Technology solutions in the post-COVID era need to be able to secure remote-working because people are now working from around the world
When asked about his background, Dr. Fene Osakwe, Director, Group IT-GRC & Strategy at IHS Towers, in an exclusive interview with CIO News, said, “I come from a computer science background, which I studied at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in South West Nigeria.” I struggled a bit at that time, but moved on and got into Forbes Technology Council.
When asked how he planned his career path to be a successful technology leader, he said, “I wish I could take the credit of having a very successful career path, but the truth is that I stumbled a lot in the initial stages.” It was not completely planned. That is one of the reasons that today I mentor young career professionals so that they do not face the difficulties that some of us faced. But, at some point in my career, I became intentional about what I wanted to achieve. Every year I would plan my 12-month strategy about what I wanted to achieve, the books I needed to read to gain knowledge, and the conferences I needed to attend for the way forward, and I have consistently followed the same for the last 12 years.
When asked about challenges he faced in his career path and how he overcame them, he said, “There have been several challenges, but the one that kept re-occurring was that people used to repeatedly say that I was too young.” I started my career at Deloitte, and one of the responsibilities of being a Deloitte professional is to give advisory services to executives, but when I used to give my opinion to an executive, I was cross-questioned about how much knowledge and work experience do I have? That was a challenge that used to occur very often. But, I faced the challenge and was able to break into the international speaking industry. I started getting invitations to speak at conferences in Nigeria, and last year, the doors were opened to speak globally across the world.
When asked him about a cyber-attack or a security incident he has witnessed, he said, “One of the reasons I pursued my career in the cyber security field is that I was a victim of an attack.” On a Sunday morning, I was preparing to go to Church in Lagos, Nigeria, when I received a debit alert on my phone, which meant my account had been debited. This was the time I had just started my career. While I was trying to understand what had happened, I received a second debit alert and back to back 10 debit alerts. I had to cancel going to the Church and ran towards the bank, but the bank was closed as it was Sunday. So I went to the bank on Monday and the official told me that it was a security incident, but they told me to fill out a form which took care of the liabilities. The bank official told me that I might have given my debit card PIN number or password to someone. So, I did not get my money back.
When asked about which technology solutions and innovations are important in the post-COVID era, he said, “One of the things to think about in the post-COVID era is remote-working.” So, technology solutions in the post-COVID era need to be able to secure remote-working because people are now working from around the world. “I am very careful while we talk about solutions, not to talk about solutions in isolations of strategy because ultimately, what should drive your technology solution should be your technology strategy.” For example, preventing means you should have security solutions that prevent cyber-attacks. When you have solutions in this bucket, you are talking about things like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and privileged access management solutions. So you should have solutions that are able to help you recover.
When asked about challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies, he said, “Implementing digital technologies is about driving digital transformation.” My experience in the past years has provided several challenges. One of them is employee push-back. Sometimes people are comfortable with what they know. These are the people who have worked with what they know for decades. But, suddenly, there is a change in the system, and so these people get a push-back. The second thing is that sometimes the structure of the organisation does not allow some of the technologies because sometimes when you introduce digital technologies, some regular jobs all of a sudden go extinct or obsolete. And the last challenge is limited versions. So organisations would want to drive these digital technology solutions, but do not have a budget. The organisation would want a $10 million solution on a budget of $1 million, which is not possible.
When asked how technology leaders can overcome the challenges they face, he said, “I think advocacy would help, which means getting closer to the business.” “I think, as technology leaders, we must be a part of the conversation when a business is deciding on its business strategy.” The challenge is that business strategy decisions are made, and then technology leaders are told what to do. “Technology fundamentally is an enabler of business.” And so, it is difficult to enable a business model you do not understand. So, we need to be in the conversation when the business is deciding on its direction and technology strategy, which must be offshoes of the business strategy because the business will not be fond of what they do not drive.
When asked about best practices, industry trends, or advice he would like to suggest to fellow technology leaders for their successful professional journeys, he said, “From our experience of mentoring around 100 career professionals across various career professions, I would say to stay hungry, which means always look for information.” Secondly, I would say to be humble, which is one of the challenges with technology leaders, because it makes us sound like we know everything, but in my opinion, there is a lot we can learn from the younger generation. My third piece of advice is to stay relevant, which means to stay current with technology, whether it’s digital, cyber, project management, or anything else. So, we need to stay relevant and visible because we are in a global pool now where sometimes knowledge that is useful in one country is also equally useful in another country.
He highlighted, “We are living in the internet times where technology seems to be the light.” There are so many tech start-ups all over the world, so it is a great time, but not everybody necessarily needs to be in the tech space. There are other areas to excel in as well. I have seen people in their late 40s or 50s trying to switch their industries from finance or supply chain, where they have worked for around 30 years, to the tech industry because they think tech is the industry they want to be in. So, if you think technology is not meant for you, stay in the industry you have excelled in. However, if you want to be in technology, please seek mentorship and guidance. “I believe that successful people have dots. If you follow the same steps, you will achieve the same results.“
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