Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2022’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.
This year, the awards are sponsored by Beazley, BT, KPMG and KnowBe4.
Nadia Kadhim, Co-founder and CEO of Naq Cyber
What does your job role entail?
As a founder and CEO, I wear many different hats. I am an ambassador, orchestrator, operator (aka firefighter), commander and strategist. But first and foremost, I ensure that Naq has the resources to carry out its vision and fulfil its mission, namely to become the SME compliance and security provider in Europe.
How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?
Straight out of University, I started a job in a small family company, where as the only lawyer on staff, I was tasked with implementing GDPR. Having never done anything in the privacy sector, it took me a little while (and a lot of coffee) to read and understand the GDPR. After three years, having implemented the privacy legislation into the organisation, having advised local government on its ins and outs, and having implemented cybersecurity measures as part of the compliance program, I felt that the whole process had been too time-consuming and frankly, too boring. When I met my co-founder Chris, who was a cybersecurity expert, our conversations turned quickly to making compliance and cybersecurity a lot easier, quicker and cheaper for small organisations like the one I had been working at. And voilá, two years later, I am co-running a cybersecurity and compliance startup that puts security and compliance on autopilot!
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?
I like to think about the topic of “women in cyber” more in terms of opportunities rather than challenges. It is a great opportunity to inspire all kinds of people, including but not limited to women, to join the industry, to change the face of cyber (one face at a time) and to stand out from the crowd. Diversity in tech makes for better products, better companies and better people, so I love that I can be a role-model in an industry which I never thought I would be a part of.
What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?
Having left my first job to start a company is pretty up there, especially coming from a background which is not the most common breeding ground for entrepreneurs.
I have had the privilege of joining prestigious programs like the NCSC cyber accelerator and Google for Startups, which has not only had a tremendous impact on my success as a CEO and on our company, but has also brought me into contact with some of the greatest minds in cyber.
And finally, I am confident that the greatest accomplishment is yet to come, and I can’t wait to see what it will be!
What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?
We are recruiting right now, and it has been amazing to hear feedback from some of the female candidates. They expressed their excitement at working at a company where the management team is 66% female (and not to mention BAME). I think leading by example is the single most powerful thing we as companies and leaders can do to inspire other people and increase diversity in the tech industry. We will continue to recruit all kinds of people, and aim to become the most diverse startup in Europe.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?
I would like to change this question to “What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women?” because I wish I had gotten and internalised this piece of advice a lot earlier in my career: Do not compare your inside to other people’s outside.
Though it affects everybody, women are especially prone to imposter syndrome and we tend to compare our insecure selves to others who seem in control, all the time. But I learned that everybody is doing the best they can, all the time, and people make mistakes. Don’t think that everybody has everything under control, because we all struggle, no matter what it looks like from the outside. You’re just as capable as the next person, and you can do it!