Author Charles Karanja
I am grateful for the opportunity to tell my story as the USA celebrates Black History Month. It is easy to switch off during a month like this and not bother. Indifference can manifest in many ways. And before you switch off because you are tired of this topic, give me a chance to tell you, my story. Growing up in Kenya and seeing tribalism rear its ugly head, I thought I was prepared for racism when moving to Europe. While in secondary school, I was laughed at for being overweight. Being laughed at, and bullied, in a way, made me resilient from an early age. I soon realised I was not ready for the challenge to my identity and well-being that race issues can bring, even with all I had gone through. Over time I developed the mental capacity and skills to walk through situations and not let them cause me to lose focus on my journey. I want to share some tips to help anyone progress in their career. Firstly, accept that even you are prone to make mistakes. So let me apologise for any hurt I may have caused anyone. Some people will not come and say you have made a mistake, thus my apology. Even though wrong, I have discovered that the other party quickly changes tact when I first accept an error of thought or action. Humility will always beat having an ‘I am right’ attitude that sometimes can be mistaken as aggression. Secondly, learn the power of having allies in the workplace. Allyship helps breed inclusivity. Allies in the workplace use their influence to bring about change that is necessary to make the workplace safer for all. An ally collaborates in your journey and can help your career grow. There are talks I have had with allies at work that helped me understand mindsets that have empowered me to relate better, especially as my role has a lot of stakeholder management. Network groups are powerhouses that can help any career. Network, network, network Join networks at work. Join networks outside the workplace. I have watched how groups like WiCyS, Blacks in Cybersecurity, The Ladder Back-Down, Ladies Hacking Society, Cyversity, Insecurity, Respect in Cybersecurity, Minorities in Cybersecurity, and many others that I have not mentioned are changing the landscape of cybersecurity, helping make our environment not only inclusive but also healthy and safe. Fourthly, let your work speak for you. Excellent performance at work will bring admirers. My parents taught me that my work could never be argued against. My parents told me that hard work will always speak well for you. Now you might say that I am in dreamland and that even with a hard work ethic, some people are just malicious and are for your downfall. No matter what happens, do not lose a hardworking ethic in all you do. Gold must be purified. Let any opposition you face be a fire that purifies you, transforming you into pure gold. Diamond mined in the mines must be polished. Hard work helps the diamond in you shine. Fifth, have a mentor at work. A mentor will help you see the bigger picture, help you develop and can quickly help you deal with blind spots. Do not use a mentor to try and further your agenda. Always bring something to the table. Let your mentor glow with joy as you grow. Take care of your mental health. The rat race is real. We all want to make good money. Everyone likes a promotion, and even your colleagues are working hard to get it. Do not do it at the expense of your mental health. Take care of yourself. Get a hobby; do something in life outside of cybersecurity. A rested mind can perform better than a tired one, no matter how many cups of coffee you take. People who address their mental health are calm, and people will always want to hang around. One mentor told me that we need clear heads to lead during storms. Seventh, study hard. Cybersecurity requires constant learning. Get some knowledge that adds to your skill armory. Develop a new skill. Bring something to the table that your peers will recognize as needful for the organization. Please note that soft skills are as necessary as technical skills. You need to understand the business you work in so that you can give a breakdown of the market the business operates in, and you will not be stammering. In conclusion, you may be doing everything, and nothing is happening. Do not look at your peers and measure yourself by how greener the grass is for others. Understand that an acorn does not become an oak tree suddenly. It takes a while. If we planted every seed simultaneously, we would discover that not everyone germinates simultaneously. Patience is critical to progress. Keep watering your garden. Admire others but work your garden. Soon we all will be applauding your handiwork.
About the Author: Charles Karanja works in IR in the UK in a telco. His passion is to see how to best defend organizations from ever evolving threats.