Cybersecurity Trailblazer: Suid Adeyanju’s Journey from Analyst to CISO
In the dynamic world of cybersecurity, careers often take unexpected turns, leading individuals on transformative journeys. Episode 95 of The New CISO Podcast features Suid Adeyanju, CEO and co-founder of RiverSafe Ltd., a professional services organization specializing in cybersecurity, data operations, and DevOps. “It’s an equal mix of the three,” Suid grins.
With an impressive background, including notable stints at Reuters and BP, Suid’s story sheds light on his evolution from a technical expert to a visionary business leader. This article examines the highlights of Suid’s insightful conversation with Steve Moore, offering valuable lessons and perspectives on cybersecurity, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
In this article:
- Embracing an unconventional path
- Different CISOs, different priorities
- No longer thinking in ones and zeroes
- A calculated gamble
Embracing an unconventional path
Suid’s journey from his youth in Nigeria to becoming a proficient business leader defies conventional career paths. In a society where career choices were often confined to becoming a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant, Suid chose a different trajectory. He transitioned from an overlooked corporate security analyst to savvy business leader in the cybersecurity field. Reflecting on his educational past, Suid recalls facing a significant challenge during a “social impact of computing” course, which he initially failed. “I found it boring,” he laughs, reminiscing about his initial perception. Surprisingly, that very course has become the one he now applies most frequently in his daily life.
Different CISOs, different priorities
Suid emphasizes the diversity of CISO backgrounds, leading to varying priorities and approaches to the job. He highlights the risk of technically-minded CISOs being overly reliant on software and advocates a holistic approach that combines technology, process, and people to mitigate risk effectively. Collaboration with others to understand associated risks and providing the right controls can help CISOs ensure security is airtight.
“What I’ve seen is that the CISOs with governance risk and compliance backgrounds are usually much better to work with than the technical ones,” he concludes.
No longer thinking in ones and zeroes
Having spent years as a hands-on technical expert in roles that include desktop engineer, server engineer, and network engineer, Suid shares his transition into the role of co-founder and CEO of RiverSafe. He reflects on his previous, often binary, mindset as an engineer, contrasting it with the complex nuances of business dealings.
“As an engineer I used to think in ones and zeros. Everything was black and white as far as I was concerned,” he explains. “When it comes to business, you’re dealing with human beings, you’re dealing with all sorts of processes and procedures.”
Suid’s transition into a “more people focused” leader required rewiring his brain and shifting priorities from code and networks to aspects like employee retention and customer satisfaction.
“That transition from being an engineer to a business person is a massive transition,” he adds. “And that took some time.… I didn’t feel that I had a career in a corporate world. I felt that if I had to fulfill my potential, I needed to take my destiny into my own hands.”
A calculated gamble
Suid’s entrepreneurial path with RiverSafe began when he met his co-founder, Oseloka Obiora, while working at Reuters. Recognizing their talent as engineers but lacking “the network [and] connections to run a business,” they strategically showcased their value to customers by offering comprehensive services built around technology with a steep growth trajectory. In time, RiverSafe grew through word of mouth and recommendations.
Their big break came when “a senior manager at a huge corporation,” saw the value in Suid’s passion and hard work and wagered on them, resulting in rapid scaling and success for RiverSafe.
“It was a calculated gamble on his side because we were working for him for about six months prior, and we were doing a great job for him, but it was still a big piece of work,” Suid recalls. “If he had gone wrong, he would’ve been in trouble with his job, but he took a chance on us… It was an opportunity that required us to scale up quite quickly in order to be able to meet the demand. But we had the template for what we wanted to do. We had been doing this at a smaller scale previously, so it was just, ‘How do we get more people to do what we had been doing between ourselves and one person?’”
In the closing moments of the episode, Suid offers two valuable pieces of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the cybersecurity domain.
Firstly, he suggests considering a business course to supplement practical knowledge. “I think that would’ve helped me avoid a few mistakes that I made,” he chuckles. Next, he highly recommends finding a mentor, whose experiences can be invaluable, especially in booming fields like cybersecurity.
Emphasizing the essence of servant leadership, Suid conveys that true leadership should never be about ego. “It’s about guiding people, serving people, having empathy,” he concludes. By adopting this approach, one can excel in cybersecurity and beyond.
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