colleagues quickly become a part of the community at the company.

"You shouldn't underestimate the importance of taking an interest in each other and show interest in your colleague’s children, husbands, wives, holidays and everything else. If you are prepared to share a little bit of yourself and ask questions about other people's lives and interests, then you get a solid basis for playing each other a lot better. It also paves the way for a healthy feedback culture, where we praise and acknowledge each other when we succeed, and go that extra mile for each other, when we struggle with something – or we make mistakes", says Pernille.

Freedom with responsibility

The vast majority of Pernille's tasks she can decide how to prioritize and when to solve them, and that suits her well. But according to Pernille this acquires a certain discipline to make sure, that the boundaries between work and free time don’t get too blurred. She regularly works in the evenings because it suits her well. Sometimes her family comment on that, but on the other hand it gives her the flexibility and the freedom to drive her children to dance and football or do other chores during the day – if needed. This gives her a work-life balance which she enjoys every day.

"When your employer meets you with trust and allows you to control and take responsibility for your own tasks, and when to solve them, I think it’s a strong sign of recognition. If I worked many hours yesterday, I know I could start later today, the day after – or someday next week, if it suits me better. If I have worked overtime for a longer period, I know I can compensate for that when things slow down and get back to normal again. No one tries to control your work or master your time. No one interferes with that. I like that", she explains.

An entire career in the IT industry

Pernille has worked with administration in IT companies since she started on the labor market as 18-year-old. The many years of experience make it obvious to ask if she has any advice for young women considering a career in IT or cybersecurity.

"My advice is to see it as an interesting industry that clearly is also relevant for women. For many years companies have been digitizing the working processes – and will continue to do so in the future. Therefore, IT and cybersecurity are becoming more important all the time. Therefore I call all women: Come and be part of a future-oriented industry in rapid development – we need you, and many more women in the industry", Pernille concludes.


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