African Women in CyberSecurity: Spotlight on ‘Ireti Akerele’

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Globally women are still vastly underrepresented in the field of information and CyberSecurity. In Africa the truth isn’t far fetched. But Women like Ireti are learning from their fears  to stand firm against all odds, break bounds and strive to be much better in their skills and career whilst bringing change to the Infosec community.

Find out what Ireti has to say regarding her fears, job, challenges she faces and how she has succeeded in the information security industry so far.

Feels great to have you here, Could you please tell us your name and what you do?

My name is Iretioluwa Akerele. I am a Cyber Risk Consultant. So what the company i work for does is, help organizations  align to leading  security practices like the ISO 27001, ISO 22301, ISO 20000, COBIT 5 as well as  performing technology reviews for web and mobile applications.

Awesome, What did you study in school and how did you find yourself working in Information Security?

I had my first degree at Covenant University with a Bsc Management Information Systems in 2009. In 2014 i completed my Msc in Information Security and Computer Forensic at University of East London.

As to how i got into Infosec, it’s a funny one. The first thought on information security came into mind in 2013 after my second failed attempt on CISA exam (Certified Information Systems Auditor), because i was trying to define the direction i needed to tech in IT.  I felt i needed to specialize in a particular area in order to be a professional as my previous work experience was in the bank (Risk Management). So I took the bold step and started putting in for my Masters which changed my career totally.

After my Masters programme, i got a job as a consultant at a security firm in Lagos which enabled me to gain practical insights in information security. I can say that there has been a remarkable progress since then.

So you always knew Infosec was the field for you from the go?

Honestly, I was not so sure as at the time i started my Masters programme. I was just going along with the flow like most students do. But by the time i started my dissertation,I was able to conduct some research into security policies and standards like the ISO 27001 which broadened my knowledge. That was more or less the conviction i needed to know that Infosec was the field for me.

What does a typical work day look like for you working as a cyber risk consultant?

So for a typical day i have Meetings, Interviews, Awareness sessions. Other times i am just involved in implementations, which is is dependent on the project stage.

Spotlight on ‘Iretioluwa Akerele’

Oh wow that’s an interesting view. What would you say gets you excited or challenges you more about working in Infosec?

The excitement in the field is being able to solve a client’s problems. Its  ecstatic 🙂.  Information Security cuts across various aspects and there are always opportunities to learn and research into new areas. I do my best to read about trends in the industry and also see how applicable it is which i can in turn use for my clients. Lastly, with my exposure in information security, i have been able to save some people from attacks like phishing and other social engineering attacks that they did not take seriously and for me that is one of the best feelings, playing hero from time to time.

What challenges more in the field is having to be more security conscious than ever as you do not want to be caught slipping. In Information Security, you have to practice what you preach, You can’t be telling your clients not to click on strange links and you are guilty of that. It has become my way of life, shapening me to be better.

Spotlight on ‘Iretioluwa Akerele’

Has gender discrimination affected you in any way or stopped you from attaining certain goals in your career?

I will say that during my Masters and work experience, I have witnessed more men in the field. But i have not allowed that to affect me in anyway. What i realize is that knowing your job or knowing the solution to a problem an organization is facing has nothing to do with gender. if you’re great at it  and can solve it you would be chosen. I remember that my dissertation was so good that my supervisor asked me to come present it to the class.

Wow, thats great!! whats the best part of being a woman in infosec?

The best part is women in Infosec always seem to stand out wherever they are. Because the field is largely dominated by men, so you’d always notice that lady in the room who is a security engineer, security analyst or a security auditor. It’s just there. Lastly, when people hear you’re working in Infosec, they kind of want to listen to you and know what you have to say.

Spotlight on ‘Iretioluwa Akerele’

I have to agree that is actually true. Now having been in the field for quite some time, would you say the number of women in infosec here in Nigeria has increased or Reduced?

I will say it has increased. I think young women are becoming more aware, and if you look at the Information Security Professional Services Firms, You will find women there doing really great things and working on some cool projects.

Thats very true. How did you get to where you are today, and what are the challenges you faced?

I got to where i am by improving on my fears. I think thats key irrespective of your field. My major challenge was building my confidence. When i started, i used to be scared of interacting with executives and the high level staff of an organization. I cannot say i am there yet, but i think i am better from where i started.

How do you deal with employees or clients that aren’t willing to accept a change or security policy that needs to be implemented and we can we drive in more women into this amazing field because the stats of women in it is still at 11% ?

One thing i learnt on the job is that people want to be heard. My approach is to always listen to their reasons and build my own discussions from there, then reference the particular standard. That way, most clients would later accept the change or work around it.

About getting more women involved in Infosec I think there should be more awareness from women that are in the field already. Personally, i am open to mentor younger people that have a passion in Infosec. A forum like She Secures is also a good one as i have seen lots of ladies join the platform and also contribute in their own way.

Spotlight on ‘Iretioluwa Akerele’

Any last words for that young lady who’s in school and not sure where she should start from to get into Infosec Or those who are fairly new in the career and want to succeed in the field?

For the young girl in school. The most important thing is to ‘START’. Start learning, start reaching out to people, start asking. Just START!

For those fairly new in the career, Never give up, you can do it. Believe in yourself!

Connect with Ireti on Linkedin and Twitter

She Secures Spotlight is set to inspire the next wave of young women in Information and Cyber Security to step forward and positively influence future development.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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