Advocates, Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Leadership

Best Buy’s Zinet Kemal: Embracing the immigrant experience as cyber expert and educator

Best Buy’s Zinet Kemal has also published two children’s books, one an online safety primer for young people. (Credit: Zinet Kemal)
Best Buy's Zinet Kemal has also published two children's books, one an online safety primer for young people. (Credit: Zinet Kemal)

In her second children’s book, "Oh, No… Hacked Again!," Zinet Kemal, now also a cloud security engineer at Best Buy, writes about Elham, an 8-year-old girl who gets locked out of her favorite online game.

Elham has to lean on her mom, who as the book unfolds, explains to Elham the basics of online cybersecurity.

“The whole point in the book is that the mother in the story saves the day and she's someone who looks like me, a Black woman who's wearing a hijab and works in the cybersecurity industry,” said Kemal, who juggles four kids and a husband while pursuing degree after degree in cybersecurity.

Kemal said during the pandemic, she noticed how her children were spending more time both online gaming and for educational purposes. With that exposure, Kemal saw two of her children’s gaming accounts get hacked on more than one occasion, the events that inspired the book.

“I wanted to teach kids about online safety,” Kemal said. “As parents when we are setting our kids up with games, online safety does not come top-of-mind. I also felt it was important to take on the Hollywood myth that cybersecurity people are people in hoodies working in a dark basement.”

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Kemal also serves as a community outreach director for the organization, Black Girls in Cyber. She wants young people to know that cybersecurity is a very diverse field and that it doesn’t require someone to excel in computer science and math.

“The industry needs people who are analytical, who can work in compliance or maybe as ethical hackers where they are working on red team,” Kemal said. “When people talk about the challenges the industry faces, ransomware and malware always comes up, but the shortage of cyber talent is always mentioned.”

As a cloud security engineer at Best Buy, she focuses on keeping data safe as Best Buy makes its migration to the cloud and relies less on a centralized data center. “We make sure that as the company makes the transition, that the cloud data is kept safe for the Best Buy staff and also protect the company’s reputation by keeping customer data safe,” Kemal said.

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