Confidence Staveley is Africa’s most celebrated female Cybersecurity Leader, Talent Developer, Global Speaker, blockchain security professional, and Inclusion advocate.
She has achieved numerous professional certifications and industry recognitions. She is an official member of the Forbes Technology Council, an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives. She has won the Cybersecurity Woman of the Year Award in 2021 and 2022, IFSEC Global Top Influencer in Security & Fire 2021, Top 50 women in Cybersecurity Africa, etc. She is an alumnus of some of the most prestigious fellowships across the world such as the 2021 Obama Foundation African Leaders, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) etc. Confidence has spoken at over 30 international conferences, a testament to her global thought leadership and influence.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of CyberSafe Foundation, a leading Non-Governmental organization dedicated to improving inclusive and safe digital access in Africa.
In this exclusive interview session she talks to us about her journey of building the next generation of tech inclined women in Africa.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Confidence Staveley and I often describe myself as Africa’s most celebrated female Cybersecurity Leader, Talent Developer, Blockchain Security Professional, Global Speaker and Inclusion advocate. I am very passionate about driving diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry, especially for women and girls in Africa. I also have a knack for simplifying complex cybersecurity concepts, making it easier for people to understand and take on best practices. For this reason, I have been nicknamed the relatable Cybersecurity leader.
I have been in tech all my life and I absolutely love it here. I have a diploma in software engineering. I also hold a first-class degree in Information Technology and Business information Systems from the University of Middlesex and Masters Degree with distinction from the University of Bradford, where I studied Information Technology Management. All of these degrees from foreign universities were on scholarships, because although I am considered as a successful, rising star today, I wasn’t born into a family that had the resources to pay for the type of quality education I was blessed enough to get.
I am an official member of the Forbes Technology Council, an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives. The first woman in Nigeria to join the Forbes Technology Council. I have achieved numerous professional certifications and industry recognitions for my outstanding work. I won the Cybersecurity Woman of the Year Award in 2021 and 2022, IFSEC Global Top Influencer in Security &; Fire 2021, Top 50 women in Cybersecurity Africa, Meridian Global Leadership Award, etc.
I am an alumnus of some of the most prestigious fellowships across the world such as the 2021 Obama Foundation African Leaders, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), etc. I have spoken at dozens of international conferences, including the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Councils Meeting in Europe and North America, The World Bank Digital Development Seminar, etc.; a testament of my global thought leadership and influence.
I am also the Founder CyberSafe Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization improving inclusive and safe digital access in Africa
What’s it like being in the tech space as a woman in Africa?
It’s been challenging but thrilling. I have been fortunate enough to do what I enjoy and enjoy what I do. I also find that because of how passionate I am about technology; it’s been easy to use my voice and stand out. One of the key reasons I love the tech industry a lot is because of the continuous need to learn, especially in cybersecurity where I have niched down to focus on. The thrill of learning new things every day, keeps me excited and engaged.
I also believe that there’s never been a better time than now to be female, exceptional, African and in tech. Especially given the increased attention being given to diversity globally, there is a lot more intention to capture the voices of and create opportunities for African women, I believe this is laudable.
When I first started out in tech, it was more male dominated than it is today, so I was sort of always in a boys club so to speak. So I have grown to overlook the challenges and fixate more on the unique opportunities of being female, African and in tech.
As an African woman, what are the major challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Historically, I have also been grossly underestimated from afar, especially from a technical lens.
One of the major challenges I have faced in my career is joggling my career and raising a family. It was really tough getting back into the workplace after what was a challenging pregnancy and post-partum experience. I almost lost myself in all the battles I had to fight.
I have often had to prove myself, work really hard to keep all my balls in the air and grow my career. I am super lucky to have a very supportive nuclear and extended family who have been pillars to my growth, investing both their time and resources to enable my growth in one way or the other.
I also didn’t enjoy the luxury of mentorship from older women in my industry, I believe this would have been very helpful. Aspiring to attain heights that someone who looks like you, has attained, makes growth easier. For this reason, I have also determined to help younger women access and have experienced women as mentors, in my industry.
I also didn’t believe in myself and my capabilities for a long time. Consequently, I kept underpricing myself for a very long time. Now I am different, way more audacious and self-aware of my super power living fully in my purpose and basking in my femininity.
How did your journey of being Africa’s most celebrated female cybersecurity leader begin?
I really can’t say how it all begun but I say I started getting noticed when I started using LinkedIn differently. Few years ago, LinkedIn was just my digital and publicly accessible and incomplete CV holder until I realized it was a powerful magnet for opportunities and a platform to network globally. I started connecting with other professionals in my industry, showcasing my knowledge and work through posts and everything like they say became history. I started attracting opportunities I could only previously dream of, speaking opportunities were on the increase and my visibility blew up magically. With visibility came the recognition and awards, because clearly a lot more people saw how unique I was and how valuable my contributions were to the cybersecurity community.
I will really encourage every woman to take networking on LinkedIn very seriously. Try to post on that platform at least once a week (I currently post every day on LinkedIn except on Sundays) and provide insightful comments on other people’s post. Optimize your profile to position yourself as a person of value and watch your career take an upward trajectory.
We love the Cybersafe Foundation, how did it all begin?
CyberSafe Foundation started out as resolve to help protect people in Nigeria from scams, especially the type my mum became a victim of. We kicked off the NoGoFallMaga campaign which used creative ways to educate people about how scams happen and how to stay protected. That campaign garnered a lot of success which included grant funding from the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to create an afro beats song alongside other cybersecurity awareness content. We also got to sign a partnership with the Chief Information Security Officers of Financial Institutions in Nigeria to provide support for the fight against cyberfraud.
We quickly realized that we couldn’t fight scams only, that they were other pressing problems and other ways we could support the ecosystem to be more inclusive and safer, across Africa. We created a few more programs and began our expansion journey. So far, we have educated over 20,000,000 people with cybersecurity awareness programs, upskilled over 16,000 women in 7 African countries, upskilled over 11,000 employees of SMEs in Nigeria. Our CyberGirls fellowship for example, is currently Africa’s biggest female-focused novice-to-professional free cybersecurity training and mentorship program. Through this program that has now expanded to cater to hundreds of women and girls in 22 African countries, we have helped improve the socio-economic wellbeing of women and girls by providing them a launch pad for their cybersecurity careers.
Has having female mentors played a huge role in your career and how?
I never had a female mentor, due to not enough representation of women and visibility of these women as role model figures. I am privileged today to enjoy so much visibility that a week doesn’t go by without receiving a message from a female follower who admires and draws inspiration from seeing me win, consistently. It is a privilege to be able to give what I didn’t have.
However, I am now blessed with women in my network who are peers or seniors in the industry that I am learning from and growing with.
As a young entrepreneur, what’s your take on the African mentality toward hiring young female technopreneurs?
I think there is a lot more openness and less awkwardness to hiring female technopreneurs, now. Some organizations want to score some marks also for working with a female technopreneur, something people have come to term tokenization. I generally do not frown at it, I just have a resolve that when given the first opportunity, I want to deliver so well that it will be clear that I was the best person for the opportunity, gender aside.
I am thankful that in my time as an entrepreneur, I have also been privileged to encounter male allies who see me for my competence, and not for my gender.