The field of information security and privacy is a rapidly evolving sector driven by the increasing reliance on technology and the rising threats of cyberattacks. Cybersecurity is now a global priority as cybercrime and digital threats grow in frequency and complexity. The role of an information security professional is to identify security risks before hackers do, and then develop and implement new preventative security controls for defending against cyberattacks. The cybersecurity workforce shortage and lack of new professionals funneling into this industry are one of the major obstacles to preventing cybercrime.
Olayinka Naa Dzama Wilson-Kofi is a dynamic leader and an Information Security and Privacy Specialist who has made significant contributions to this industry. With her expertise and passion for cybersecurity, she has become a driving force in ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of critical information systems. Currently associated with Ericsson (Middle East & Africa) and serving as the President of the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) West Africa Affiliate, Olayinka continues to make a profound impact in the industry.
She is overcoming challenges and making significant contributions to the dynamic industry of cybersecurity. With her leadership, expertise and commitment to continuous learning, Olayinka is driving advancements in technology, promoting ethical conduct and ensuring the security of critical information systems. As she continues to empower and mentor others, Olayinka envisions a future where organizations prioritize cybersecurity and privacy, safeguarding their data and ensuring a secure digital landscape.
Let’s delve into Olayinka’s approach to leading the dynamic sector of information and security!
Journey as a Dynamic Leader
Olayinka’s journey began with an internship at Odade Publishers in Lagos, Nigeria, where she worked as an Assistant Virtual Librarian. Afterwards, she served at the Ghana Highway Authority as an IT Support personnel as part of National Service. Her roles included resolving network issues and training staff on IT system usage. Building on this foundation, Olayinka joined the National Lottery Authority (NLA), Accra, Ghana as Customer Service & Helpdesk Support, where she not only set up daily lotto games but also provided technical support to customers.
With determination to excel in a male-dominated industry, Olayinka decided to pursue a career in Cyber and Information Security. Her motivation stemmed from the desire to secure the information technology infrastructure of the National Lottery Authority through the principles of Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) Triad. She played a pivotal role in initiating an information security program and establishing a security sub-unit within the IT department. Olayinka was appointed as the information security and assurance officer, responsible for enhancing the CIA of IT systems, conducting risk assessments and ensuring system resilience for uninterrupted customer access.
Olayinka’s journey also included a senior consulting role at Innovare Africa, where she implemented and managed ISO 27001 (Information Security) and ISO 22301 (Business Continuity) for various organizations, including IT Consortium and FinTech companies in Ghana. She shares, “As a go-getter, I was hungry to grow and hone my skills in emerging technology, security frameworks and its applicability in global companies.” Subsequently, she transitioned to eProcess International S.A. as the Business Security Manager within the Cybersecurity Department. She says, “From my experience with E-Council CCISO, it has helped with my leadership drive. Thanks to the knowledge and skills obtained from the CCISO training.”
She also adds, “It has helped me grow personally and professionally, and there’s been a huge growth in the West Africa Affiliate, making it very attractive for other affiliates to collaborate. As a result, I have been able to help setup the Nigeria affiliate and student chapters both in Ghana and Rwanda.”
In addition to her professional endeavors, Olayinka started the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) West Africa Affiliate with other ladies and currently serves as its President. Through this initiative, she aims to empower and guide young women aspiring to enter the cybersecurity field. Olayinka is also an active participant in ISACA Accra Chapter and serves as a WiCyS Global Mentor and Mentee, providing guidance and sharing her experiences with others. She is also a member of Internet Security Forum (ISF) and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).
Impact on the Dynamic Industry
Olayinka’s expertise in cybersecurity has had a profound impact on the industry. Throughout her career, she has assisted businesses in implementing security frameworks, leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to enhance threat detection and response. Her emphasis on ethical conduct and integrity has ensured adherence to legal and regulatory requirements, promoting honesty, professionalism and transparency within organizations.
Olayinka’s leadership approach is characterized by a security-first mindset, prioritizing the consideration of security in every aspect of operations. She actively promotes continuous learning and adapts to emerging technologies and practices by pursuing a Ph.D. in Cybersecurity and obtaining relevant professional certifications. Her commitment to knowledge sharing and collaboration fosters an environment of teamwork and innovation. Olayinka also implements risk-based approaches, ensuring robust risk management frameworks and holding individuals accountable throughout the risk management process.
Olayinka actively contributes to the cybersecurity community by sharing her knowledge and insights through blog posts, articles and speaking engagements at industry conferences. Her thought leadership helps raise awareness about emerging threats, best practices and the importance of information security and privacy.
Advocacy for Diversity and Inclusion
Olayinka is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry. She actively works towards bridging the gender gap and encourages more women to pursue careers in cybersecurity. Through her involvement in organizations like WiCyS, she promotes diversity and provides mentorship opportunities to aspiring female cybersecurity professionals.
She shares, “During my early career stages, I lacked the mentor–mentee opportunity for career guidance, hence the motivation to give back. I am ready to make every opportunity worth it as it appears.”
Throughout her journey, Olayinka encountered various challenges, including rapidly evolving cyber threats and the need to stay up to date with the latest security practices.
She shares, “I had the challenge of not having a female mentor; I had a mentor, Mr. C.K. Bruce, CEO of Innovare Africa, who is my solid foundation to date.”
However, these challenges pushed Olayinka to enhance her knowledge and skills by continuously investing in herself.
Staying in Sync
As an Information Security and Privacy Specialist, Olayinka recognizes the importance of staying in sync with the dynamic nature of the sector. She stays updated on evolving privacy regulations, participating in privacy-focused communities, webinars, conferences and workshops. By collaborating with other privacy specialists, she develops robust privacy frameworks that align with emerging requirements.
Advancing Technological Innovations
Recognizing the significance of technological advancements, Olayinka is committed to harnessing the power in the cybersecurity domain. She embraces AI and ML to improve threat detection and response capabilities, automating routine security processes to enhance efficiency. With the rapid adoption of cloud computing, Olayinka focuses on developing and implementing robust privacy measures to ensure the safety of cloud-based infrastructure, applications and data.
Olayinka envisions herself as the future CEO of an information security consulting firm that specializes in ISO 27001 and ISO 22301 implementation and management, security awareness training, policy development and cybersecurity strategy formulation. She aims to provide organizations with comprehensive security solutions tailored to their unique needs.
Advice to Budding Entrepreneurs
Olayinka offers valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs entering the dynamic industry of cybersecurity. She emphasizes the importance of gaining a strong foundation in cybersecurity, identifying a niche within the industry, building a strong network, maintaining ethical conduct, and emphasizing trust and confidentiality. Olayinka encourages continuous learning and collaboration with others to tackle complex cybersecurity challenges and stresses the importance of staying updated on emerging threats and security technologies.
She highlights it in a few pointers, which include:
- Gain a Strong Foundation in Cybersecurity: Start by acquiring a solid foundation in cybersecurity. Understand the various domains of cybersecurity, including network security, application security, incident response and risk management. Pursue relevant education and professional certifications to develop your knowledge and expertise.
- Identify a Niche and understand the Business Landscape: Consider specializing in a specific area within cybersecurity. By focusing on a niche, you can develop thorough expertise and differentiate yourself from competitors. Gain an understanding of the business landscape in which you will want to operate.
- Build a Strong Network: Networking is crucial in the cybersecurity industry. Connect with professionals, industry experts and potential clients through conferences, meetups and online communities such as LinkedIn. Engage in knowledge sharing, seek mentorship and build relationships that can provide guidance and opportunities.
- Stay Ethical and Compliant: Maintain a strong ethical foundation in your cybersecurity ventures. Emphasize the importance of ethical hacking and responsible disclosure practices. Adhere to legal and regulatory requirements and promote a culture of compliance within your organization.
- Emphasize Trust and Confidentiality: Cybersecurity is built on trust. Ensure that your client’s data and privacy are safeguarded with the utmost care. Develop strong security measures to protect sensitive information and communicate your commitment to confidentiality and trust to your clients.
- Collaborate with Others: Cybersecurity challenges are often complex and multifaceted. Collaborate with other experts, organizations and researchers to tackle common problems. Share threat intelligence, contribute to open-source projects and participate in coordinated vulnerability disclosure programs.
- Continuously Learn and Evolve: Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field, so commit to continuous learning. Invest in ongoing training and professional development to ensure you stay at the forefront of the industry.