‘We either adapt and become innovative or we face extinction’

17 Apr 2020

Noureen Njoroge, Cisco. Image: Noureen Njoroge

As a cybersecurity consulting engineer at Cisco, Noureen Njoroge focuses on threat intelligence and proactive threat analytics.

Noureen Njoroge has always had a passion for technology and it’s what has led her to her current cybersecurity role in Cisco. From building her own PC at the age of 12 and repairing other people’s computers as a hobby, to building websites and taking on a systems admin role after college, she has years of experience embedded within the technology sector.

While she holds a bachelor’s degree in IT from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a certification in cybersecurity technology, application and policy from MIT, she said her on-the-job experience and opportunities have led her to where she is now.

“As a cybersecurity consulting engineer at Cisco, my main focus is in threat intelligence and proactive threat analytics. I truly enjoy my role as I get to interact with many customers, vendors, partners in the industry, advising and helping them how to be more proactive against emerging cyberattacks,” she said.

“I get to share my knowledge and skills while advocating for a better cybersecurity training awareness for all, as security is everyone’s responsibility.”

‘Change is inevitable in this industry. Be curious and eager to learn what’s evolving’

Njoroge said cybersecurity is an incredibly dynamic industry. From computer worms in the late 1980s to current ransomware and credit card attacks, in addition to insider threats, the industry is constantly evolving.

“Even the way we learn about cybersecurity from online education, certifications, webinars, podcasts and conferences. All these have revolutionised as this industry continues to grow,” she said. “The demand for professionals in this industry is on the rise as cyberattacks increase. I think this will be an upward trajectory as the threat actors are not slowing down either; sad but that’s the reality.”

Digital transformation and data protection

Njoroge said that just as people must adapt with the changing seasons, the same applies to digital transformation. “We either adapt to this new wave and become innovative or we face extinction,” she said.

“On security matters, I highly advocate to have security at the entry gate and not as an afterthought. Also ensuring that we transform those manual, reactive and static security practices into a more standardised, automated elastic approach, hence protecting our businesses’ crown jewels.”

When it comes to protecting data as digital transformation becomes a reality for most businesses, Njoroge said that “everyone should be data-protection centric”, with virtually all of our personal and business data intertwined.

“We have to be cautious on how we access, use and store [data]. Basic data protection hygiene such as backup and encryption to proper disposal practices should always be enforced.”

She added that in order to enforce data protection, we must always be able to answer five questions. How is the data secure? When does it get accessed, deleted, modified or shared? Why is the data getting collected? What data is being collected? And where is the data stored?

Mentorship within cybersecurity

As well as working in cybersecurity, Njoroge is also a very active mentor within the industry. She said she did this after learning how vital it is to have a mentor in the field. “I struggled finding a mentor at first because I realised this field consists of so many domains and was not sure what kind of mentor to look for,” she said.

“Eventually I tapped the shoulder of many senior people in the industry and they were gracious enough to mentor, advocate and sponsor me. Yes, I was vulnerable letting others know that I needed their guidance and, looking back, truly glad I did it.”

In her own work as a mentor, she said it’s rewarding because she still learns a lot from her mentees. “In addition to mentoring, I advocate and sponsor others as they transition into this field as it can be tough to break in.”

Njoroge is passionate about cybersecurity education and raising awareness around the importance of cyber safety. “I host a mentor and mentoring cyber chat every Saturday where I get to network, empower, inspire and share knowledge by answering cybersecurity questions from attendees,” she said.

“It’s my passion help others unpuzzle cybersecurity challenges, thus empowering them to thrive in the cybersecurity field.”

When it comes to working in this field, Njoroge said it takes a lot of learning, research, networking and motivation. “One has to be malleable. Change is inevitable in this industry. Be curious and eager to learn what’s evolving in the industry and pursue it and share with others your findings.”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic