By combining two passions inherited from her parents, IT and love for online teaching, Fareedah came all the way from a little girl mesmerised with her dad’s CISCO books to an award-winning online safety strategist. Her bubbly nature, curiosity and deep knowledge about the cybersecurity best practices help her in an everyday mission to teach online security to non-tech savvy people and help parents save their kids from online scams and predators.
Fareedah Shaheed has read more than 2,000 books in her life, used to play with a computer with no internet trying to figure out how the wi-fi works and in the end – she wants to dedicate her career to helping people in cybersecurity and staying safe in the challenging space of an online world.
From majoring in cybersecurity in college and working in the corporate world all the way to becoming Forbes 30 Under 30 tech expert and founder of an online security company, Sekuva – meet the inspiring Miss Fareedah Shaheed.
What excites you and makes you busy and creative in these challenging times?
There are so many things that excite me but the biggest things that keep me going and bring me joy are my community and my Safe Kids Movement.
The Safe Kids Movement is a mission that I started to help mothers discover how to protect their kids online and as you can imagine that takes up a bulk of my time and gives me a lot of joy.
Being able to serve my community and show up as my full self is what keeps me going and I’m blessed to have it.
Growing Up Offline
As a kid you had access to a computer but not the internet. When and how did you realise you were in love with technology?
You’re absolutely correct, my main form of entertainment back then were my books and friends until I was about 13 years old. I realised I was in love with technology when my father gave me a computer to play around with but purposely didn’t allow internet access on it. I was able to play around with it and discover a whole new world outside of books.
And I really fell deeply in love with technology when I started to game online. And I’m still an avid gamer to this day.
Not many people know you have been both a teacher and a broker! What important lessons from these experiences help you in running your business today?
Yes, you’re right! Many people don’t know it and I love this question. The most important lesson I learned was that it wasn’t for me!
I believe those experiences taught me a lot but when it comes to my business it really showed me that its important to quickly identify what will and will not work for your long term goals.
Because the sooner you can identify this and make a shift, the easier and more fulfilling your business will be.
What is the most interesting part of being a young cyber security expert?
The most interesting part is being able to see the cybersecurity industry from a different lens. Meaning, I’m able to integrate my seemingly unrelated experiences in gaming (League of Legends), writing, reading and public speaking into the field and create better solutions.
This is exactly how I take both my gaming and corporate background into my business without feeling like one is out of place.
An Avid Reader
One of the most impressive facts about you is that so far you have read more than 2000 books. And not only that – as a kid you enjoyed reading your dad’s CISCO books. What did you find intriguing in this type of literature?
Books have had such a huge impact on my life and I’ve always loved how you can travel the whole world just by picking up a few hundred or thousands of books.
I heard someone say that if you can’t afford to travel at least read different types of books from a diverse set of authors. And this concept is one of the biggest reasons why I love reading.
It opens up your mind to a reality different than yours and gives you a deeper understanding of your own. And because I love understanding how things work, CISCO books were definitely in my library as a kid.
Precisely this company recognised your passion and efforts and now you are working on two projects with this tech giant. Can you tell us more about this?
Yes, I’ve contributed to two eBooks and have an amazing podcast with them that just came out on my journey. In this conversation, I spoke to Hazel about how my upbringing and experiences inside and outside the field brought me to cybersecurity and my current focus on online safety for kids.
The CISCO team has been absolutely incredible and I’m looking forward to bringing more value to them. It’s great how life has come around full circle.
What is the most challenging part of being a young business owner?
I’m not sure if there is a most challenging part in being a young business owner in particular, at least for me. I suppose this is why I invest heavily in myself because if I ever have a particular challenge, I just ask my business coach and take action to sort it out.
To me, being a young business owner has many more positives than negatives. One of the biggest positives is being a young entrepreneur in tech.
For a long time, we have been used to hearing of the younger generation making waves in the tech industry so when I walk into the room there isn’t too much convincing I have to do.
Not many industries have this stereotype. And while I’m still a black Muslim woman, my age does help more often than not.
Your company Sekuva helps small businesses and families to gain the knowledge about online security in a simple way. Can you tell us how your trainings and strategy sessions look like?
Our main focus right now is helping mothers protect their kids online. We do this with our community-based membership called the Safe Kids Movement.
The content is accessible to our members via an online portal where they receive a variety of step-by-step content & resources on online safety (including access to upcoming interviews with more experts) and the opportunity to get their questions answered.
In your opinion, what are the top three dangers for children in online world?
Those would be online predators (inappropriate contact and interactions), cyberbullying (demeaning comments and messages) and online scams (fake websites, fake social media profiles, hacked profiles, catfishing/impersonation scams, etc.)
What are the greatest challenges small companies are facing in regards to online security?
One of the biggest challenges for small companies is the awareness that they even need cybersecurity solutions. Most small companies also don’t have the budget for large-scale security solutions which is also a challenge.
Thankfully, there are many security companies that are coming out with security solutions that fit the small company budget.
This is why the biggest challenge will most likely always be raising awareness of the need for cybersecurity.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still topic number one in both online and offline media. What are some of the most common COVID-19 online scams people should be aware of?
Many hackers are using the pandemic to lure people into downloading a weird attachment or clicking on a link. Everyone should be especially cautious when it comes to their email and social media inboxes.
Many of the scams are related to:
- COVID-vaccine /cure
- Pandemic numbers/insight
- Online shopping scams
It’s important to always think twice before clicking on something and double check to make sure its legitimate.
Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to my mother. She has been not only my biggest support system (helping me iron out ideas, edit important documents, and basically being there for me in all capacities every step of the way) but has been a huge support to thousands of people worldwide with her books and courses.
Her mission, drive, and love inspire me every day to be a better human being. I love her and she is the reason why I’m able to do what I do every day.
Concerned about online safety and cybersecurity? Here’s how to be safe when applying for a job:
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