When individuals are at the forefront of technological advancement, the possibilities of that technology are virtually limitless. Regrettably, Africa's limited technological capabilities have been a drag on its economic development. However, in addition to improving the infrastructure, the majority of researchers believe that having a large pool of individuals who are trained in these technologies is one of the solutions to this problem. Confidence Staveley, a cybersecurity specialist who has won multiple awards, couldn't agree with you more, and she is employing her abilities and resources to make sure that there is a change in the industry in which she plays.
Certain individuals are endowed with the capacity for foresight as well as the determination to defy the odds and follow what they see. I just gave you a description of Confidence, who went through a challenging journey to get to where she is today; she is the owner of a company that is driving best practices for cybersecurity across Africa, particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.
If I were to be a little more shiny about it, I'd call myself a cybersecurity queen; I'm also a cybersecurity evangelist. Recently, I've taken on the role of a cyber talent developer in addition to my other responsibilities.Confidence Staveley Founder, CyberSafe Foundation
It was discovered by Confidence that cybersecurity and online safety were not receiving as much attention in Africa as their relative significance on a global scale indicates they should. The global market for cybersecurity was estimated to be worth more than $139 billion in 2021, and it was anticipated that this value would increase to more than $155 billion by the end of 2022. In addition, she feels that raising awareness will encourage more people to assist others in maintaining their online safety, which would likely lead to the development of a job path for these individuals.
"A significant portion of the work that I perform is centered on raising awareness about best practices in cybersecurity, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our society. I am preparing the next generation of cybersecurity experts to take advantage of opportunities in the industry of cybersecurity. One more essential thing that I do is to introduce myself and say something along the lines of, "Cybersecurity is an option of a career path that is very much in demand and very much fun to be in." Because of my exposure, a lot of individuals are motivated and want to begin a career in cybersecurity, and I've heard this a lot of times over the years.
Confidence is a G100 Global Chair for Cybersecurity, which means she is in charge of guiding 100 women in various nations to protect women's safety online and provide doors for them to pursue employment in professional fields.
In addition to this, she has garnered acclaim on both the continental and international levels. For example, Top 50 Women in Cybersecurity in Africa in 2020, Young CISO of the Year award, the highly regarded Cybersecurity Woman of the Year in 2021, CovenWorks Top 10 Powerful Women in Technology in 2021, LeadingLadies Africa's 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria in 2022, and IFSEC Global Influencers in Security and Fire 2021 are just a few of the awards that she has received. She is also a prominent Obama ally from Africa.
"I am the founder of CyberSafe Foundation, and our organization has a two-part mission: we are looking to increase digital access across Africa as well as drive inclusivity. The aspect of ensuring people's safety while using technology is truly the key to helping them acquire the skills they need to launch successful professions.
The classic children's rhyme "Good, better, best," which goes "Good, better, best," The mantra "Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better best" exemplifies Confidence's relentless pursuit of improvement. However, she claims that she fell into the field of cybersecurity by accident.
It is difficult to recount her tale without first examining the challenges that she overcome in order to arrive at the point where she is now.
Confidence did not have a silver spoon in her mouth when she was born, but she does credit her parents for being the driving force behind her success. They came to the conclusion that they would make it their mission to instill in their offspring the qualities that would set them apart from others. It should come as no surprise that Confidence takes advantage of every opportunity to speak positively of them.
"My parents are wonderful folks; they were wealthy but not opulent. They worked hard all their lives. When I say they were wealthy, what I really mean is that although they did not have a lot of money, they had very high aspirations for their children and wanted the best for us. However, they were forced to come to terms with the fact that they did not have sufficient funds.
However, there is one more specific aspect that must be overlooked.
My father has always placed a strong emphasis on education despite the fact that none of my parents ever completed high school.
Her parents insisted that she take a year off after she finished secondary school before attempting the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination, which is required for admission to postsecondary institutions in Nigeria. Confidence believes that her parents required some additional time in order to gather the necessary finances in order to pay for her college studies.
They hoped that their intelligent daughter would enroll in one of the more prominent fields of study available at the time, such as medicine, law, accountancy, or engineering. On the other hand, there was going to be an unexpected dramatic change of events.
The decision to take a year off between high school and college turned out to be pivotal in her life. It was during a time when an information technology training institute had recently begun operations in the South-Southeast region of the nation, which is where she resided. In an effort to keep her occupied, her parents enrolled her in a computer class.
"The phrase 'go and learn computing' was the key that unlocked the box of Pandora for me." I went there, and while I was there, I was given my first introduction to computing and coding.
As I listened to Confidence talk about this part of her journey, I could see that thirteen years ago, when she was going to and coming from her computer training classes, she was incredibly excited.
"The very first day they taught me how to code, I was able to construct things, I could write scripts in C# and in Java, and I immediately realized that medicine was not my calling."
She had to get creative in order to persuade her parents that she should pursue her new goal of becoming a software engineer because, at the time, that field was not very well known in Calabar.
"At the time, I did not own a computer, and I did not have the financial means to get one. I was familiar with PowerPoint but I didn't take it home with me because I didn't have a computer. As a result, I created my slides using cardboard, gave a presentation to my parents about why technology is the way of the future, and demonstrated to them how enthusiastic I am about this subject.
She already had a letter of admission to study medicine at the university, but she wanted to pursue a ridiculous idea that involved giving up that admission, continuing her training at the institute, getting a diploma certificate in software engineering, and then going abroad to get her first degree in software engineering. She needed her parents' approval for this plan, which involved giving up that admission, continuing her training at the institute, getting a diploma certificate in software engineering, and then going abroad. Hers was an unrealistic goal for a home that had few resources to work with. However, they had faith in her and decided to comply with her choice.
Because there was no point of comparison, I continue to see my parents as the most courageous individuals I am acquainted with. I was explaining to them that the way I planned to earn my degree was a non-traditional one, but they could see that I was passionate about it and that I had a plan for how it would all play out. They were required to have faith that their child grasped the concept, regardless of whether or not they themselves comprehended it.
After completing the diploma program, she obtained a position in the information technology department of a government agency.
"At that time, I had begun assisting at the administration building, where I was building their website and maintained their server."
In the meantime, she had already been accepted to Middlesex University in London to study information technology and corporate information systems, but there was no financing available. The coincidence of opportunity and readiness was a happy accident. A high-level executive who was impressed by her ability to find solutions to difficult problems advocated for her to be awarded a scholarship funded by the government, which she did. After that, Confidence did exceptionally well in her first degree, earning a first-class grade. After that, she was awarded an additional scholarship to pursue her master's degree at the University of Bradford, from which she ultimately emerged with honors.
When exactly did things start to change?
"It was when I was choosing electives for my master's degree that I realized how similar the courses I had available for electives were to the ones I had taken for my undergraduate education. Although I had the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of classes, I chose to focus on those that were most relevant to my professional goals. I require something to keep me on my feet since I thrive off of the rush of adrenaline that comes from overcoming obstacles. Therefore, I decided to go for the option that was less well known, despite the fact that I had heard that it was quite challenging. Consequently, I enrolled in that cryptography class. My first foray into the world of cybersecurity was with cryptography.
After that, she embarked on a course of independent study. She followed that professional route, and to this day, she continues to work in the same industry thanks to the guidance of a mentor.
Confidence worked for the government of Cross River State from 2013 until 2015, where she was responsible for promoting digital literacy; nevertheless, she was not given any opportunities to make effective use of her professional skills.
Prior to July 2019, when she decided to give her full attention to her company, CyberSafe Foundation, Confidence worked for several different businesses in which she was able to put her various skill sets to use, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity consulting, threat intelligence, and research.
Someone with an idea who is prepared to do everything that is required to make it a reality and continue to sustain it going forward is at the helm of every successful business. This is the position that Confidence holds in the five initiatives that she is now running. The most peculiar inspiration for one of the five projects in which Confidence is currently engaged, the CyberSafe Foundation, came to her in an unexpected manner.
"When it came to cybersecurity awareness, I was doing a little bit at the time but not really that much. And unfortunately, my mom was a target of a cybercrime. I witnessed the effects it had on her as well as the steps we took to help her get better. I just was aware that it was important to me to eliminate the possibility of this happening to any other individuals.
After coming to the conclusion that raising awareness was important, she began collaborating with a friend to come up with a suitable moniker. They came up with the effort known as "NoGoFallMaga," which can be loosely translated as "Don't become a victim." After three years of operation, the initiative has assisted thousands of individuals in avoiding becoming victims of cyber fraud through online campaigns and market tours.
"We were looking for really innovative ways to increase awareness about cybersecurity and to make people recognize the importance of the topic in the first place as well as how it connects to them as individuals. And assisting people in taking meaningful steps to become more secure when using the internet, but doing it in a manner that is not overbearing.
This was accomplished through the use of memes, music videos, and songs, as well as social media.
It was difficult to register NoGoFallMaga as a corporate entity despite the fact that the name was initially meant to be the company's name. The CyberSafe Foundation was conceived during yet another round of ideation, and subsequent attempts to register it as a legitimate business were fruitful. However, the NoGoFallMaga project continued to be a part of the organization.
"Looking back on it, that turned out to be the best thing that could have occurred to us. Since if we had sat down and it had been solely cybersecurity awareness that we were doing, we would have realized that the term won't have been able to capture the depth of what we are currently doing because there were many other holes that we needed to fill. "
In addition to the NoGoFallMaga program, the CyberSafe Foundation is currently working on five other projects that are aimed at various subsets of the population. One of these organizations is called CyberGirls, and it offers guidance and free training in cybersecurity to young women between the ages of 18 and 28. It currently assists young women in finding work and serves young women in six African nations other than Nigeria.
There is also the game Shine Your Eyes, which is a senior citizen adaptation of NoGoFallMaga. And then there's Cybersmart Child, a program that teaches children about being safe online through the use of creative and innovative methods. The trainees receive training in digital skills that not only prepare them for job but also provide a foundation for learning how to stay safe online. And last but not least, we have the Enugu Cybersecurity Learning Program, which was developed in conjunction with the Enugu State Government.
Confidence looked for possibilities to volunteer or collaborate but was unsuccessful. As a result, she made the decision to become a founder, which was a move that was required by her desire to fill the void that she had observed. After years of eavesdropping on her mother's business practices, it's likely that she felt the urge to follow in her mother's footsteps when she started her own company.
The question is, if Confidence is prepared to take such a risk by creating a non-profit organization in such a competitive business, why is she giving away so much of her services for free? The explanation is simple: she wants to make the process of acquiring new skills more accessible to individuals who, on their own, would not be able to pay it.
Because I have a history of not being able to afford things that have altered my life, I feel as though it is incredibly personal for me to do this for free.
She recalls hearing stories of young women who were taught skills that would eventually allow them to support themselves financially, and she learned that DigiGirls has trained 6,000 individuals all by itself. If anything else, this is the major impetus behind Confidence's desire to accomplish more.
She feels a sense of accomplishment in regard to the success they have accomplished thus far in obtaining financing, support, and global collaboration. The United States Department of State, Facebook, the government of the United Kingdom, and the governments of various states in Nigeria are all mentioned.
She began by stating that the cybersecurity profession is one that "truly relies on trust," and then went on to explain why she believes it is so unpopular in this part of the world. This sector continues to show signs of expansion. The majority of positions in cybersecurity are filled through word of mouth rather than through the use of job boards. Because of this, participating in a cybersecurity community might be beneficial.
Confidence is active in a number of tasks at the CyberSafe Foundation, including the development of learning content and the monitoring of its quality, the management of collaborations, and the leadership of a team that gathers threat intelligence. Outside of CyberSafe, she is an educator who also offers consulting services, does research, and gives speaking engagements.
She is able to successfully manage all of these tasks thanks to her highly effective utilization of her schedule and her solid support system. She can brag about having a husband who is supportive, an executive assistant who is capable, and a team that is committed, all of which make her work less stressful.
She is pleased with how she manages everything, yet she feels as though there is more that she could be accomplishing.
"I want to participate in more leadership programs, and I really want to participate in a significant increase in the number of certificates that are leadership-oriented in my industry."
Confidence acknowledges that she has been underestimated more than her fair share of times, particularly when it comes to the preconceptions that surround women who look a certain way. She is getting better at negotiating in order to prevent her previous acts of kindness from causing her to be undervalued in the future.
"I want to remain in my glory while remaining humble and approachable, but I do not want to be utilized improperly or taken for granted."
The concept of achieving a work-life balance can be challenging for Confidence since it is difficult to know for certain if the amount of time devoted to any one aspect of one's life is ever sufficient. She is of the opinion that people should instead center their attention on the seasons.
"At certain points in your life, different things will require something different from you."
She encourages young people to pursue whatever it is that brings them joy and to experience a sense of fulfillment on a daily basis.
To relax and unwind, confident people spend time with their families, friends, and pets both indoors and outside.