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Elizabeth Ekedoro: ‘The potential for greatness lies within every individual, regardless of their circumstances’.

February 2024 by Yelena Jangwa-Nedelec, Global Security Mag

We had the pleasure of exchanging ideas with the multifaceted and talented Elizabeth Ekedoro. From Biology to Fashion design and from Gymnastic coach to SOC Analyst, Elizabeth told us everything about her atypical cyber journey. Currently participating at the Allianz Cyber Talent Academy (conducted by SANS Institute), she also runs a blog, where she shares her experience and her passion for cybersecurity.

Elizabeth Ekedoro, SOC Analyst

Global Security Mag: You have been on a somewhat atypical cyber journey. Could you tell us a bit about your path, and what guides you to cybersecurity?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: I studied biology, I have a fashion brand specialized in making male wears and I’m also a gymnastic coach for kids. I am a firm believer in lifelong learning, and I consistently strive to push my boundaries in my pursuit for excellence.

In 2021, a friend of mine was a victim of SMS-based phishing (smishing). The SMS she got, stated it was from a representative of her bank. She was asked to give out her bank details else her account will get blocked. She was running a project in school at this time and needed the money, so out of fear, she gave the scammers her details.
I’m generally the go-to person for my friends. So, when she told me about it, I started to research, and that is how I learned about phishing. I didn’t get a hold of the culprit, but it sparked my interest in cybersecurity. I then took part in a church-organized tech bootcamp for a month, where I discovered my natural aptitude for cybersecurity, and that is when I knew I would thrive as a Cybersecurity Analyst.

In July 2022, I graduated as the top performing person in the boot camp and won a cash prize. I kept that money, and it helped me to invest in a laptop. My instructor from the bootcamp later told me about the CyberSafe Foundation’s Cyber Girls program. At that time, the program was ongoing, so I couldn’t join immediately, but I wrote an email stating my motivation and background.

By November 2022, I applied and was selected as one of the 600 participants for the 2023 cohort and later recognized as the 2nd overall best in the prerequisite stage. Since then, I’ve obtained multiple certifications from Cisco, ISC2, Infosec etc , and I’m still preparing for my security blue team level 1 exams. In November 2023, I graduated as the second-best in the incident response (SOC Tier 1) career path. But at the end of the Cyber Girls program, still I was not satisfied, as I believe an analyst is only as good as the knowledge they have. So, I enrolled in another program: Allianz Cyber Talent Academy, conducted by SANS Institute.

GSM: This demanding training must be a rewarding but challenging experience. What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: I’m juggling with multiple challenges at the moment.
My first challenge is balancing my studies in cybersecurity with my fashion business and my part-time job as a gymnastics coach. It is really demanding, effective time management is something I constantly try to keep up with.
A second challenge that I face, is the constant pressure for self-improvement. I have to consistently study and stay up to-date. The dynamic nature of cybersecurity keeps me on my toes and helps me to strengthen my skills as a SOC analyst.
Another Challenge on a personal level: growing up, I wanted to be be a medical doctor and my relatives were already calling me a doctor. When I applied, I did get an admission to study medicine but had to pull out of the program due to an unfortunate incident. I reapplied and got into another school to study biology. Some of my relatives call me doctor still as they’re having a hard time believing I’m not one, even after showing them that I’m past that stage now, and that I’m ready to be a SOC analyst. I tell them I’ll still be saving lives, but not surgically.

GSM: What do you think is the most important quality to have for someone who wants to start in cybersecurity? 

Elizabeth Ekedoro: Grit. Because grit will keep you on task even if you face challenges. It also has to be a passion, and it has to be your decision. When the challenges come, you can remind yourself that you were the one who made the decision; that is what keeps you going. An open mind to constantly learn is also key because it’s a journey. 

GSM: In an article you posted in September, you wrote about diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity workforce. Why do you think it is particularly important?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: As much as the cybersecurity landscape in Nigeria is growing, women remain underrepresented due to cultural biases, limited access to resources and mentorship. As a woman, some people think I’m better off doing something else and some even question if I write my articles myself, which I obviously do. So, these are just some of the pushbacks you get. It is why I am grateful for initiatives working to promote diversity and inclusion like the CyberGirls fellowship program for women in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Also, there’s an issue in cybersecurity that I seek to address, and that is part of my long-term goals: I want to become a cybersecurity instructor to make cybersecurity relatable to people coming from a non-tech background, like me. I want to make it a part of the primary and secondary school curriculum, to ensure that pupils can protect themselves and maybe even get into cybersecurity in the future.

GSM: What advice would you give young people, women and non-tech people wanting to go into cyber but having doubts?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: My advice: just do it! People will doubt your ability for a long time, but you have to break misconceptions. As a woman, you often hear that these jobs are not for you, and that you can’t do them, but you actually can. The very reason why I share my journey and why I try to break down concepts as I study to share them in my blog, is to show people that if I can get in from a completely different background, they also can do the same. And even if you get rejected, stay on and follow your dream, if you are passionate then you will succeed.

GSM: What is your approach to failure and rejection?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: Life presents a lot of challenges, and it is not easy to take rejection. It can make you think that you’re inadequate, but it just means that at this point of my journey, I still need to do more and there was probably a reason why I was not chosen. For me personally, I always want to know why I got rejected and I seek to get feedback, either to try again afterwards or just to improve myself. However, I Keep at it, because when you keep learning, it takes you from not knowing to knowing, and I hopefully can get an easy entry when I next apply.

GSM: What is your key message to our readers?

Elizabeth Ekedoro: If you have read this far, I want you to know that the magnitude of impact is not determined by the size of your starting point. Therefore, never let fear, doubts or disappointments get in the way of the blessings that are divinely and deservedly yours. I encourage you to be courageous, proactively seek opportunities, give yourself the time and permission to learn and grow and be consistent because through consistency, mastery is attained. Remember, the potential for greatness resides within every individual regardless of their circumstances. Never underestimate the power of your dreams. And even when you fail while trying to achieve those dreams, know that failure cannot handle perseverance. So, stay persistent and witness in awe what God will do with your life!

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