UMBC faculty share knowledge and passion during Diversity in Cybersecurity, Brunei event

Published: Mar 22, 2024

Group of women pose outside the National Digital Forensics Laboratory in Brunei
Participants in the Diversity in Cybersecurity, Brunei conference pose for a group photo. (Photo courtesy of Edah Hasnal)

Over two weeks at the end of January, six UMBC faculty woke up early to deliver lectures and lead workshops with students more than 9,000 miles away, in the small Asian nation of Brunei, located on the island of Borneo. The online talks were part of the Diversity in Cybersecurity, Brunei conference, organized jointly by Edah Hasnal, an advocate for gender diversity in the tech sector in Brunei, and Carolyn Seaman, director of the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) at UMBC.

The idea for the conference was born out of an internship that Hasnal completed with Seaman in the fall of 2021 through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a U.S. State Department-funded leadership development program. During the internship, which was conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasnal created a series of short videos highlighting tech workers in Brunei. She also worked with Seaman to propose a follow-up project that ultimately turned into the Diversity in Cybersecurity, Brunei conference.

The goal of the conference was to share cybersecurity concepts and career paths with women interested in the tech sector. Out of around 50 applicants, the organizers picked 10 women with varying backgrounds. 

“We wanted to keep the conference relatively small, so that we could connect the participants with further opportunities,” Hasnal says. She says she was inspired by the stories of the women who attended, including a woman who worked as a cleaner while pursuing a tech education. Hasnal also says that Brunei is working to diversify its economy, and she sees the tech sector as a natural area of growth. 

Seaman recruited speakers from across UMBC to join the conference virtually and share their cybersecurity knowledge with attendees. Karuna Joshi, information systems, Deborah Kariuki, education, Christine Mallinson, language, literacy, and culture, Vandana Janeja, information systems, and Sreedevi Sampath, information systems, gave talks on topics ranging from cloud computing security to AI deepfake detection.

On left, a slide presents UMBC speaker information. On right, participants in the conference listen to a presentation.
On left, a slide introduces UMBC speaker Deborah Kariuki. On right, conference participants listen to a presentation. (Photos courtesy of Edah Hasnal)

“The great thing about having women trainers who come from different backgrounds was that it was both insightful and inspiring for us all,” Hasnal says. 

It was wonderful to have CWIT’s reach extend so far through participation in the conference, Seaman says. “We’ve been dedicated to increasing gender parity in the tech industry, and we could see that many of the same issues and same goals we have are shared by people on the opposite side of the world.”

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