10 tips for African Women launching a career in Cyber Security

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With every one of us having personal information from project plans, blog posts, stored id’s and passwords, bank transactions statement or that cute family photos you took when you went on a holiday trip on your personal computer. Perhaps, those confidential files from the office your boss always tells you to keep a backup off just in case some incident happened. It would amaze you how much a hacker could get by laying hands on your computer. Yes it’s the digital life we live in now where there’s less or no privacy and a drastic increase in scams through social engineering, frauds, cyber bullying, cyber stalking and a lot more seems to be the norm.

The need for cyber security professionals most especially women can never be over emphasized as these cyber crimes keep increasing. Just as It’s near impossible to not have a digital life, so it’s become almost impossible to not have the need for an information security engineer or a cyber security engineer. Recently on an article published on Forbes, it showed that there’s  just about 11% of women globally in the cyber security field. Also over 90% unfilled job spots year in year out; Say what now? In that 11% mark only 0.5-1% make up women with cyber security careers across Africa. So whats the deal? how come there are so many available job roles in cyber security but yet it’s not getting filled up.

Here’s an Infographic of African Women in Cybersecurity

The Why’ of Women In Cyber Security

Often wondered why there are very few women in cyber security? Yes i also wonder too. I ask myself if it’s the lack of awareness that there’s a role waiting to be filled? Perhaps the perception that there’s no need for an Information Security Analyst compared to the need for other tech jobs like software developers,app development, UX/UI Designers, devops engineer, etc.? Sometimes i think it’s the scare of being in an environment dominated by males and the thought of inferiority complex creeping in?Or just Maybe it’s too technical and way too broad to find where exactly you identify with?

Here are 10 tips for African Women launching a career in Cyber Security

It’s not enough to discuss the why’s without suggesting ways to get into cyber security. So i would be sharing these tips with you based on personal experiences, talks with other cyber security professionals and things i got from my research using Africa as a case study.

  1. Sit back and Ask yourself Why Cyber Security: Well for starters, if you’re going to convince anybody else to come into the field or why you have chosen to stick with Cyber security as your ultimate career you should have done enough research. Find out if it’s a field that gives you all shocks of excitement when you’re working on a project and How Passionate are you about Cyber Security? Also, ask yourself what kind of impact or values you can contribute as a person to the field based on the experiences and traits you feel would be needed. If it’s working as an analyst, doing penetration testing, convincing a development team on why they need to use secure code practices and guiding them how, being a cyber security evangelist, Working at the Design Unit to ensure a security product or solution gets a great UX/UI feel.

2. Find Out which Aspect of Cyber Security you Want to Go Into: This is really important especially when starting a career in info-sec. I remember attending a conference in 2016 and during one of the break-out sessions i was introduced to one of the outstanding female info-sec professional we have in Nigeria and she asked me what my focus was in Cyber security and i said, i was going to be all round(Lol). Doing Penetration testing, forensics, mobile application security, etc. But it can’t work, for you to be efficient with both your time and resources you have to be able to be a master in one.

3. Plug into the Cyber Security Community or Network: One of the other ways to launch a career in cyber security career in Africa is by getting yourself plugged in to various cyber security communities, like ours across all platforms. Reason is because there are certain information that are not available to the general public like research work, closed meetup groups, events, that are shared to just members.

4. Be Googly: I absolutely loved the movie “The Internship” Directed            by Shawn Levy but No. It’s not just about the movie but about the              ‘googly’ spirit and culture. It means you are never done learning or too old to learn new things, which is what a career in information security entails. First find a programming language and start coding, be it C, Python, Java, etc. Just Start. Being googly also means you’d have to keep googling and learning new courses and upgrading your skills as trend evolves and new threat emerges and the method’s you used previously to combat the old threats isn’t working for the new one.There  are lots of sites(e.g cybrary, eh hacking, edx, hackthesite, etc) out there with free tutorials on getting started in cyber security, hacking, risk management, etc.Whatever you don’t know ask ‘Google’ because someone somewhere has asked that.(its amazing). It also means falling in Love with new set of security tools that may turn out to be more efficient than your favorite Nessus or Acunetix or some other scanning tools.”Women have to work twice as hard as men work to prove themselves in a technical field, don’t settle for Average. Make sure to learn and own your field”

5. Start Playing C.T.F’s: The Capture The Flag(CTF) is a special kind of information security competition and it usually comes in three types: Jeopardy, Attack-Defence and mixed. Jeopardy-style CTFs has a couple of questions (tasks) in range of categories. For example, Web, Forensic, Crypto, Binary or something else. This competition is used as a learning tool for everyone that is interested in cyber security and it can help sharpen the tools they have learned during their training. One of the most popular sites for checking ctf games played globally can be found here.

6. Start saving towards your first Security Certification: So before i go on to encourage you to start taking on certifications. Know this, There are always two sides to a coin and  likewise, there are two sets of people in the cyber-security community. “Those who believe in certifications” and “Those who don’t”. And it really doesn’t matter if you do or don’t because I’ve seen both sides in top cyber security positions across the world. But there are some organizations in Africa which might look at your collection of certifications before granting you that interview. So Whilst the whole learning process is going on and you’re feeling excited, please start setting some money aside towards getting some of the certifications recommended by EH-Academy. There are few others I would like to recommend: OSCP,CSTP, GCIH, GPEN Penetration Tester, ECSA and LPT.

7. Ask Questions and never settle for a “NO”: In your pursuit of a career in cyber security, you would have the opportunity. No you would find Several Opportunities. In that time you would likely meet people from different levels in Cyber Security. Those starting a career like you and those with over 10-15 years in the field. But whenever you come to those people you don’t want to find yourself stuttering or asking the wrong questions. Why, because your 5 minutes interaction with them might be the next key to that dream job, contract deal or an event sponsorship. Also, whilst finding a career in cyber security you may get a lot of turn-downs. Reason being that, you don’t have enough skills or sufficient working experience, but don’t settle!. Keep pushing, keep learning, keep setting the goals and keep applying.
10 tips for African Women launching a career in Cyber Security

8. Run away from the Misogynistic type of men: Yup!! I said it RUNNNNN!! These kind of men are sometimes found in a male dominated environment showcasing or exhibiting hatred,  dislike, mistrust, or mistreatment of women in the work place. And being around such people would make you doubt your skills and qualification for the job. They would make you feel less encouraged and deserving of your position at work. often times drive you to quit. But knowing just in time keeps you ahead and helps you manage those type of people better.

9. Wear a smile and have a good sense of humour: There are always two sides to this. Imagine being at a conference with two young ladies, one seemed very uptight and locked up compared to the other. One keeps engaging you, asking questions about your product and dishing suggestions that could be implemented. Once in a while throws a good laugh whilst sharing personal stories. Who do you think you’d remember more? So there’s nothing more sexier than a smart techie, who wears a good smile with a great sense of humour. It comes in handy especially when you’re trying to break into the cyber security community and still building relationships. 

“There’s nothing sexier than a smart techie, who wears a good smile with a great sense of humour”.

10. Keep up to date with security trends: Lastly, quite simple but often ignored. Keep yourself updated with the latest on security news, new vulnerabilities and exploit releases, new product reviews, and lots more. You can always do this by subscribing to the top cyber security blogs like,reddit net-sec, malware tech blog, etc. You can also stay updated to the latest on cyber security by the people you follow on twitter. Lucky enough there is a curated list of awesome women in cyber security to follow here.

It’s an Awesome Career and i’m totally confident you’d love it. So big Welcome to you on this journey and for taking the right step..

That’s all we have for this post. If you feel there’s a tip we missed out please share with us on the comment session.  Thank you!!!

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