In this empowering feature, I interviewed Adesina Mariam, a woman in tech, particularly an expert in cyber security.
She is an upcoming lawyer with an eye for curiosity, and loves exploring data, fixing problems and fueling growth.
Mariam makes use of intellectual curiosity to find answers to the most urgent questions. She has taken the Google data analysis specialization and now enrolled in The Ada Project to further her understanding of Data Analysis.
Hi! It’s great to have you here for this interview. Can you please introduce yourself?
Hi! It’s good to also be here. My name is Adesina Mariam.
So, why tech? What exactly attracted you to wanting to be a “woman in tech” person
It was mainly because of the Asuu strike. I was at home and wasn’t doing anything, just scrolling through social media and then I started learning about tech. I’ve known about tech since school but I didn’t see myself as a tech person. But because of the Asuu strike, I decided to give it a shot, and cyber security was my first stop
That’s interesting! So Can you tell me about your experience in the field of cybersecurity before you decided to quit?
When I started, it was very easy. I took a Cisco course named “Introduction to cyber security”. But cyber security by nature is cumbersome, there are a whole lot of terms to understand and this made it scary for me as I didn’t have a solid foundation. I remember starting with YouTube, but I don’t feel like that was the best option to have started with. I was meant to start with a boot camp to allow me to build a solid foundation in it, and understand the concept of cyber security. So, I’ll say it was easy just because I didn’t get past the easy stage ( the beginning phase)
What initially attracted you to the field of cybersecurity? What motivated you to pursue a career in it?
They make a lot of money and I was just like Wow. And it was one of the most advertised tech roles at that time, and most people weren’t interested in it because it was hard. I was mainly going for being a SOC analyst, so it wasn’t something that was going to make me hack or be a red heart, it was just checking and monitoring the company’s system for viruses and malware attacks. The role I decided to pick wasn’t an actual hard role, it had good pay and was easy to break into. But it was quite cumbersome and there were a whole lot of exams to write
I can imagine having to write so many exams, I’d run away too. My next question is, what specific challenges or difficulties did you encounter while working in cybersecurity?
I’ve not worked in cyber security. I only learnt about it. And a mistake I made was after taking a course on introduction to cyber security, I started studying for exams instead of taking further courses. And these exams and YouTube channels made them seem easy, you know all those sweet talks about the exam being easy but in reality, the exam wasn’t as YouTube channels had described it. Also, before taking the exams, you need to have a certain level of experience. I didn’t start with maybe A Plus or Network Plus. I started with security plus straight up but I was meant to already know how the network works, and the hardware of a system before trying to take a security plus exam.
Can you provide an example of a project or task that you found particularly challenging or overwhelming? How did you approach it?
I’ll say it was studying for the exams. Breaking into cyber security was hard because you won’t necessarily find people who are willing to give you the exact things they used to break into it, maybe the boot camps or the courses they took. You have to be the one to look for it yourself. I think that was particularly challenging for cybersecurity because it’s not easy to find someone that will teach you well. There were a whole lot of boot camps at that time too but most didn’t incorporate cyber security into their curriculum because people weren’t trying to get into it.
This boot camp thing has been coming up a lot. I have no idea what it is and I’m sure there are people like me who also have no idea. So can you please tell us what a boot camp is?
It’s a program where they teach you about different tech roles
Did you receive any form of support or training to help you navigate the challenges in cybersecurity? If so, what kind of support did you receive? If not, do you believe having additional support could have made a difference?
No, I didn’t necessarily receive any support while trying to navigate learning cybersecurity. I feel If I had support around that time, maybe a mentor or a boot camp that was teaching cybersecurity, it would have been helpful because the world of cybersecurity is so broad you don’t even know where exactly you’re going. You’d need someone to help you streamline what’s going on.
Were there any particular aspects of cybersecurity that you found more difficult than others? If so, could you explain what they were and why they were challenging for you?
The concept of social engineering was very easy for me. All these types of attacks, how those attacks could be carried out and all was very easy for me. But when it came to learning the port for this and that, ports to be closed and all, I had so many problems with that. And because I had no prior knowledge about it, just beginner’s experience, I was just like, you know what? this isn’t for me and then I stopped. And also like I said before trying to take my exams was pretty tough. I had to go back to start learning about A plus and at that point, I was no longer feeling it. I just knew I was done and I found solace elsewhere.
Did you feel adequately prepared or equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle the demands of cybersecurity? If not, what areas do you think were lacking?
No, I don’t feel I was adequately prepared and that’s why I had to stop. There are a lot of skills I could have learnt but I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know a lot of necessary things, I was just focused on social engineering. I didn’t learn anything about Kali Linux, and I hadn’t yet gone practical. It was just the theory I was focused on.
How did you handle the stress and pressure associated with working in cybersecurity? Were there any coping mechanisms or strategies that you found helpful?
When I was trying to navigate the world of cybersecurity, interestingly I enjoyed it but then it could get overwhelming especially because all I had to mostly learn from was “YouTube channels”. As I was learning on YouTube, whenever it got tough, I’d just watch funny YouTube videos to ease my stress, instead of doing my work. It was a coping mechanism that was very helpful because I was taking too many things at once instead of going at my own pace. And cybersecurity is something that you have to understand what you’re doing, or you’d just get lost
Did you reach out to mentors or colleagues for guidance or assistance when faced with difficulties? If so, how did they respond, and did it make a difference?
Not at all. I had no mentors, no colleagues that I knew of. It was just me and YouTube channels against the world. But I watched stories of people that didn’t go to school or anything but they just ventured into it. They gave really good advice but then most of these people are abroad and you know the way things work abroad is quite different from Nigeria. They had more opportunities like apprenticeship programmes, where they teach and pay them for learning cyber security and I feel if there was anything like that in Nigeria, people would be motivated to learn but it is what it is.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently to overcome the challenges you faced in cybersecurity? Is there any support or resources that you believe would have been beneficial to you?
Yeah, there are a lot of things I would have done differently. Maybe I would have started with a boot camp so I could have even understood what was happening with what I was learning. I think a good foundation is fundamental and it’s the best thing you can do. regardless of whatever you choose to learn. Also having access to some resources which I think is important for everybody too is having data. If you’re going into tech, you’d need to have data a lot and if you can have your data taken care of and then a laptop, that king of resources would have made it easier or better for me to learn cybersecurity.
Are there any aspects of cybersecurity that you still find intriguing or interesting, even though you decided to quit? If so, what are they?
I loved cybersecurity. There’s this particular part that I can never forget. “Choose your device, and bring your device”. It had to do with remote working. “Choosing your device” had to do with telling your company that okay this is the device I want to use, send it over to me and I’ll use it for my work at your company. “Bring your device” means I’ll use my device for your company, but there will be your company’s software on it and I’ll work with that. Choosing your device reduces any chance of cyber security attacks while bringing your device facilitates cyber-attacks because now you’re using your device for both your personal use and company use. That’s one thing I’m sure I’ll always carry with me because it’s something I cannot forget as it helps me with my other role in tech.
What are your future career aspirations or areas of interest now that you have left cybersecurity?
Right now, it’s been about 9-10 months since I left Cybersecurity. I’m focused on data analysis and product development. I know it’s not something that people hear and most people will say data analysis isn’t relevant to product development but in product development, when it comes to market research and heading teams, I feel data analysis can work with product management to facilitate product development.
We’ve come to the end of this interview. Thank you so much for your time. I’ve learnt a great deal and I hope the readers can pick up a thing or two from your session. Thank you once again and have a great day.