Last night, we hosted our first-ever annual cyber leadership awards–what an incredible night.
About two years ago, Darren Argyle, Jan Schreuder, and I envisioned a world-class institution that would rapidly develop a strong tribe of global cyber leaders who actively collaborate to tackle what is arguably the greatest challenge of our generation–the menace of cybercrime. Our vision is bold–we aim to equip at least 10,000 cyber leaders with practical leadership skills by 2030.
What we have achieved in the first year of operations has been beyond the wildest of our imagination. As the map vividly illustrates, the Cyber Leadership Institute has managed to cut through geographies, cultures, genders, and generations–positively impacting 81 cyber leaders across 20 countries.
Together with dozens of Cyber Leadership Institute alumni who joined the ceremony, we celebrated four individuals whose exemplary leadership far exceeded the norm.
1. Gergana Winzer – Advocacy and Community Spirit Award – For constantly going beyond the call of duty to evangelize cyber leadership's critical message.
2. Natasha Passley – Award for Cyber Resilience Board Presentation – For rigorously tying back cyber resilience initiatives to strategic business goals, as well as pitching her plan with clarity, brevity, and humanity.
3. Jasmin Krapf – Thought Leadership Co-creator and Collaborator Award – For promoting a culture of active collaboration among our Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) community and helping co-create a CISO Playbook on cyber cultural transformation.
From a village girl to winning the Cyber Leadership Institute 2020 Skills Embodiment Award: The incredible story of a 24-year-old Kenyan change-maker
Our fourth accolade, the Cyber Leadership Program Skills Embodiment Award, went to Diana Waithanji. I was deeply moved by Diana's inspiring story, the youngest Cyber Leadership Institute graduate who is only 24 years old. Growing up in Nyandarua County, Kenya, Diana grew up without access to the internet, among other formidable obstacles constantly faced by rural kids across Africa. In her story, I saw much of myself. In high school, Diana was concerned about the tiny proportion of girls taking on sciences. At the tender age of 21, she decided to lead, founding STEM Wahandisi La Femme, an initiative that mentors young girls in the grassroots of Kenya, inspiring them to take up engineering and tech courses.
This admirable leadership earned Diana a scholarship to the Cyber Leadership Program, where she collaborated with a global team of experienced cyber leaders. Diana's strategic communication skills during the Cyber Leadership Program helped her surpass thousands of applicants into a highly coveted Kenya-German tech fellowship program. In January 2021, Diana will fly to Germany to join the cybersecurity team of one of the world's largest tech firms, SAP. Diana's incredible story of grit, passion, and selflessness is a clear testament that there is no correlation between age and leadership.
I look forward to seeing Diana keep up that steep career trajectory to become one of the youngest global female CISOs.
An average Cyber Leadership Institute graduate boasts an average of 10-15 years on the frontlines of cyber resilience. The aggregated experience gives immense depth to our closely bonded community. But for us to sustain this important momentum, we must actively engage and listen to upcoming cyber leaders like Diana Waithanji, Vandana Verma, Noureen Njoroge, Kimberly Chow, etc. They are not scared of shaking up things and thinking differently.
Bridging the gender gap
At the Cyber Leadership Institute, we believe that the best form of leadership is one's action. As Jacqui Loustau, founder of the Australian Women in Cyber Security Network, passionately narrated, there are only approximately a dozen women CISOs in Australia.
From inception, we decided to go beyond LinkedIn blogs and arguments and help women who aspired for top leadership positions in a practical way. As the Chinese proverb goes, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. By partnering with amazing organizations that promote women leadership's advancement in cybersecurity, we have issued scholarships worth more than 30K AUD$. Thirty-five percent of all Cyber Leadership Institute graduates are women, but more remains to be done. These women cyber leaders have brought deep and practical insights, tremendous drive, and thought diversity to the Cyber Leadership Institute.
I want to acknowledge these amazing organizations, in no particular order:
- Australian Women in Cyber Security Network
- Cyber in Africa
- Women of Security Singapore
- Cybersecurity Woman of the Year Awards
To think that we could achieve all this on our own would be sheer hubris. Behind this accelerated success has been so many people. First, we are grateful to the Cyber Leadership Institute graduates and premium members who believed in and supported our vision from day one. This community has also become our greatest advocates.
Last but by no means least, we are grateful to the amazing team that works tirelessly behind the scenes to help us deliver our promises to our community–Simba Riva and the entire team at Sales, Inc., Catrina Mira, Lemon Verdijo, Joan Tricia Alcantara, and Rufaro Maunze.
I conclude with a WhatsApp message I received from one of our attendees: "Thank you, Sir, for the invite. I am more inspired to see genuine people who are genuinely touching lives globally. I wish the very best holidays and a fulfilling 2021 to you all and your families."