Shanelle McPherson – seeks to make a mark in cyberworld
Shanelle McPherson has a passion for cybersecurity and a drive to make a difference in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. In fact, this combination of knowledge and zeal has already parleyed her to success in several areas.
In 2022, she was awarded the Rickert Allen Scholarship by the NCB Foundation. And now nearing completion of her first year of studies in the Bachelor of Science degree in Networking with a focus on Cybersecurity at the University College of the Caribbean (UCC), this tech enthusiast has accomplished a lot.
McPherson said her interest in cybersecurity was sparked by the impact of technology on our daily lives and her curiosity about data security and online privacy. She said she was drawn to the exciting prospects the field offers like designing security systems and working on complex networks.
Ultimately, though, it was the opportunity to make her own mark on the ever-expanding digital world and be a part of technological progress that motivated her to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
But she said that being a woman in a male-dominated industry has not been easy. “I have been undervalued and not taken seriously due to my gender,” she shares. “Staying committed to my goals and striving for excellence has enabled me to overcome obstacles. I hope to inspire other young women in tech by working hard and proving myself.”
In October 2021, when she was a student at Amber Coding Academy, a request from members of the diaspora to teach coding to inner-city children tapped into McPherson’s goal to her own training facility.
She began with the help of her colleague, Romaine Donald. A shaky Internet connection and a shortage of devices did not deter her, and the first cohort of 10 students passed that year.
Three cohorts and over 200 students later, the online education platform dubbed CodeEd, McPherson said she considers one of her greatest accomplishments to date.
CodeEd is an eight-week coding programme that introduces young children under 12 to Scratch, a block-based coding language, while training those over 13 years on HTML and CSS, two popular scripting coding languages used for website creation.
She said that her short-term goals include the introduction of a security course to ensure the students’ online safety. It is to be developed using her undergraduate training.
In the long term she wants to incorporate personal development and financial literacy courses to complement the traditional school syllabus.
As a beneficiary of NCB’s Grant a Wish programme, CodeEd has received several tablets to assist with the outreach programme. Seeing the impact of the support from the financial organisation, Shanelle is also keen on developing longer-term partnerships with corporate partners.
McPherson has built a strong network that includes highly respected local and international professionals in the ICT industry. She hopes that as a cybersecurity expert, her endeavours will have a long-lasting effect on the industry.
“I want to explore innovative techniques and technologies that might improve online security through my studies. Moreover, I intend to keep working with subject-matter experts to create advanced solutions that can help guard against cyber dangers and protect sensitive information,” McPherson said.
Currently, she is working on a project involving the implementation of Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) in Jamaica. The implementation of DNSSEC will significantly improve Jamaica’s domain name system’s security and reliability, providing benefits to individuals and businesses alike.
Also, she hopes her legacy in the field of cybersecurity will be one of collaboration and innovation.
“Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility that demands continuous education and innovation,” she said. “Neglecting cybersecurity can have severe consequences, so it’s crucial to prioritise it in both personal and professional settings. By doing so, we can create a safer and more secure digital world for ourselves and future generations.”
The Rickert Allen Scholarship, valued at $600,000, is in honour of the late Rickert Allen, who led the digitisation of HR practices at National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited.