#MIWIC2024: Blessing Usoro, Cyber for Schoolgirls

Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2024’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.

In 2024, the awards were sponsored by BTThink Cybersecurity Ltd. and Plexal, with Eskenzi PR, Assured and Women in Cybersecurity UK & Ireland Affiliate as partners.

What does your job entail?

I founded Cyber for Schoolgirls, a volunteer-led non-profit organisation that helps to educate young schoolgirls about starting a career in cybersecurity. As the Founder, I spend most of my time reaching out to secondary schools across Ireland. As well as seeking opportunities for collaboration with the industry and other technology non-profit organisations. I volunteer with a group of women in the cybersecurity industry, spread across Ireland. I usually find opportunities to visit secondary schools for the sole purpose of running cybersecurity workshops with the schoolgirls, like escape rooms, phishing tests and ethical hacking to generate awareness of security. I also attend exhibitions and speak at events to promote our cause.

As a Senior Information Security Manager, my work focuses on the field of governance, risk and compliance (GRC). As organisations move through increasing levels of security maturity, I help them establish policies, processes and systems to cover key areas of information security within the organisation. I conduct periodic risk assessments and compliance audits to help the business leaders of the organisation understand the state of information security within their organisation. I run cybersecurity awareness programs to build the security culture of the organisation. My expertise is further backed by relevant certifications, including CISM and CISA, and two Master degrees in the Cybersecurity field.

How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?

11 years ago, while I was in university studying telecommunications engineering. An old friend mentioned to me that he had just enrolled in a cybersecurity training course and asked if I was interested. I had always been intrigued by the movies and how hackers could extract information from computers in seconds. Looking back now, I realise that the movies were very exaggerated. I decided that I wanted to understand how data is transferred and protected on digital systems.

So I said, “why not?” I had some money, so I paid for the summer training course. It was on Ethical Hacking; Information Gathering, Reconnaissance and Social Engineering. That summer I learned about cybersecurity. I learned how to gather information about a person or organisation and how to exploit them using the information acquired. Naturally my skills grew, especially my skills in ethical penetration testing and email harvesting. By the time, I graduated, I knew I wanted a career in cybersecurity. I wanted to be one of the good guys in cybersecurity. To take things further, I moved to Ireland to study a master’s degree in Information and Network Security Engineering.

I joined a managed security service provider in Ireland. At the time I had just graduated from the Information and Network Security Engineering course. My dissertation was an in-depth comparison of the top open-source Security Information & Event Monitoring software. It impressed the CEO so much that I was hired on the spot. That was my first role in the industry, I became a Security Analyst. Everything went onwards and upwards from that point.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?

It’s a combination of being undermined, doubted, distrusted and intimidated with regards to my ability to perform at the level that is expected in an organisation. I’ve faced this many times with mild to extreme experiences. I had to learn to advocate for myself and to believe in myself. I don’t get rattled anymore, and I have learned and still learning to operate within different types of power structures at a high level.

What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?

I believe that I am a next-generation leader in the cybersecurity industry, so I take my role as an advocate in the industry quite seriously. Currently, I am the Founder of Cyber for Schoolgirls, which is exist to bridge the gender gap and prepare the next generation of young women for the world of cyber. I’ve gathered a passionate group of like-minded women, and together we spread the gospel of cybersecurity careers to girls in secondary schools everywhere. It’s been my long held belief that one of the ways we can address the lack of women in cyber, is helping young girls take an interest in the field and support them throughout their education.

In 2019, I co-founded a non-profit organisation called Cyber Women Ireland, which aimed to support women in cybersecurity and women trying to enter the cyber industry. We ran a mentorship program during the 2020 lockdown and successfully helped two women land a cybersecurity role. I also dedicate my time to speaking/mentoring women across the world who seek guidance in starting a career in Technology & Cybersecurity.

I show up everywhere I can, being the representation of diversity in the cybersecurity industry for those who do not have anyone to look up too.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?

Cybersecurity itself isn’t hard, and it can be a lucrative and secure career path for young girls and working women everywhere. There is more freely available cybersecurity knowledge and training now than ever before, there are also mentorship programs just for women. Don’t be afraid. As much as you want to work in cyber, the women who are already in cyber are just as eager to have more women to call friends and colleagues in cyber. You will not be alone. You will always have support because people like me are building a community that you can be part of.

Cybersecurity is interesting, there’s always room for career growth, there’s always new things to learn, and no two days are the same. There’s just so much to know between the constant updates of frameworks, emerging cyber threats and innovations in cyber defence. You belong here!

The post #MIWIC2024: Blessing Usoro, Cyber for Schoolgirls first appeared on IT Security Guru.

The post #MIWIC2024: Blessing Usoro, Cyber for Schoolgirls appeared first on IT Security Guru.

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Author: Charley Nash