CISO | Tech Policy Advisor | Cybersecurity Professor | Founder 3.14 Academy 501c3 | Autism Advocate | Speaker
Cybersecurity policy & governance SME. Public speaker; advocating for women in the cybersecurity field and inclusion of special needs populations.
What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?
In 2000, I entered undergrad at Hampton University and majored in Computer Science. Cybersecurity was just starting to take shape. I saw there was a need for talent in this space and took the steps to become marketable. Luckily, it has been an amazing career where learning and growth seem to be endless.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?
I am the first black female to graduate Jacksonville State University with a doctorate degree. I received my degree in 2018. It is amazing that there are still so many instances where being a minority female often means you are “the first”. It is an honor to hold that title.
Also, being chosen as the first CISO for DC Government Child and Family Services Agency was a real honor. The mission of the agency and the role of the position was a unique fit that was prefect for me. I love advocating for children and when you work for an organization that has a humanitarian mission, it makes the work you do, so much more meaningful.
What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?
- A lack of knowledge about organization data supply chain has been a hard issue to address and get organizational funding to mitigate. I think executives must learn the value of data integrity and it starts with the supply chain. In the world of AI and Machine Learning, understanding where your data is coming from, and if the source is creditable, is a growing issue.
- A lack of industry diversity and inclusion. I am speaking on behalf of gender and ethnic diversity, but also neuro and age diversity as well. We tend to focus on gender and ethnicity but there are so many other buckets that are not represented in the technology sector. People who see the world differently, as those with autism, and people who have longer life experiences, really bring value to any industry but are marginalized in the technical space.
How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?
- I think Artificial Intelligence is going to highlight the need to understand data. We need to understand data accuracy and integrity as we train these AI models.
- We need be transparent with algorithms that are used to influence our decisions so we can avoid negative AI bias.
- Data also moves so fast from one dataset to another; we must have security gates in place to ensure confidentiality of data remains intact.
Do you have any planned next steps for your career?
I would like to focus my time on building my nonprofit, 3.14 Academy. Cybersecurity will always be a passion, but as a special needs mom, I feel my “life calling” changing. I want to build an organization that helps other special needs families traverse the hurdles and pit falls that the autism community often faces. It has been difficult trying to change careers. So much of what I know and can provide, is cybersecurity. I am learning to re-brand myself as multi-faceted, which takes time with many starts and stops.
What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far? Why has it been so important to you?
Take the time to do it right the first time. As IT managers, there are so many products and services that catch our eye. There is always a new fancy dashboard or interface that seems like it will solve all our problems in a flash. But there is no tool that will give you an organizational solution if you do not have processes and procedures in place. The administrative work is often overlooked because it is not glamourous…but it is so important!
Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?
I live by a short list of priorities and that is how I make every life decision.
Priority #1: is my relationship with God. If something negatively impacts my integrity or ethics, it’s an automatic no.
Priority #2: is my family; I am a big mama bear at heart, and I am very protective of my kids and husband.
Priority #3: is myself (I often get told to switch this to #2 but with small kids it is difficult to put yourself before family). My health and wellbeing are particularly important because I move at 100mph, and I cannot do that if I am not healthy.
Priority #4: is career. My career choices need to be meaningful. I am so fortunate to have the opportunities that I have had. My success also allows me to be choosey in what projects I want to work on. I enjoy doing things that I feel have an impact to people on a personal level.
Priority #5: my side-hustles. I always have other things going on. Mentally, it keeps me learning but I also believe everyone should have multiple sources of income to create wealth.
And that is it! In that order 😊
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