For a long time the technology field has been male dominated but thankfully, this is changing slowly but surely as more women continue making it in this lucrative industry. In as much as their journey is more often than not wrought with challenges these women have adopted a never say die attitude as they continue to chart a path for those behind them. This is the case for Sabrina Barongo a 24 year old a Principal Officer for Cyber Security Assurance, Strategy and Design at Safaricom PLC.

Sabrina Barongo was inspired to pursue a career in tech as she wanted to make an impact and change people’s lives. This is what motivated her to work hard in high school where she managed to get a chance to study for a Bachelor of Science, Information Technology at Maseno University and we can say the rest is history. Also, having come from a very humble background, she was determined to leverage technology as a tool for social progress. This is because she saw tech as a platform that could be used to contribute towards positive change.

Sabrina’s passion for tech saw her get an internship position at Safaricom while she was still in third year at University where she worked in the Cyber Security department. She must have made a good impression while working as an intern that as soon as she graduated, she was back at Safaricom where started working as Senior Officer – Cyber Security Assurance. She worked in this position for about two years before getting a promotion to her current role as a the Principal Officer for Cyber Security Assurance.

In her current role, she handles Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration testing of products before they go to market. This involves ensuring the security and safety of customer facing products such as: Lipa Na M-PESA, Financial Inclusion Program which includes Hustler Fund, Women Enterprise Fund and Hustler Groups,  Faraja and Insurance products just to name a few. Red teaming where she emulates real attackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures  against Safaricom systems to test our cybersecurity effectiveness by applying an adversarial lens among others.

Some of the key highlights of Sabrina Barongo career include being a two-time CEO awards winner for my work around Women in Technology and Financial Inclusion program. She was also part of the team that ensured the safety and security of M-PESA in Ethiopia.

Having made it in the tech field, Sabrina Barongo is keen on giving a helping hand to those women who are behind. On her free time she works as a Campus Connect Lead for the Safaricom Women in Technology program. The Campus Connect program is a cross functional team of passionate women in Safaricom who are looking to bridge the skills gap in technology and help students in campus upskill and reskill to prepare them for the job market and get their footing in the technology space. Her role in the program revolves around working with campus students to upskill on in-demand skills such as UI/UX, Software Engineering, DevOps, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, IOT, Product management and Cloud.

She is also a Google Women TechMakers Ambassador where helps in organizing events that bring together women to learn technical concepts such as AI/ML, Software engineering and cloud. She also engage in public speaking and sharing knowledge around security such as speaking at the Google I/O extended summit and Africa’s talking summit on data privacy in Kenya.

Despite her achievements, Sabrina Barongo has also faced her fair share of challenges more so at the start of journey in the tech industry. During this time she faced significant hurdles in voicing her thoughts and opinions due to a lack of assertiveness. This posed a considerable challenge for her while seeking assistance due to the fear of being perceived as incompetent or imposing on others. This initial struggle hindered her ability to fully engage with her colleagues as well as take advantage of growth opportunities within the industry. However, over time she has been able to overcome this challenge and live to her full potential.

Sabrina believes there is need for more women to join the industry due to the unique perspective that they bring to the table. According to her, women bring diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to the table thus enriching team dynamics and fostering a culture of innovation. She adds that by embracing diversity of thought, teams can challenge conventional wisdom, identify new opportunities, and drive transformative change in the tech industry.

On what needs to be done to ensure more inclusivity in the tech industry, Sabrina believes that there is need for various innovative approaches. These include mentorship programs targeting women whereby mentors can provide guidance, advice, and support, helping mentees navigate challenges, set goals, and develop professionally. Networking opportunities specifically tailored for women in tech are able to provide valuable opportunities to connect with peers, share experiences, and build professional relationships. This can open doors to job opportunities, mentorship, and collaboration.

There is also a need for diverse role models because representation matters, and having diverse role models in leadership positions within the tech industry can inspire and empower women to pursue their career aspirations. Lastly, she indicated that community support groups, such as Women in Tech (WIT) organizations or affinity groups within companies are also important. This is because they offer a sense of belonging and solidarity. They also provide a platform for women to share insights, seek advice, and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

According to Sabrina, having a mentor is key if one is to progress in their career. She shared that some of the two mentors who have made an impact in her life are Joylynn Kirui who is a senior cloud security advocate at Microsoft. As well as Evelyn Kilel who is the founder of She Hacks Kenya. She indicated that the two women have demonstrated to her that indeed women too, can be very successful in the tech industry. Essentially, seeing successful women who have broken barriers and achieved their goals has motivated me to pursue my own aspirations and overcome challenges along the way.

Her advice to women who would like to join the tech industry is that, they should embrace continuous learning because the tech industry is constantly evolving. They also need to develop resilience because challenges and setbacks are inevitable, but it’s how you respond to them that matters. They should not be afraid to advocate for themselves because their voice matters as such they should not hesitate to use it. They need to look for role models and mentors who inspire them and can offer guidance and advice based on their own experiences in the tech industry. Lastly, they should take pride in your accomplishments and learn to celebrate their successes along the way.