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Akerele: Professionals in cybersecurity field should use their platform to educate others

By Esther Ijewere
02 July 2022   |   2:40 am
cybersecurity career coach and mentor who has a reach of over 40,000 people across her social media platforms (twitter and Linkedin).

cybersecurity career coach and mentor who has a reach of over 40,000 people across her social media platforms (twitter and Linkedin).

An advisory board member of Cybersafe Foundation, she is the founder of Cybarik limited, United Kingdom.

She also founded a cybersecurity community, Cyblack for African Cybersecurity students in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Akerele uses her social media handles to support cybersecurity beginners and enthusiasts.

In the space of one year, she has provided three batches of cybersecurity virtual internships for beginners in the field.

Passionate about bringing topical issues in cybersecurity to the forefront, she co-hosts a monthly Twitter space where she uses her influence to provide opportunities to people interested in the cybersecurity field. Akerele, who won the Young CISO of the year award and End-user advocacy for situational awareness in March 2022, shares her experience with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.

Iretioluwa Akerele is a Childhood Influence
AS a child, I never imagined myself in tech; I had always wanted to be a medical doctor, I used to admire everything about being a doctor. Everything changed when I started senior secondary school. My biology was really poor and I knew I would not be able to cope in the medical field; that ended my doctorate career before I even started.

When it was time to go to the university, I chose computer engineering, but I was given Management Information System. My cybersecurity journey started four years after I graduated from the University.

Inspiration Behind Cybarik Limited And Cyblack
The inspiration behind both organisations is my passion to see people succeed in the cybersecurity field. My team and I are using both Cybarik and Cyblack to empower cybersecurity beginners and enthusiasts. In years to come, this will not change, because both organisations were founded to empower other people that are just starting their careers.

Why I Pitched My Tent In The Cybersecurity Sector
To be honest, sometimes I feel that I am in this field by chance; I did not think it through at that time. I never knew I would do a master in information security. My friend was studying forensics in Nigeria and I wanted to study something similar to her course of study. This made me choose Information Security and Computer Forensics. I did not know that would be the turning point in my life. Sometimes, when I remember… we still talk about it. She influenced my decision at that time.

The Journey So Far
I think I started my organisation at a very good time. A lot of people are showing interest in this field. One of the things I am using my organisation for is to provide internship opportunities to beginners. We started a paid cybersecurity training this year and the feedback has been great so far.

I am brainstorming with my team to take the organisation to the next level. For me, it’s a gradual step and I am grateful that I have a good team.

Training People Across Social Media On Cybersecurity
One of the things I love doing is motivation and empowerment. I use my social media handle to encourage beginners, motivate them, provide support, and refer them to opportunities.

One of the things I learned this year is that people are noticing my work and they appreciate it. A lot of people have benefitted from my social media posts. This is an encouragement for me to continue to bring cybersecurity content to the timeline.

Challenges I Encounter In My Line Of  Work
I sleep late every day; the earliest time I go to bed is 12 am (for someone that likes to sleep). A lot of times, I am actually overwhelmed. I struggle to balance the time I spend working with other personal activities. Sometimes, people ask for my help, but I am not able to give my best because I am overwhelmed or tired.

Other Projects And Activities
Within the context of cybersecurity, I mentor and guide people starting their journey. I support with training, internship, volunteering, interview preparation and other things that can help beginners and enthusiasts.

Outside of work, I love to spend time with family and friends. I love word games a lot. I am a football fan (I support one of the best clubs in the world – Chelsea FC).

What I Enjoy Most About My Job
Connecting with great minds. My job and career have exposed me to meeting a lot of people. Some of them are no longer colleagues/clients; they are now my friends. Cybersecurity is a field that can help someone build meaningful relationships.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
Confidence Staveley – My leader. She is an influential woman in tech doing big things. She is the founder of Cybersafe Foundation. She has used that initiative to transform the lives of young women in Nigeria and Africa. Only a selfless and visionary person can do that.

Simbiat Sadiq – my boss and friend. She is a resilient woman who has grown in her cybersecurity journey. I love her efficiency and dedication to making things work. I will be here to see her get all her flowers; she deserves it.

Dr Omotola Olowosule – She inspires me every day. Her hard work is second to none. She is very intelligent and kind. I love how she supports the people in her corner. It’s admirable.

One common thing about the three women I mentioned is that I have not met anyone of them physically.
Being The Recipient Of the Young CISO Of The Year Award And End User Advocacy For Situational Awareness in March 2022, And Its Impact

It gave me a better reach; people I did not expect connected with me. More cybersecurity beginners trusted me to support them in their journey. The award also encouraged me to do more; it made me realise that people are watching.

Every impact I make or have made in the past is seen. I was blown away by the support I got during the voting period. That alone was a lesson for me that “no matter what you do, people are watching”.

What We Can Do Better As A Society To Educate People, Especially The Youths On Cybersecurity
We have to continue to preach cybersecurity to everyone. There is a saying that goes “Information security is not complete without you”. I urge influential people and professionals in the cybersecurity field to use their platform to educate others.

There are several cybersecurity risks out there, and lack of awareness is a huge factor that causes people to fall for cybercrimes. One way to educate people is to use social media. A lot of youths understand how to use social media and technology. We can leverage different social media platforms to reach them and make them aware of cyber threats.

One Thing You I Wish To Change In The Cybersecurity Sector
Gatekeeping. Some people in the field think that their focus area is better than others. Some people think that they are more skilled than others. There are lots of amazing talents in this field that are searching for work experience. They are unable to get it because some hiring managers are not willing to train someone without experience.

In addition to all the points, cybersecurity is very broad and everyone has a chance to shine. Gatekeeping needs to stop so that people can be bold enough to share their journey.

What Government Should Do To Educate People On Cybersecurity
Continuous education. The government should invest in cybersecurity research and use that to educate its citizens.

Being A Woman of Rubies
I am passionate about what I do.  I just want to see other people grow and win in this field. I believe there is room for everyone to shine, and I wont stop offering my support in making this a reality for other people.