While pursuing electrical engineering in college, Ananya Yarramreddy — a bit of a jokester — stumbled into her current passion for cybersecurity. “I started spending time in my college computer lab playing pranks,” explains Ananya. “I would change the host file mapping which would load a page of Yahoo when you searched for Google and vice versa. It made many students and professors question if the lab was hacked.”
Cybersecurity is not one job, it’s many. And just like her introduction to the field, Ananya just kept following her interests, first pursuing a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrator) and eventually acquiring two master’s degrees, one in network security and another in cybersecurity. When it came to utilizing her diverse knowledge, the opportunity to work with world-class teams at MetLife to secure complex systems and protect the most sensitive data from increasingly sophisticated threats was compelling to Ananya.
Securing the Future
Today Ananya works at MetLife as a Senior IT Security Service Consultant where she and her team take a threat-centric and risk-based approach to cybersecurity, working to protect the company’s data from unauthorized access. “We also implement compliance regulations to protect the privacy, security, and confidentiality of the organization at a global level,” explains Ananya. “It’s like safeguarding the house with cameras and locking down the house to strangers. We make sure the keys are safe and with the right family members.”
Because of the sophistication and frequency of attacks, MetLife has shifted its focus from cyber defense to cyber resilience. Incident response is the high-stakes, in-the-moment work, but network security focuses on the critical task of identifying threats and vulnerabilities, which is the primary work Ananya does.
“MetLife has taught me to think creatively and to understand the bigger picture,” shares Ananya. “I’ve had opportunities to enhance my skills in multiple branches of cybersecurity such as network security, data security, threat intelligence, and more. MetLife has shown me how to produce solutions while also keeping perspective on how those solutions impact people’s lives.”
A New Approach to Mitigating Attacks
Every October during Cybersecurity Awareness Month, government and industries promote information and resources to help Americans secure their sensitive data and stay safe online. Threats to confidential data have become more common than ever, and even the most vigilant people and companies can be affected.
“In this field, there are many times when new security issues occur, and you have to think on your feet and be resourceful to remediate them as soon as possible,” explains Ananya. “It pushes you to strategize the solution and tackle unforeseen consequences. Every day is a new challenge in this field, and that’s one of the most exciting things.”
Finding Her Place and Voice
Because the field is heavily dominated by men, Ananya has had few female role models. During her early days at MetLife, she was hesitant to speak up or voice her opinion. “It felt like a daunting task to speak out,” she admits. “My mentors inspired me by asking me what I thought in meetings and encouraging me to join groups such as Women in Cybersecurity and Women in Technology where I could network and make my voice heard. Looking back, I can connect the dots on how it helped me become who I am and made me more confident in speaking my opinion.”
As part of her work, Ananya has enjoyed coaching cybersecurity interns who have fresh perspectives and share the latest tools and technologies—especially females. “It gives me immense job satisfaction to provide interns valuable hands-on experience and encourage them to understand the depths of this field,” says Ananya. “Considering that in 2021, the cybersecurity workforce was only 25% women (per Cybersecurity Ventures), I consider it a personal responsibility to encourage and guide other women into this field.” Not only does this field need more women, but it also simply needs more skilled workers. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2025, there will be 3.5 million cyber jobs open.
For those with any level of interest, cybersecurity is a discipline worth exploring. “Many people assume that you need years of experience to enter this field,” says Ananya. “They don’t realize that many who work in cybersecurity are also new to the field. My advice is not to be afraid to talk about aspirations or when you’re having trouble learning. I am an obvious example of this. I didn’t know what an IP address was when I started in this field, and I had never owned a PC before. Neither of those things hindered my journey.”
Interested in cybersecurity opportunities at MetLife? Visit the MetLife careers site to explore our open roles. To learn about MetLife’s digital transformation, Safiya Henry, AVP of Digital Strategy and Transformation, recently shared about the exciting work she’s involved with. For inspiration about unlocking your STEM dreams, read the story of Anika Wall, MetLife’s Vice President (VP) of Global Customer Service and Operations Production Enablement.