Making It Count
Student’s move to a new country adds up to skills in IT and a new life
“I love to do calculations,” said Taiwo Kolawole.
One he’s been working on for a while is starting to add up.
Kolawole, who earned a bachelor’s degree in his home country of Nigeria, worked for a time as an accountant. But he felt the winds shifting. Not necessarily unhappy with his accounting life, he nonetheless thought he saw the future, and that future was cybersecurity. A lightbulb went off when he realized that nearly every financial transaction involves a computer, a payment card and the internet. He wondered, “Who is policing this stuff?”
The more he thought about it, the better cybersecurity looked. He saw better earning potential, more opportunity for growth and greater work flexibility in IT.
“I needed something more challenging, and the entire business world is going digital,” Kolawole, 35, said. “Just like we have the police and FBI protecting our lives and properties and investigating crimes, and the CIA collecting and analyzing information about foreign threats and activities, we also need virtual police — cybersecurity to protect our data and business from cybercriminals and threats.”
In 2021, he made up his mind and formulated one goal: to launch a career in IT. First step? Education. So, he got his F-1 visa approved and moved to Northeast Ohio, where he enrolled in the cybersecurity program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).
“Tri-C has given me the background that I need. I learned that some transferable skills in networking were pivotal to a successful career in IT. Networking is a critical aspect. From there, you can go into anything you want to in IT,” Kolawole said.
Kolawole’s focus is on the GRC (governance, risk and compliance) aspects of IT. He has gained proficient knowledge of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). He is seeking certifications in these fields.
To help fund his studies, Kolawole applied and was accepted to the Mandel Scholars program.
“We have some wonderful professors. They are super devoted to the humanities, and we don’t just focus on academics. We focus on humanity, leadership and life,” he said.
Through the program, Kolawole has learned about Cleveland history — in class and through tour visits — and has traveled beyond Ohio, engaging in community projects that trained him to be a leader.
“The Mandel program showed me how to help people and that it’s not all about yourself or the people around you,” he said. To him, it has been a rewarding part of his Tri-C journey.
He also obtained substantial scholarships from the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation, the Black American Council and the Nigerian Community in Greater Cleveland, among others.
During his time at the College, Kolawole gained practical experience in IT through internships at Tri-C’s Eastern Campus and the Jerry Sue Thornton Center. He served as the treasurer and vice president of the Eastern Campus student government and secretary of the joint student council.
As he prepares to graduate, he is eyeing step two of his plan: gainful employment. Kolawole is confident in his prospects and plans to remain in Northeast Ohio.
“Every bit of what I have learned at Tri-C has been useful in my life and career,” he said.