As technology progresses and it becomes more necessary for people to share data to access day to day services from organizations, cyber criminals are getting more savvy and exploring smarter ways to take advantage of the huge data pool that the internet and technology in general affords them. Cyber-crime is therefore one of the fastest growing crimes in the world and it follows that cyber security is growing equally fast to counter this.
As we continue to spotlight women who are setting themselves apart and taking careers that were not the norm just a few years ago, this time we spoke to Nelly Nyadzua – an upcoming data scientist, cyber security consultant and trainer at Data Alma. Data Alma is a tech for safety startup founded by Nelly in January last year, that offers services like cybersecurity consultancy, digital rights and advocacy, digital privacy and protection, and awareness and training.
This article part of a series in a partnership between Femmehub here and Gilbey’s Mixed Berries Gin to highlight stories of women who are excelling in their fields despite considerable odds. Why Gilbey’s Mixed Berries Gin? Because it embodies the spirit and energy of a career woman, both in formative and successful stages. How she works, how she entertains herself, how she unwinds with friends and how she deals with downtimes.
Every day we hear of cases of stolen financial data, personal information, or infrastructure breaches. Such breaches can then lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and even emotional and physical harm. It is therefore crucial for individuals and organizations to take measures to protect their data and networks from cyber-attacks and this is where companies like Nelly’s Data Alma come in.
I’m taking a keen interest in Nelly’s story because she does something close to my heart – training and empowering Persons Living with Disabilities to navigate data privacy and cyber safety. Nelly believes that the world will be safer when everyone is safe, and it is this belief that sparked her interest in working with PLWDs.
Persons Living with Disabilities can be easily overlooked in data security matters and technology generally as the rest of the world rushes to embrace new development after the other. Since her work involves providing digital security training to women, she saw a gap in PWDs because depending on the disability, some require additional help in accessing digital platforms like Government portals, banking, and mobile money. This leaves them no choice but to share their personal data with third parties to navigate for them and it is therefore prudent for them to have data privacy knowledge and digital security skills.
Training aside, Nelly would like to see more inclusion and representation of PLWDs in the tech industry to ensure that their perspectives are considered in the design and development of new technologies. Their unique needs and lived experiences will go a long way in informing assistive technologies like screen readers, voice activated software and adaptive keyboards.
So passionate is she about this, that on the International Day of People Living with Disabilities 2022, her company Data Alma signed the ‘Call to commitment’ towards disability inclusion and made a promise to always be inclusive. It is such corporate and individual commitments that will balloon to the bigger picture of having a world that caters for all.
Nelly’s journey is unique and interesting and furthermore, it is still developing. We got to hear more from here about her education, interests and what it takes for women to make it in technology. Here is more of her story.
What does it take to be a data scientist and cyber security specialist in terms of education, interests, and additional skills?
Aside from relevant educational courses, being a data scientist takes passion, curiosity, and resilience. In my case I started with a certificate at Strathmore University, followed by an advanced certificate in Predictive Analytics. I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence at IU International University of Applied Sciences. Before university, I took A+, N+, fiber optic and CCNA classes at computer learning college. I have also done a Cyber Security fellowship with Cybersafe foundation.
Curiosity is what sparked my initial steps towards technology. Always wanting to know what makes things run and wanting to dismantle and assemble things. I always knew that I wanted to be in tech and as soon as an opportunity and resources were available, I went for my dreams.
How can women play a role in driving innovation and progress in technology?
Mentorship, support, and working together to break gender barriers and stereotypes. Women bring diverse perspectives and approaches to problem solving, which will lead to more wholesome and effective solutions.
How has your experience been so far as a woman in tech and what challenges have you faced?
My experience so far has been adventurous and fulfilling with a cocktail of wins and losses. This is expected and, in the end, I take my losses in stride, and pat myself on the back for every little achievement. I balance work, school and family and sometimes I struggle for time, but I’m determined to make this journey work in the end.
How do you see this field evolving in the coming years, and what trends are you most excited about?
With the entry of AI into Cybersecurity, I look forward to seeing security automation, further inclusivity, and enhanced digital human rights.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is interested in pursuing a career in tech, but may be hesitant due to societal norms or gender biases?
Dive right in! The gap between your success and where you are right now is you. It will not aways be easy but keep pushing. Join communities, have mentors, network and soon enough your position will take shape. I am a firm believer that anyone can be anything, so long as they put their mind to it and hard work.