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“Becoming a member of WiCyS has been both eye-opening and door-opening for me. Coming to the United States from Nigeria, where cybersecurity wasn’t yet a rising industry, I initially perceived it as a male-dominated field that seemed inaccessible due to its technical nature. WiCyS shattered my preconceived notions, broadened my horizons and provided me with the resources and encouragement I needed to thrive as a student in the field. Wherever I venture in my career, I recognize that my journey began here, with WiCyS.”

– Rianat Abbas; WiCyS Student Member and MSIS ’25 Candidate at Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University

 

In the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, women often find themselves navigating challenges, barriers or uncertainties. For Rianat Abbas, a Nigerian native currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Information Systems at Baylor University, the journey into cybersecurity was catalyzed by the Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) organization.

 

Originating from Nigeria, where cybersecurity hadn’t yet gained prominence, Rianat initially perceived the field as male-dominated and technically daunting. However, a personal encounter with identity theft ignited her interest, prompting her to delve into the intricacies of the cyber world. Before joining WiCyS, Rianat was trapped in a cycle of confusion, unsure of where to begin. Despite taking a few cybersecurity courses, she lacked the motivation and confidence to complete them and struggled to see how they could translate into a cybersecurity career. Transitioning from a background in product design, Rianat found herself at a crossroads, grappling with the scarcity of resources and mentorship opportunities tailored to her needs.

 

That’s when she discovered WiCyS—a moment that marked the beginning of her journey from product designer to cybersecurity student. WiCyS served as both an eye-opener and a door-opener for Rianat, challenging her preconceptions, expanding her horizons and equipping her with the resources and support she needed to excel in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

 

After officially joining WiCyS in January 2024, Rianat experienced a significant shift in perspective; she found it eye-opening to discover the multitude of domains within cybersecurity, realizing she didn’t have to solely focus on the technical aspects. Moreover, she described shedding her imposter syndrome and feeling more confident, as WiCyS provided her with a clear path to transfer her skills from product management into cybersecurity. This newfound clarity left her feeling relieved and empowered, as she finally felt she knew what she was doing. Within just two months of joining WiCyS, Rianat’s mind was blown by the opportunities and insights it offered.

 

When WiCyS introduced the ISC2 certification program, Rianat seized the opportunity with enthusiasm. Encouraged by the determination she witnessed among fellow women in the WiCyS community, she found the courage to undertake her ISC2 Exams, ultimately achieving her certification with flying colors in February 2024. WiCyS not only equipped Rianat with a clear path to leveraging her certifications in a cybersecurity career but also fostered a supportive community that celebrated diversity and inclusion and embraced her as a new addition to the field. Through this nurturing network, Rianat found doors opening to fresh opportunities. In February 2024, she orchestrated a collaboration among WiCyS members she had previously connected with, inviting them to participate in the 2024 Social Engineering Competition at Temple University—a venture made possible solely through Rianat’s access to the WiCyS community. Now, emboldened by her experiences, Rianat actively engages in initiatives to propel her cybersecurity career forward, including pursuing a scholarship to attend the 2024 RSA Conference in San Francisco, California.

 

Rianat is now driven by a desire to pay forward her journey and ignite change within the cybersecurity industry. Upon joining WiCyS, she observed women sharing their stories, knowledge, and paths, feeling inspired to forge her own. Now, she aims to extend that support to other women considering entering the cybersecurity landscape. By guiding them to the WiCyS organization, she hopes to provide them with the same opportunities she herself received.

 

Rianat gratefully acknowledges and celebrates the transformative influence of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) on her career trajectory. WiCyS emerged as a beacon of opportunity and empowerment, offering Rianat a structured pathway to leverage her product management skills, access conferences, attain certifications, secure scholarships and forge invaluable connections with like-minded individuals. The tangible impact of WiCyS on Rianat’s journey echoes as she recounts her milestones within the community, from achieving certifications to actively engaging in Capture the Flag competitions alongside fellow WiCyS members. Furthermore, WiCyS instilled in her the spirit of paying it forward, inspiring her to advocate for the inclusion of other women in cybersecurity and strive to ensure they too are equipped with the same opportunities she embraced.

 

“Wherever I venture in my career,” Rianat reflects, “I recognize that my journey began here, with WiCyS.” Rianat’s evolution from product designer to cybersecurity student stands as a testament to the transformative force of WiCyS’s inclusive community and the limitless prospects it extends to individuals committed to excellence in the cybersecurity landscape.