Precious Onyenekwu TatahPrecious is a Security Operations Analyst at Socura, the UK Managed Detection and Response company.

She has a Masters in Cybersecurity as well as an undergraduate degree in Accounting and finance. She is also a professional dancer, choreographer and model as well as a natural hair activist who challenges stereotypes, actively educates and encourages people to embrace the beauty of natural hair. Precious speaks up on issues that affects the community at large and as the first Black Female President of The Students Union at UWE (19/20), she has used her voice to represent 30,000+ students across various areas and in 2019, launched the first Black Hall of Fame at UWE Bristol.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Precious Onyenekwu Tatah, I am a Security Operations Analyst at Socura. I transitioned into a career in cybersecurity from a degree in Accounting and Finance, meaning I entered cyber security later in life than most of my peers. Now, in my role at Socura, I get to help organisations protect the things most important to them and defend themselves. This includes public sector organisations like NHS trusts, and businesses who can be completely mismatched against modern cyber threats. It’s an exciting sector that needs to be gender balanced.

Outside of the tech space, I am a bit of an all rounder. I am a professional dancer, choreographer, I speak on matters to do with equality, I am a natural hair activist who challenges stereotypes, actively educating and encouraging people to embrace the beauty of their being. I like to speak up on issues that affects the community and in my previous role as the first Black Female President of my ex University’s Students’ Union, I represented over 30,000 students across various areas locally and nationally.

My absolute dream is to help people however possible so I organise and participate in charity events locally and internationally. My most recent one was raising funds to keep 25young people in Nigeria in school for another year that includes paying their tuition fees and some other academic expenses e.g uniforms, books etc.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all.

I wanted to get into the tech industry, but it didn’t feel like it was open to someone like me. When choosing a university course, I settled for accounting because yes I love working with numbers but also because it was a ‘normal’ course that felt more accepting of women. I didn’t give myself the credit to think “I could actually do this instead”.

For any women looking to get into the cyber security profession today, my advice would be to take the plunge. People should not let gender decide what they should do in life. Cyber security is a male dominated industry, but it doesn’t have to remain that way and we cannot allow it to stay that way.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I was most definitely an outlier on my course. Not only was I the only woman within the full-time team and one of two in the entire course, but I didn’t have the same kind of tech foundation that other people had. Most of my peers and the other students in my course grew up obsessed with computing. As a young person, I was interested in computers but I didn’t have much access to them in my childhood. When I started my MSC course, most people had a computer science degree already or something similar. I had a degree in accounting, so there was no real crossover. Not only was I learning about cyber security at an advanced level, I was also learning key terms and words for the very first time. It was like being parachuted into another country and starting a masters degree in another language.

Given my inexperience, I had someone on the course openly suggest that it may not be right for me. I don’t think a man in the same position would get the same feedback. It is often assumed that women can’t do things, don’t know things, and need help. That’s a big problem in security, and any male dominated profession.

Along the way, there were a few moments where I felt like giving up, but I learned to convert my challenges into motivations.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Succesfully breaking into a career in tech by acquiring my Masters degree in Cybersecurity.

It may not seem like a lot, but being able to transition from a BA degree in Accounting and Finance to an MSc in Cybersecurity knowing absolutely nothing about tech is a major win for me. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Letting go of the fear that I may never be good enough because I switched to a career in tech in my mid-late 20’s. This may not sound too old, but it was a lot later than most people entering the industry.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

There’s always something to learn and you never stop learning. It’s a fast paced and constantly evolving field so you have to have that continuous improvement mindset.

Do not let imposter syndrome cripple you. Someone out there is probably going to be better at something doesn’t mean they know it all. Just focus on yourself and your growth. Have healthy competitions if you must.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

The tech industry is already dominated by men but it shouldn’t stay that way, it helps to involve the women in all conversations and not just assume they do not understand something.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Diversify their team, provide relevant training, encourage more women to get into leadership positions because representation plays a very key part in encouraging more women to pursue a career in tech.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

These conversations should start from an early age, in schools and at home. Teach a fun but compulsory tech subject in school similar to maths. If they really are not interested when they are much older, they can choose to not carry it on. But make it fun, apply real life case studies of women in tech because representation matters.

At home, raise your girls the same as your boys, encourage your girls to learn tech contents e.g programming and if possible get them tech toys to aid their learning.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Cybrary is a great platform for upskilling. You can use it for general upskilling, learning about various topics and also to prep for various certification exams. They have a range of courses for absolute beginers and experts. I can’t recommend it enough! There are also many other platforms such as Udemy and Youtube, find what works best for you.

If you have the opportunity to attend physical events, please do, networking can be terrifying sometimes especially when you’re new to the industry but it exposes you to many great opportunities.