Category Archives: Personal Experiences

Personal Experiences

Role Models and Trail Blazers: Fatimah Adelodun – October 2020

Every month, WISDOM highlights the achievements and perspective of inspiratinoal colleagues in the field as part of a Q and A series. Our very first nominated role model and trail blazer is Fatimah Adelodun, the Cyber Security Engineer at Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc.

Fatimah has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and graduated from Edhec Business School where she earned an MBA degree. Fatimah started her career as an intern in IT in the year 2012 and over the years she has worked and evolved to become a well-rounded IT professional with immense passion for cyber security. She has worked on numerous projects and applications and has acquired various certifications including CISA, CISM, CEH, ITIL. Fatimah is also well-versed in cloud computing and data analytics. She is a regular speaker at the annual “Girls in ICT Day” where she sensitizes young girls about IT security and careers in IT.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of information security? 
Fatimah: Information Security is a constantly evolving ecosystem. Earlier security incidents were often contained to individual user’s systems, resulting in little downtimes. However, the complexity of security attacks have increased over the years. With the increasingly interconnected environment, information is exposed to a growing variety of risks such as computer hacking, malwares, denial of services, etc. and the resulting effects range from causing billions of dollars of damage to businesses and completely shutting down others. Even with the proliferation of security solutions in the market, threats have continued to grow in severity making remediation even more challenging. This makes implementing and maintaining information security arduous for any organization.

What has been the proudest moment of your career to date? 
Fatimah: That would be the moment I was confirmed as a full-time staff at my place of work. Having started as an intern with an organization in infancy, I was entrusted with a role to build the IT department from the ground up. I literally had to have a 360-degree understanding of running an IT department and as a fresh graduate then with mostly theoretical knowledge, I had a lot of challenging moments. Summarily, I enrolled in courses, broke a few things, built some, but mostly, I grew as an IT professional. I learnt and became even more passionate about IT. Getting retained as full-time staff (not a common practice in my office) based on my outstanding performance after the completion of my internship made all the hurdles even more worth it.

What are the most enjoyable parts of your work? 
Fatimah: As a firm believer in the advantages offered by technology and information security, I enjoy deploying robust digital protection (firewall, anti-virus, wireless security, etc.) against a cyber diverse range of issues. Ensuring that users can use computer systems and applications as and when needed while reducing the risks from potential threats to the barest minimum enhances productivity at work. I also enjoy a good challenge and working in cyber security ensures to keep me on my toes as protecting critical infrastructure is anything but boring.  Besides protecting systems and data, I love learning new things and because information security is constantly evolving and new technologies emerging, jobs in the domain evolve too and so do the required skills.

What are the most challenging parts of your work? 
Fatimah: Everyday comes with its own challenges. Some unique, others not. While security incidents are almost unavoidable, being proactive and putting necessary measures can help in reducing the risks to an organization. A rather challenging aspect of my work is convincing the management to view information security as an intrinsic part of the business.

What lessons have you learnt as your progress through your career?
Fatimah: 
* Enact a multi-layered defense strategy that covers the entire enterprise (endpoints, data, applications, mobile devices).
* Continuously back-up data to safeguard against incidents and attacks such as ransomware.
* Patch software regularly.
* Problems don’t finish, live a little.

What are your reflections on diversity and inclusion within your field?
Fatimah: The STEM fields and particularly IT is male-dominated. There are moments of awkwardness when I walk into a meeting-room filled with men. Globally, women endure work environments where their contributions are not as valued as much as their male counterparts and so have more to prove. Some people are of the opinion that men are more built for technical roles than women and this type of reasoning discourages young girls and limits our opportunities in the workplace. It is refreshing to have discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion. Although many companies put their efforts towards both on their website, only few actually implement it.

In your view, how can we increase diversity and inclusion in information security? 
Fatimah: At the core of inclusion and diversity should be the deliberate creation of an enabling environment that supports all genders, religion and ethnicities. More importance should be placed on competence than gender, the color of our skin or religious beliefs.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their career? 
Fatimah: I would advise anyone starting their career to dare to dream. The tech industry is a huge one. Take your time in deciding your areas of interests/specialization. Also, invest in self-development; There are loads of useful resources that can help in guiding you to becoming more grounded. Finally, build a network of professionals in the industry. This is really important for future opportunities.

What advice would you give to recruiters for your field? 
Fatimah: I would advise recruiters to let candidates know their status in recruitment processes as soon as possible.

Do you know inspirational colleagues who could be our next WISDOM Trailblazer? If so, please get in touch with wisdom-owner@lists.rhul.ac.uk and/or amy.ertan.2017@rhul.ac.uk.

Author: Amy Ertan

WISDOM’s London Universities Women in STEM Day

On June 1st 2017, WISDOM’s London Universities Women in STEM Day was held at the London Mathematical Society in Russell Square, London . The event aimed to connect groups and individuals in London working towards the goal of promoting women in STEM, with interesting speakers from both academia and industry. (Speaker biographies can be seen here.) The event aimed to act as a forum to share ideas, to discuss hurdles and to network; we hoped each attendee would leave with some new ideas they could implement in their workplace and some new contacts.

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Five years ago I wouldn’t have joined WISDOM.

Back when I was an undergraduate student of Mathematics I remember periodically receiving emails inviting me to a ‘Women in Maths’ event taking place within the department. Most of these events were targeted at early stage mathematicians (undergraduates, PhD students, and postdocs) who were women, and focused on their career. I never attended any of these events, actively selecting to ignore them instead. In this post I want to share some reasons why I avoided these events, and reflect on how I feel differently now.

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Voice and Influence Program, session 6: Power and Influence

This week’s Voice and Influence programme was on the topic of Power and Influence. We discussed various social signals that position someone in an authoritative “high” position, versus those for an approachable “low” position. There is a need to recognise when one position is more beneficial to you as an influential voice. As a rule-of-thumb, authoritative signals as a speaker and approachable signals as a listener.

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PhD: Year one with a one year old. Ammara’s story.

Ammara is a WISDOM member, PhD student and mother to a beautiful one year old daughter. Bareera was born just before Ammara started her PhD and, just as Ammara enters her second year, she tells us about her experiences over the past year.

ammaraIn March 2015, Dr. Stephen Wolthusen accepted me as his PhD student while I was just two months pregnant. I was very excited to be accepted as I am the first female in my family to do a PhD. By the end of April, I received a formal offer letter from Royal Holloway, followed by the Higher Education Commision of Pakistan providing me with an award letter. I had initially refrained from telling Dr. Wolthusen the truth about my pregnancy, but I had to delay the start date of my PhD because the baby was later than expected and when I did tell Stephen, he was very supportive and understanding. My daughter was born on the 4th October and, just 13 days later, I travelled to Egham and started my PhD on the 21st October. Unfortunately, I had to leave my daughter in Pakistan as I could not manage to complete the paperwork to bring her with me ready in time.
I quickly learnt that the most important factor affecting one’s academic performance is your mental state. I was very sad to leave my daughter in Pakistan and found seeing her on Skype, sitting on other people’s laps and not mine, very upsetting. During this period, I had plenty of time to study but missed her greatly. But, finally, time passed and when she was eight months old I was able to go back to Pakistan to see her. With a bit of difficulty, I managed to bring her home to England with me. I loved having my daughter with me again, but found it very challenging. I spoke to a number of colleagues in a similar situation to me about how they manage completing a PhD with a baby and found myself googling ‘how to manage a PhD with a baby’ many times! I was comforted by hundreds of other stories like mine and found myself motivated and determined to juggle everything.
Underlying my motivation is my supervisor’s support. Countless times he has surprised me with his kindness. He has been incredibly supportive and helped take responsibility for all my problems. During meetings, he will happily hold my daughter if needed. If any woman, anywhere in the world, has someone like Stephen around, I am sure they will be able to achieve their dreams.

Ammara Gul (PhD Student)