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#MIWIC2024 One To Watch: Valeen Oseh-Ovarah, Founder and CEO of TisOva

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 Ones to Watch winners 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 role entail?

Currently, as the founder of my cybersecurity startup, TisOva, I am deeply invested in our mission to protect students from online scams. My role as an early-stage and solo founder encompasses a diverse range of responsibilities essential to our startup’s success. I dedicate a significant portion of my time to conducting thorough customer research and engaging with students and stakeholders to understand their needs and challenges comprehensively. Nurturing relationships with universities and other partners is crucial, as it fosters collaborative partnerships vital to product development and adoption.

Participating in accelerator programs has been pivotal in my journey as a first-time tech startup founder, especially as an immigrant in a new country. These programs offer invaluable guidance and insights into building a successful startup. I am always on the lookout for accelerators aligned with our product offerings, technology, and industry.

Securing investments for our company is also a crucial responsibility. From crafting compelling grant applications to developing pitch decks and engaging in conversations with potential investors, I am actively involved in seeking funding opportunities to fuel our development and growth. Additionally, I am actively involved in the development of our product and lead a multinational team of engineers, requiring effective communication, product and project management, mentorship, and collaboration to execute our mission successfully.

Building brand awareness and attracting customers are essential components of our startup’s success. I develop and execute marketing strategies, leveraging social media, content marketing, and partnerships to reach our target market and drive engagement.

Actively participating in industry events and conferences keeps me informed about industry trends, market intelligence, and helps forge strategic partnerships. I also seek guidance from mentors and advisors to refine our strategies.

Beyond my role as a founder, I am deeply committed to advancing cybersecurity through mentorship and advocacy. As a STEM Ambassador with STEM Learning and a CyberFirst Ambassador for Wales, I inspire young adults to pursue STEM careers and champion diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, particularly for women and within the black community. I also leverage my Education, Study Abroad and Tech YouTube Channel to do same.

Furthermore, I leverage speaking engagements to share insights on Tech & Cybersecurity, STEM education, Online safety, DEI, International Students and Girl Child education. Through these efforts, I aim to drive positive change within the industry and beyond.

What made you consider a career in cybersecurity? How did you end up in your current role?

It’s fascinating how seemingly ordinary moments can shape our destinies. For me, it all started with watching the American series ’24.’ with my family. I found myself captivated by the character of Chloe O’Brian at the Counter Terrorist Unit. Her ability to navigate criminal cases from behind her computer screen ignited a curiosity within me that would shape my future path.

Despite the absence of a cybersecurity major in Nigerian universities at the time, I pursued my passion by obtaining a Diploma in Computer Science Education, followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Determined to achieve my cybersecurity goal, I relocated to the United States as an international students to pursue a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity with a concentration in Cybercrime investigations from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Whilst studying, I worked as a Cybercrime Investigator at the UAB Computer Forensics and Research Laboratory, collaborating with tech giants, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies. It was during this time that I delved into the intricacies of cybercrime investigation and my passion for online safety soared.

My professional journey led me to roles as a fraud investigator at BBVA and as a Technical Specialist for a leading Motorola hardware and software manufacturer, Minim. However, my journey took an unexpected turn when I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of online scams on both domestic and international students, including my mom. This experience propelled me to leverage my expertise in cybersecurity to address this pressing issue.

In 2023, fueled by a desire to make a tangible difference, I made the bold decision to relocate to the UK on an Innovator Visa, embarking on a new chapter as the founder of TisOva—a cybersecurity startup with a mission to safeguard students from online scams and enhance their online safety.

What advice would you give to new starters?

To new starters, I encourage you to adopt a mindset of possibility and perseverance. Embrace the belief that anything is achievable with determination and dedication. Don’t disqualify yourself from opportunities before trying; apply for roles that interest you within the industry, and don’t fear rejection. Each application is an opportunity for growth and learning. And, if there’s no seat for you at the table, make one!

Embrace curiosity and continuous learning. The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, so staying updated with the latest trends, technology, and threats is essential.

Furthermore, identify problems in the cybersecurity sector or within your community that resonate with you, and take action to solve them or participate in Capture The Flags (CTF). This not only creates tangible impact but also serves as a valuable learning experience and conversation starter with potential employers or mentors.

Additionally, build in public. Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals, engage in meaningful conversations, and build your network.

This is one that I personally struggled with. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or seek out mentorship opportunities when needed. Seeking guidance and support from others in the industry can provide valuable insights and accelerate your learning journey as you navigate your career paths. Remember, people are often willing to help, but they can only do so if you reach out.

Lastly, find ways to give back to the community. Volunteer for conferences, mentor colleagues or aspiring professionals, and share resources or opportunities that could benefit others. Contributing to the community not only enriches your own experience but also fosters a culture of collaboration and growth within the industry.

What’s the biggest misconception about cybersecurity that you’ve found?

One of the prevailing misconceptions in cybersecurity is the belief that older people are more susceptible to online scams. Contrary to this belief, students are increasingly vulnerable to various cyber threats, including phishing scams, identity theft, and financial fraud. Shockingly, young adults aged 34 and under are nearly five times more likely to fall victim to scams than older demographics and 1 in 3 students have encountered a scam in the UK.

At TisOva, we are committed to addressing this misconception and shedding light on the significant risks that students face in the digital age. By raising awareness about the unique vulnerabilities of young adults to cyber scams, we aim to empower students with the knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves online. Through our innovative scam detection technology and educational initiatives, we strive to create a safer online environment for students everywhere.

What do you wish you had know when you were starting out in cyber?

Reflecting on my journey in cybersecurity, there are a couple of things I wish I had known when starting out. Firstly, I wish I had understood the dynamic nature of professional relationships. I’ve come to understand that relationships, even those built on mentorship, may evolve. While mentorship and guidance are invaluable, it’s essential to recognize when a professional relationship is no longer serving its purpose. While it can be challenging, especially as a mentee, it’s okay to walk away from such relationships and seek new opportunities for growth and support. Embracing this understanding has allowed me to prioritize my well-being and professional development, fostering healthier and more meaningful connections within the cybersecurity community.

Secondly, I wish I had known earlier in my cybersecurity journey that not every aspect of cybersecurity is a perfect fit for me. Initially, I believed I needed to have expertise in every aspect of Cybersecurity, which would be an unrealistic expectation. Understanding and embracing the specific areas within cybersecurity that genuinely resonate with my interests and passions helped me focus my energy on areas where I could make the most impact. For me, the excitement and fulfillment lie in cybercrime investigations, and I am thrilled to be leading a startup aligned with this passion.

So for new starters, don’t be afraid to explore different aspects of cybersecurity early on in your journey. Trying out various roles and specialties can help you discover where your true interests and strengths lie, ultimately guiding your career path toward fulfillment and success.

 

The post #MIWIC2024 One To Watch: Valeen Oseh-Ovarah, Founder and CEO of TisOva first appeared on IT Security Guru.

The post #MIWIC2024 One To Watch: Valeen Oseh-Ovarah, Founder and CEO of TisOva appeared first on IT Security Guru.


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Author: Charley Nash