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#InterviewSeries | Catherine Knibbs

... The Interview Series is back! Excuse the silence for the past couple of weeks/months (oops), amongst other adulty things, I've had to take a rain check to finish my MA, move 200 odd miles across the country and sort myself out with a job. The good news being, that I'm very very nearly there and I have a back-log of insightful & enlightening interviews to post.

So, without further ado I'd like to introduce you all to another one of my cyber-heroes, Catherine Knibbs. Like many of my other role models, Catherine mixes humanities with cyber & digital, a fascinating niche that will become more and more important in the coming future. Specifically, in our case Catherine specialises in cyber trauma, as well as child sexual abuse and online grooming, an imperative line of work!

I am an ex-engineer (mechanical and electronic) trained in the army. My job title was instrument engineer and I was the first woman to do that in the armed forces. For the past 25 years + I have taught karate and football, that’s how I ended up working in and around children, with lots of different mental health issues. I then decided to do a psychology undergraduate at Huddersfield University, from there I decided on cognitive neuroscience, but at the time there was no funding for single parents to do Master's. So I took a job with the intention of saving up for it, I worked for a company in the gaming industry and decided within 6/7 months that I was going to retrain as a child psychotherapist.

Tell us a little bit about your journey into a technology-based role.

So, I got into the industry because coming from the army I was up to date on what computers were and their latest operating systems. When I got the first computer in and around my children I monitored what they did and played, and as the internet became more accessible I bought some software to monitor what they were doing, and I would get notified if they searched certain words. I also did that with the xbox. So I've grown up watching my children play with the Internet and the reason I ended up in technology primarily was keeping an eye on my children. We had lots of conversations about the sites they were seeing, and I began to find out about young children and sexual exploitation, so I started doing a bit of research and I had the opportunity to present this research at a conference and it was the most popular workshop, I actually contradicted some of the research put out by the NSPCC. Whilst I was researching I came across a lot of traumatic and graphic images, and that sparked the tangent for cyber trauma at the end of 2011.

How do you use technology in your job role?

I actually have “technology for trauma” - I use my computer and I have some technology for bio-feedback software. And I use bio-feedback software to measure heart rate variability of my clients to show that psychotherapy works, particularly for trauma. I use this biological data because some people don’t believe psychotherapy works.

What have been the best learning resources for you?

I think children. Children and the way they talk about the Internet. They have taught me a lot about things I didn’t know. I have found a lot of young children asking “did you know this was on the Internet” and often I didn't. A lot of the time the websites are quite horrific and often traumatic. These sites seemed to be common knowledge amongst the children, but not the people around them, even their teachers.

As a woman, do you think you have faced any challenges that a man would not face in your position?

All the way with the army. There were many instances that would not of happened if I was a man. There's something about the credibility of what a women may know in engineering, that’s almost scoffed at. I find this when I talk to female gamers as well.

I went to a couple of interviews after leaving the army, and in one particularly one, they laughed at me and said "you’re not an engineer, you're a woman".

Since leaving the army, whenever I turned up at someone’s house to fix someone’s computer there was always an “oh, you're a women” type comment.

I was the only woman in a lot of my positions, there were a few women that were okay with it. However, there was always an automatic assumption that I was providing sexual favours for someone to get to my position.

What HAS been your biggest challenge so far?

There's almost something about my subject not being “real science”. The term 'cyber bullying' is accepted because there's a lot of organisations talking about it, but 'cyber trauma' isn’t taken seriously because it’s not a quantitative science yet.

With regards to technology, what do you think will be our biggest barrier to success in the future?

Some of the barriers we face are where technology can be used for as much evil as it can good. Maybe it’s a lack of knowledge or naivety, along with the lack of communication between parents, schools and cyber companies.

Educators think parents are teaching children about online safety and parents think the educators are, so there’s a big deficit - groomers take advantage of this gap because they know neither parties are covering the issues.

Also, app developers don’t build with online safety in mind.

What’s your favourite piece of advice to offer entrepreneurial/techy women?

In terms of brain development, we have just as many rights as men to be in this arena!

We shouldn’t be turn on each other either, instead we should be holding each other up!

Thank you Catherine, for taking the time to speak to me and sharing your knowledge and experiences. This is certainly an important aspect of the industry and hopefully developers, teachers and parents become more aware of the dangers sooner rather than later!

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