By Charndré Emma Kippie
Anna Collard is the female dynamo behind the innovative tech company, KnowBe4 Africa, offering top-notch Cyber Security Awareness Training in South Africa. The company is the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, and was recently presented with the ISACA South Africa prestigious President Award for 2020.
In November 2020, Anna was the proud recipient of the Women in Tech Award, during Africa Tech Week 2020, for her commitment to technological innovation and actionable transformation in the field of Risk and Security. The award comes as no surprise, as Anna has 15 years’ experience in helping corporates across South Africa, Europe and the US with maintaining the safety of their assets. She is, furthermore, a Certified Information Systems professional, a top-tier business analyst, and an ISO 27001 Implementation & Lead Auditor consultant.
The past year has been a wildly successful period for Anna, having obtained multiple accolades, such as the Women in Tech Innovations Throughout Africa 2020 Award for Southern and Central Africa, and being featured in the Top 50 Women in Cybersecurity – Africa 2020, as well as the Top 100 Women in Cyber 2020 globally by Cyber Defence Magazine.
CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE AFRICA TECH: WOMAN IN TECH AWARD! THIS IS AN AMAZING ACCOLADE. HOW HAS THIS RECOGNITION EMPOWERED YOU SO FAR?
Thank you! It is really a huge honour to receive recognition such as this award. I feel quite passionate about inspiring more young women to join the tech and security industries, and I hope to be able to use this in part to build a role model profile.
WHY ARE YOU SO PASSIONATE ABOUT PHISHING AND SECURITY?
The human element is one of the most important aspects of information security, but unfortunately, also one that is often overlooked. Phishing and social engineering is the most dominant attack vector used in successful breaches or hacking attempts. By addressing the social engineering and human hacking problem, the overall security maturity of an organisation can be massively improved.
Even back in 2011, when I founded Popcorn Training, I wanted to find a way to reach non-technical people and help them to understand how to navigate the security space, and to protect themselves from phishing and social engineering attacks. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time now.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR AMAZING WORK ETHIC?
I love learning, and in the security space, you have to learn new things every day. I also enjoy trying to simplify complicated things, which helps with content creation. Most of all, I enjoy that some of the work we do may have a positive impact on Africa’s tech and youth development.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB AS THE SVP OF CONTENT STRATEGY AND EVANGELIST?
My role allows me to focus on keeping abreast of the latest developments in the security industry and assist in spreading the word about the importance of security awareness across the African continent. It also allows me to get involved in really meaningful projects such as the Gov-X initiative, which is an innovation challenge aimed towards inspiring the youth to assist the government in solving our national security challenges. It is really rewarding when work can have a positive impact on our society. This is what really drives me.
WHAT HAVE BEEN MAJOR OBSTACLES IN YOUR CAREER AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
I have to admit, juggling being a mum to two small kids and having to run and grow a business, was very tough. As women, we still have two careers, one at home and one at work, and it’s hard to balance the two. Without the support of my husband and family, it would have been even more difficult, so I’m grateful for them.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DIVERSITY IN YOUR FIELD?
I’ve worked in all-male and all-female teams before and the best performing ones were always the ones with a good mix of both. Diversity, definitely, positively influences decision making and when male and female energies are used in conjunction, it can lead to great results. Diversity is also not just limited to ‘genders’. Having different backgrounds and ways of looking at the world helps in creative problem solving and innovation, so creating diverse teams is something we should consciously strive for, as it’s beneficial to the business at large.
WHEN YOU HAVE AN EXTRA HOUR IN YOUR BUSY DAY, HOW DO YOU SPEND IT?
There are always things to catch up on, so when I get some time back, such as a cancelled meeting, I usually fill it with things from my never ending to-do list. I’d like to be more conscious about taking time for myself this year and next time this happens, I will aim to go for a walk, read or listen to something enjoyable or just sit and look at nature.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO WORK WITHIN THE TECH AND CYBER SECURITY FIELD?
To succeed in cybersecurity, one needs to continuously learn. And to never stop learning, we need to work on our ability to concentrate and focus on one thing at a time. This is something that, unfortunately, technology has made very difficult to do with all the distractions it offers, and being a woman with kids, it’s even more difficult to find that space. So one piece of advice I would give young women is to hone their concentration skills through meditation, prioritise time for themselves, and to not be afraid to unleash the power they have within.