Carrying on Madam C.J. Walker’s Legacy (1867-1919)
Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black woman to become a self-made millionaire in this country. She started in the cotton fields of the south and built a hair manufacturing empire. She was also a political activist and philanthropist.
I, along with 14 other trailblazing women in Houston, received the #Power15 Award for carrying on her legacy of leadership, female empowerment, breaking barriers, and affecting change in our community.
I made a decision years ago that I would share knowledge to empower others. All I’ve ever asked in return is that the people who benefit send the ladder back down. It isn’t always easy, and like parenting and working in security, sometimes it feels like a thankless job.
I’ve been so busy just doing the work because it felt right that I didn’t slow down long enough to see what I’ve done. Then I updated my resume the other day and had a holy shitmoment.
I did not even realize that I’d given almost 20 speeches and published over 100 articles in the past few years. I did this while working full-time, finishing a masters degree with kids and a husband!
I’ve been volunteering, mentoring women, referring people to better resources when I’m unable to help, encouraging people to start whatever thing they are afraid to start, and giving away certification vouchers that I earn as part of my work with CompTIA. I’ve also been organizing people, events, and talking women off the ledge several times a week.
This work also requires taking unpopular positions, such as encouraging women to document their accomplishments weekly lest they go to work one day and find out that Chad has been Christopher Columbusing their work.
It also means calling out problems in the industry, such as how non-technical topics that make and break careers are not being covered at conferences. Demos of exploits that won’t benefit most of us get accepted, but career enhancing talks get rejected because the 10 Chads Review Board is evaluating CFPs through a narrow lens.
Are we going to talk about how the the lack of diversity on CFP committees is negatively affecting careers in 2019 or nah?
I think we should.
My personal metric of success is not the number of credentials behind my name or social media followers, but the number of people I help. That is why I was so honored to receive this award from Walker’s Legacy. It is the perfect acknowledgement of the work I am committed to and what I want to be known for:
I owe my success to the many women who came before me and fought battles that were far worse than I’ll ever face. Every time I get tired, the universe sends me some kind of signal that I have to keep going. This time, it was a reminder that I am Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy, if not by blood, certainly in spirit.
I want to thank Walker’s Legacy founder Natalie Madeira Cofield for her amazing vision and commitment to empowering multi-cultural women. Her tireless advocacy has led to positive change at the federal and state levels for access to opportunities for all women. I also want to congratulate all the other women who were honored as part of the national awards programming.
Finally, I have to thank my husband Paul Brager. As always, none of this would be possible without your support. I love you so much!
Keirsten Brager is a Lead Security Engineer at a Fortune 500 power utility company and was recently named one of Dark Reading’s top women in security quietly changing the game. She is also the author Secure The InfoSec Bag: Six Figure Career Guide for Women in Security. She produced this digital book to help women strategically plan their careers, diversify their incomes, and fire bad bosses. Keirsten holds a M.S. in Cybersecurity and several industry certifications, including Splunk, CISSP and CASP. As an active member of the Houston security community, Mrs. Brager has participated in a number of panels and public speaking engagements promoting strategies for success. In her free time, she loves sharing career advice, cooking New Orleans food and convincing women not to quit the industry.