Women in Cybersecurity – Meet Alice Irankunda

 

I met Alice during my employment as a tutor at AIMS in Rwanda. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:

You are welcome, Alice. Nice to have you here today:
Thank you, Winnie.

Kindly tell us your full name:
My legal name is Alice Irankunda but I like to be called Abigail.
Okay, we shall call you Abigail then, lol!

So Abigail, what do you do currently?
I work as a Systems and Security Analyst at one of the Canadian Universities. I am in charge of maintaining the cybersecurity and proper behaviour of systems. In summary, I double check the overall security and make sure that the new software comply with our security standards.

I also volunteer for ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association) which is an international professional association focusing on IT and Governance. In our local chapter, I participate in a “She Lead Tech” team where we encourage students, in high schools or fresh-woman at the university to pursue the Tech educational career path.

What’s your life journey been like so far?
My journey, Oh My God! If allowed, I can say that my journey was not very straight forward! There were some challenges but also different blessings that I am deeply grateful for. I was born in Burundi, but was raised in Rwanda where I did almost all of my education. My journey started to have a glimpse of clarity after choosing the advanced high school options. At the commencement of my fourth year of high School in Rwanda, I did a combination of Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry (PCM). This helped me qualify for Computer Engineering as my Undergraduate degree. I went ahead to pursue a Masters in Mathematical Sciences, before moving to Canada for my second masters in Cybersecurity. This second degree facilitated a lot to get the job that I am currently doing.

For my academics, I have been blessed with sponsors since childhood. Thinking about it now makes me express my most sincere gratitude to my parents who named me “Irankunda” which means “God loves me” haha….. I was one of those students who were barely concerned about tuition fees payment.

What have you found inspiring and challenging along this journey?
Being in male dominated careers, it is not an easy or straight forward way to demonstrate your capabilities. Many are already doubting that a female can accomplish it. It requires climbing extra mountains, to prove that you are skilful enough to be an asset in a Tech environment. More-so, as a black female raised in the developing countries, the pressure is sometimes doubled. I need to be more than determined to achieve my personal goals so that no-one ever regrets entrusting me with a certain responsibility.

Although challenges may sound weighty, they are also sources of motivation in some kind of way. To overcome, one has to be optimistic on a personal level. I think that it all has to start with a positive psychological make-up. When I started believing that I would definitely excel in whatever I do if I am fully committed, it changed my life for good. It gives you boldness and confidence to build others up, as well as the humility to learn even more.

The second avenue is to get connected to other ladies who tremendously executed their dreams into a reality. I am glad to have contributed in various local and international Women chapters. Professional chapters are so helpful in shaping out the next generation of tech leaders through mentorship programs, workshops, certifications and sharing career journey experiences.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I enjoy to go to church and meet with a variety of nationalities, share dinner and Bible studies. Secondly, I love to travel, hang around and see the beauty of the creations. Do not be surprised if we meet somewhere in Uganda eating nyamachoma, lol.

Let’s celebrate some of your achievements & awards
There are many achievements and small awards that I won in the past, but one of them that I am more grateful for, was the Microsoft Imagine Cup on a national level back in Rwanda. I came across different scholarships, International conferences tickets based on merits and so forth.

In your last words, leave us with some encouragement.
Strive for excellence in whatever is in your capabilities, and God will take control of whatever remains.

It is with great value to plan ahead of time, but be flexible for countless opportunities.

Thank you Abigail for sparing some time to speak with me.

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