In the SecureWorld Spotlight Series, we learn about the speakers and Advisory Council members that make our events a success. In Q&A format, they share about their professional journeys, unique experiences, and hopes for the future of cybersecurity—along with some personal anecdotes.
In this installment, we introduce you to Dr. Cheryl Cooper. Dr. Cooper works as a Senior Security Design Engineer and Risk Manager with T-Mobile Corporation and is an adjunct professor teaching course curriculum under cybersecurity degree programs with the University of Wisconsin and University of New York. Dr. Cooper holds a doctorate in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice, along with a Master of Arts in Business Administration.
In addition to her current career pursuits, Dr. Cooper sits on multiple cybersecurity boards and is an advocate for equal opportunity for women and minorities in STEM careers. She is the recipient of the 2022 ABWA Dr. Martin Luther King Education & Community Service award for keeping MLK's dream alive, as well as multiple other awards for being a champion and a bridge builder. Dr. Cooper is enthusiastic about helping others, and has demonstrated this through her community work.
Get to know Dr. Cheryl Cooper
Question: Why did you decide to pursue cybersecurity as a career path?
The decision to pursue a career in cybersecurity came easy to me, as I was tenured as a technology and telecommunications professional for 15 years. As a military veteran of the United States Navy, I had a foundational background working in telecommunications. I knew that security holes existed for years, but because communications were more commonly B2B, it was not a priority. Once technology came to the front door of the consumer and into consumer homes, there was a renewed focus on identifying threats and fixing them. There was increased concerned for protection of consumer privacy because of the use of cellphones, social media, and other Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It was a perfect opportunity for me to seize in continuing my career growth and would put me on a trajectory of becoming a life-learner as I evolved with the technology, and more importantly of being able to pay it forward to the generations of youth that would follow. I chose a career in cybersecurity because, even a decade ago, I knew it was an opportunity to be influential and to make a difference in the lives of others. I knew that as the world continued to connect technology to people, that these resources would need protecting. I need to believe that I am contributing to the overall company's mission, but more importantly, and even at a greater level, protecting the world against the "bad guys" and cybercrimes.
Question: What encouraged you to join your current organization?
Answer: As an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy and serving as a Radioman Technical Control, it was a natural progression for me moving from the government sector to the private sector in an Internet Service Provider industry. I enjoyed troubleshooting systems and solving problems. Telecommunications companies have some of the coolest technology to learn on, and when I thought about industry regulations, the top regulations—such as HIPPA, PCI, SOXs, and Privacy Regulations—they are applicable in the telecom arena. My current organization allows me to take standards, regulations, and classroom learnings and apply them to a vast number of real-world and often scary situations. This industry, ISP, keeps you on your toes because about every other industry relies on the communication channels to get their data from one point to its destination.
Question: What do you wish more people knew about your organization?
T-Mobile is more than an impressive retail experience—we are 5G. Where you go, we go. Most people do not know that T-Mobile is a Champion of Change for a better world, embracing all cultures and people. Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, the T-Mobile culture is representative of their customer base. T-Mobile is walking the talk.
Question: What has been your most memorable moment thus far working in cybersecurity?
I have had several, but my most memorable moment in cybersecurity is that after acquiring several degrees, experience, and becoming credentialed, I am now able to give back and help others to pursue careers in this amazing and rewarding field. The opportunity to champion change for underserved communities has allowed me to complete the circle of life, by giving back.
Question: How would you describe your feelings about cybersecurity in one word?
Question: If you had to choose, what's the one cybersecurity practice people can adopt that would have the greatest impact?
AWARENESS and EDUCATION. This is two words, but they are synonymous to the other.
Question: What is an industry-wide change you would like to see happen in 2022?
Educating employees and consumers on the topic and dangers of Phishing and Social Engineering. Since these tactics are the number one vehicle to launch ransomware and other attacks, it is only fitting to acknowledge there should be strategies to address the human threat.
Question: If you could pass or change one regulation/law in cybersecurity and data protection, what would it be and why?
One regulation I would change or legislate for is the requirement for manufacturers to embed security into the Internet of Things (IoT) to protect the data and privacy of consumers. IoT devices are forecast to reach 18 billion by 2022, which will hugely increase the number of potential access points for cybercriminals looking to gain access to systems. This is because the consumer lacks the ability to secure their personal devices on edge devices where the data is collected at the point of entry. This legislation should increase penalties for manufacturers failing to comply.
Question: What are you most looking forward to this year at SecureWorld Kansas City?
At Secure World KC, I am looking forward to being an advocate of change, to being part of one of the first all-Black female panels to champion change for cybersecurity and IT leaders. The speakers will focus on sharing with IT and cybersecurity leaders strategies for recruiting and retaining diverse and robust talent, especially in this era of the "great resignation."
Question: What do you hope attendees will take away from your panel session?
I aspire today to communicate to the attendees the importance of women representation in cybersecurity and technology, along with strategies and recommendations that companies and leaders can take to develop diverse and equitable teams during a time of the great resignation. Attendees will learn the systemic issues with multiple causations and effects that lead to a lack of diverse workforces in cybersecurity, and the strategies for recruitment and retention.
To hear more from Dr. Cooper, attend the upcoming panel session, "Building Diverse Organizations at all Levels of the Ecosystem: Closing the Gender and Race Gap in Cybersecurity," by registering here.
If you're interested in presenting at an upcoming SecureWorld conference, please fill out our speaker submission form.
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