Proud to be me: self-reflection as Black History Month comes to a close

Black History Month, Kafui Mbrou

Kafui Mbrou, IT Security Risk manager at DWP Digital shares what she’s ‘Proud To Be’ for Black History Month.

I’ve recently been involved in two events that led to a period of self-reflection, and I want to share my thoughts here. First of all, Black History Month, which comes to an end on 31 October. The theme for Black History Month this year is ‘Proud To Be’. The idea is that it aims to encourage people to share what makes them proud to be who they are.

Secondly, as part of the Digital Voices support network, I recently attended a session titled ‘I am Remarkable’. This talk aimed to help empower and encourage those that attend – particularly those in underrepresented groups – to develop their confidence and competence to engage in self-promotion.

During the session we were encouraged to challenge perceptions around self-promotion by writing down a few reasons why we felt that we were remarkable. This was a very difficult task for me as I was unsure of what to write.

What is it about self-promotion that is so difficult? According to Forbes.com, “It’s the ‘self’ part; the egocentric nature and seemingly aggressive pushiness that makes us cringe not only when we attempt it for ourselves, but when we observe others bragging in a self-centred manner”.

I was raised in a culture where from childhood we were taught that bragging was an unattractive quality, as it makes others feel insecure about themselves. Where self-promotion isn’t traditionally and culturally right, to the extent that custodians of culture and our traditions, in their wisdom, brought in a third party for the exercise of self-promoting. A classic case would be the appointment of a chief linguist (a chief’s public voice, as one must speak through him to communicate with the chief) who will do all the self-promotion of the chief and his achievements. At no point will the chief be seen promoting himself or the many achievements and development projects he’s done because culturally it would be wrong for him to do that. Therefore, if the custodians of our traditions say it’s not ethical to brag about who they are, then in my cultural setting it becomes a big challenge to promote myself.

I grew to belittle the things that I had achieved thinking they were not worth sharing in comparisons to greater things that were achieved by others. Humility was encouraged with the hope that others might recognise our achievements.

However, I have come to realise that accomplishments don’t speak for themselves! So with this in mind, how do we talk about our achievements with the aim of encouraging others without being perceived as a braggart?

It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts

During the session I was encouraged to see the positive aspect of self-promotion, and in doing so I was able to recognise some of the reasons why I feel am remarkable.

I am remarkable because I’m a Security Risk Manager

As a Security Risk Manager I assist diverse digital projects by providing advice and guidance on information security. This involves identifying and recording risk and mitigating them to the lowest possible level.

I joined DWP Digital 2016 as an FDM consultant with the aim of furthering my career in project management. On my first day of work I was placed in the Security team within a Product Delivery Unit. As a Business and Marketing Graduate, I wasn’t familiar with the Digital world and found myself asking a lot of questions: what is security? what does it mean?

I remember telling my manager that I struggle to explain my role to friends and family and he encouraged me to do a presentation on my understanding of the role. Although I was not from a Digital background I have since learnt on the job and love it due to the continuous development the role provides. Earlier this year I achieved a certification in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), together with successfully completing the BCS Foundation Certificate in Information Security Management Principles (CISMP).

The world of Digital is dynamic, no day is ever the same and it’s great to be a part of a team that contributes to making the department’s systems safe and secure for the citizen.

I am remarkable because I give back to the community

I have a passion for serving others and giving back to the community, particularly through youth volunteering. I believe it’s important to invest in our young people, by giving them visible role models, as that helps to develop them as the future generation. I am the project coordinator for a Christian youth charity which aims to provide an open forum for the young people to discuss issues that affect them on a day to day basis. I have also volunteered on the International Citizen Service, which is a development programme that brings young people from the UK and developing countries to volunteer in some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia.

A few months ago (on my birthday) I took part in the 48in48 social justice non-profit build which is a 48-hour hackathon-style event. The aim is to connect local non-profits organisations with skilled marketing and technology professionals. At the end of these 48 hours, 48 local non-profits organisations have new, professional, websites. I had the honour of working with other professionals to build a website for a youth charity, and the whole event was a really rewarding experience.

I am remarkable because I am a Digital Voice

I am proud to be part of the DWP Digital Voices programme, which supports and encourages women to build their skills and confidence. I started my career in the civil service in 2016, when I successfully secured a placement in DWP Digital. Although I finally secured a job, several years of  being rejected from job applications after graduating from university had a considerable effect on my confidence. Also because of the under representation of women in this sector and coming from a BAME background, I had always held the perception that I would never be good enough when compared to my competitors.

Amid these challenges and setbacks, it has taken me a great deal of courage to build my confidence to an acceptable level. Embracing a new challenge like the Digital Voices programme has given me the opportunity to build my confidence in a safe, welcoming environment.

Since joining the programme I have seen a visible change in myself which has also been recognised by colleagues. I believe I am finding my voice and I’m becoming a visible role model to help bring other people up alongside me.

You are Remarkable

This period of self-reflection has been very important for me, especially during Black History Month as I am reminded that I am remarkable regardless of my colour, gender or any other stereotypes others may identify me with. Although I found it difficult initially, just like any new skill it’s important to invest time in learning, developing, and practicing in order to improve the art and skill of self-promoting.

You are remarkable, just try it!

If you’re interested in growing your digital career within an organisation with lots of opportunities, take a look at the DWP Digital careers site or you can also subscribe to the newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest roles.