Q&A: Adenike Cosgrove

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It’s fair to say Adenike Cosgrove is a people person. She has a deep understanding of the ‘human factor’ in cybersecurity, such as the psychology behind social engineering techniques used by threat actors and how to properly engage people in awareness training. 

Adenike (Nikki) Cosgrove, VP, cybersecurity strategist for EMEA, Proofpoint
Adenike (Nikki) Cosgrove, VP, cybersecurity strategist for EMEA, Proofpoint

Infosecurity Magazine: What’s your proudest achievement (can be professional or personal)?

Adenike Cosgrove: Speaking first-hand to a room of clinicians, nurses and other healthcare workers at a major private healthcare organization in the UK. It was the first time they’d ever really had contact with a security professional to understand the threats they were facing and what to do. We know from our research that these frontline staff are often the most targeted by cyber-criminals, who realize that they are rushed off their feet and more focused on treating patients than checking whether an email is spoofed. The nurses had no idea that they were top of the list due to the access they have to patient data. They now view themselves as defenders not just of patient care but also of patient data.

IM: What was your route into cybersecurity?

AC: Although I really wanted to be an artist as a kid, I was told I could be one of three things: a doctor, an accountant (my dad’s preference – he was an accountant) or an engineer. So, being a Daddy’s girl but still wanting to rebel, I picked engineer. I’ve then worked my way through various fascinating roles as an analyst at Canalys and Forrester, developing a deep understanding of the challenges CISOs face and developing cybersecurity strategies for countless organizations.

My mother has also been a driving force in my career journey. As I’ve grown older and closer to my mother, I’ve came to the realization that she had very little growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Despite the lack of opportunity, she made it her mission to succeed so that her children could lead better lives. Her hard work and unwavering determination ensured that my siblings and I could get the best education possible. Growing up, I remember her always saying “lọ ka iwe rẹ” in Yoruba, which literally translates to “go and read your books!” Grit, determination, hard work and resourcefulness, are traits she has in spades, and these are traits that I aspire to in my own life and career.

IM: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? 

AC: One thing I'll never forget was when I first started as an analyst early in my career and I was about to give my first presentation on stage. I was extremely nervous and could think of nothing I wanted to do less in that moment! But the organizer of the event said to me, “that audience out there, they're not looking at you thinking ‘I want her to fail,’ they're just thinking ‘I want to learn something new. I want to solve this challenge in a new way or develop myself based on what she's going to tell me or tackle a challenge in a different way.’ Your perception is that you're afraid because potentially you are going to fail, but nobody here wants you to.”

From that point on I thought ‘Huh. Ok. As long as I tell them something new, it's alright.’ That really helped me. Most, if not all of us, have something new or interesting to say, or a different perspective on things that people are going to learn from. 

IM: What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in the information security industry in today? 

AC: My advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in IT is to find their grit and go for it without being intimidated by the obstacles they might encounter. This is what it always comes back to.

Whether you’re at the very start of your job search, or have an established IT career, my advice remains the same: Get your name out there. Constantly put your hand up to attend workshops, technical sessions, networking events and industry shows. Don’t be put off by job postings because they sound too technical – there’s always the opportunity to learn on the job, and remember, IT teams require diversity and a plethora of skills. 

Quick-fire Q&A:

IM: If you weren’t an infosec professional, what would be your DREAM job? (And you can’t say anything IT Security related!)

AC: An artist.

IM: If you could create an ‘all-star’ project team to work with you on a really tough but exciting project, who would you pick and why?

AC: I couldn’t pick an individual – there is some amazing talent out there. For me, it’s more about working with experts that help to fill gaps in expertise.

IM: Who do you really admire in the industry? 

AC: Anybody who is helping in the fight against cybercrime is a superstar in my eyes!

IM: What’s your guilty secret?

AC: The fact that my husband thinks I want to move out to the country and get a dog, when really, I’m a city girl through and through!

Bio: Adenike (Nikki) Cosgrove is VP, cybersecurity strategist for EMEA at Proofpoint, where she drives marketing strategy across EMEA markets. She provides expertise on key regional cybersecurity strategies such as people-centric security, risk management, data privacy and compliance. She works closely with global brands to understand the threats they are facing and feeds that back to the product development teams on help in the fight against today’s sophisticated threat landscape. 

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