10 inspiring women helping shape Gloucestershire's cyber sector

Gloucestershire’s cyber industry is second to none, with a wealth of incredible companies and people helping to shape the sector. SoGlos takes a look at some of the most talented women leading the way in the industry.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published
Putting the county on a global stage, SoGlos celebrates some of the most inspiring women helping shape Gloucestershire’s cyber industry.
In partnership with ReformIT  |  reformit.co.uk

ReformIT is a Cheltenham-based IT support specialist, providing expert advice to businesses all over the UK. Assisting with everything from cyber security and cloud technologies to improving broadband speed, ReformIT can tailor its services to meet individual businesses’ needs – whether it’s a fully outsourced IT department or third line support.

Gloucestershire is one of the UK's leading counties when it comes to all things cyber and, in honour of European Cyber Security Month this October 2023, SoGlos highlights just some of the incredible women who are at the heart of helping to shape the county's strong technology sector...

Sarah Smith, director of operations and marketing at ReformIT

Sarah Smith is director of operations and marketing at managed service provider, ReformIT. Based in Cheltenham, ReformIT has been a leader in the cyber industry for 25 years.

Smith started her career as a data analyst in the head office of a nationwide retailer, where part of her role was to test new technology systems developed for the company. Smith joined the family-owned ReformIT in 2022 in a marketing role with an emphasis on social media. As her role progressed, managing director Neil Smith soon realised Smith's skills and potential, promoting her to operations and marketing director, with an emphasis on service delivery. Smith is currently studying to take her first Microsoft exam.

Anne Keast-Butler, director of GCHQ

Cheltenham-based intelligence, security and cyber agency GCHQ appointed Anne Keast-Butler in May 2023 as the first female director in the organisation's 103 year history.

Keast-Butler, who is also an alumna of the University of Oxford, joined GCHQ from MI5, where she held the role of deputy director general, and has 30 years of experience in the intelligence and security sectors, including two years at GCHQ as head of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime and a secondment in Whitehall where she helped launch the National Cyber Security Programme.

Illyana Mullins, founder of Women in Tech and Cyber Hub (WiTCH)

Illyana Mullins is the founder of the Cheltenham-based Women in Tech and Cyber Hub, or WiTCH, a network for women working in tech and the cyber security industry that champions, empowers and supports women in order to diversify the industry.

Mullins is also a founding director of BSides Cheltenham, a community event for people with a passion for cyber and information security; was manager of The Growth Hub in Cheltenham; head of operations and innovation at Hub8; and in 2022, was voted One to Watch at the national Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards, during a ceremony held in London.

Pranith Accapanda, curriculum leader of computing at Gloucestershire College

Pranith Accapanda is the curriculum lead and a lecturer of computing at Gloucestershire College, after joining the further education institute in 2020.

Teaching students pursuing B-Tech qualifications, she joined the county institution from Halesowen College, where she was also a computing lecturer. Gloucestershire College officially opened its £3 million Advanced Digital Academy in September 2021 and its degree-level apprenticeship in cyber security has been awarded Tech Industry Gold.

Chantelle Bowring, owner and director of Salus Cyber

Salus Cyber was founded in 2017 as a certified provider of world-class cyber security services. Its team delivers projects from autonomous underwater security to corporate security transformation programmes and applies the skills it honed in cyber defence to aid the world of business.

Operations director Bowring is a key architect of the Cheltenham-headquartered business, bringing with her an impressive track record in the computer hardware and cyber industries. Bowring is passionate about getting more women and girls involved in cyber — a value that is at the heart of Salus Cyber's ethos.

Sepideh Mollajafari – lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire

Sepideh Mollajafari is a lecturer in cyber security, specialising in blockchain technology, at The University of Gloucestershire. The university offers a long list of cyber security-related courses and Mollajafari joined its team of teaching experts after six years working in a major bank’s IT department.

Mollajafari also has a PhD and works on outreach projects encouraging more women to take up computing and roles in the cyber industry, including her involvement with the NCSC’s CyberFirst programme.

Sophia McCall, senior security consultant at NCC Group and founder of the Security Queens

Sophia McCall, who is a senior intelligence threat consultant for cyber firm, NCC Group is described as ‘not only an incredibly talented technical individual, but someone who has taken a huge amount of time to engage with those looking to enter the industry’.

She is also one of the founders of the Security Queens, a highly successful content platform promoting diversity and inclusion in the cyber security industry, and administrator for the Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society — a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to developing technical women in cyber security.

Dr Nathalie Cole, chapter lead of Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society

Former veterinary surgeon and current cyber security consultant, Dr Nathalie Cole, is the chapter lead of the Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society and is passionate about getting women into cyber security.

Alongside her day job, Dr Cole advocates for the promotion of diversity for women, people from ethnic minorities, and the neurodiverse community and is an avid supporter of CyNam and the Cheltenham Science Festival. 

Shelley Wood, director of Gemba Advantage

Shelley Wood is the co-founder and director of Cheltenham-based firm Gemba Advantage, a tech development firm that builds high-impact software for businesses.

As well as being an entrepreneur, she is also a highly-skilled project manager with a long career in the cyber and defence industries.

Sarah James, people and operations manager at Savient

James is a key figure at Cheltenham firm Savient, a bespoke software consultancy firm based in Cheltenham that uses software technology solutions and services to help customers solve business problems and unlock the value in their data.

She has an impressive number of professional awards under her belt, including a finalist for the Sustainability and Culture Award 2023 and Office Manager of the Year Award Winner 2022 at the international Office Management Group Awards, which take place annually in London.

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