JoVi Douglas pictures a world in which women stand at the forefront of digital defense as leaders in the cybersecurity field.
That is why, when the opportunity to create and lead an Augusta University chapter of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) came up, Douglas didn’t think twice about taking on the challenge.
“I have been afforded a lot of opportunities in my life to start things from the ground up,” she said. “That’s what I saw this opportunity as to lay the groundwork and foundation for a national organization to be here on AU campus.”
However, before Douglas, a junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, received the email inviting her to assume leadership of the group, she had already observed a knowledge gap among her peers when it came to understanding the cybersecurity industry.
“I would run into people who are juniors and seniors, and I would ask them what they want to do, and they would be like ‘I have no clue,’” Douglas said. “I just saw this gap, and I was also one of the many people that come into this field not knowing what it has to offer.”
She eagerly seized the chance to establish this student group aimed at closing that knowledge gap. The group’s purpose is to offer women a supportive environment where they can learn, network and excel in the field of cybersecurity.
“My vision for this club is to actively recruit, retain and empower women in the cybersecurity arena,” Douglas said.
She has recruited a dedicated team of like-minded women to lead and support this endeavor, including Asma Jodeiri, a second-year PhD student; Hannah Kim, a sophomore specializing in cyber operations; and Komal Bhullar, a junior majoring in cybersecurity.
Douglas underscores the distinctive strengths that each team member brings to the table.
Bhullar recently made the difficult decision to change her major from a degree in the medical field to cybersecurity explaining, “It was about my mental health, putting me first.”
Bhullar joined the leadership team after attending the first WiCyS meeting.
“I had been just so closed off, not involved in clubs or getting to know people,” she said. “In the three years I have been here, I had not made many friends, but now with this group, I have a place to go and people to be with.”
She hopes this club can be a safe space for other students who might be struggling.
As for Jodeiri, her passions lay in breaking the stereotypes and preconceived notions about women in technology.
“I thought being part of this group could be a way to help other women and new students coming into the field,” she said. “As someone with a few years of experience and someone who has seen the problems women have in the field, I hope I can help.”
Kim said she joined the group to teach women in cyber about programs that will help them be successful in the future, like Cyber FastTrack.
“I am a first-year student, and within the Cyber FastTrack program, I have already earned scholarships, had award money granted to me and I have been able to attend various conferences, she said.”
Kim recalls during one conference, she was the only woman up on stage while all the other competitors were men, “But I was still No. 1 in my division.”
Kim said she is thankful for all of the opportunities that the CTF program has given her, and she wants the WiCYS club to open up a chance for other students to be a part of that, as well.
“We plan to really guide students to help them through all these challenges because we have experience with completing them already.”