… Everything Falls in Place

By Francisca Opoku-Boateng

Golden Timing

With Cynthia, I have learned that as a young woman in the cybersecurity space, being at the right place at the right time and with the right people counts a lot. As a way of applying my takeaway from her keynote session,  I reached out to Cynthia. I wrote my introductory email in February 2019, in which I asked her if she would be willing to mentor me. I also asked if she was working on or planning to work on any interesting white papers on the dark web. At that time I was hoping to work with her, however, in hindsight, I realize the time was just not right! Little did I know that three years later she would not just mentor me but also work much more closely with me than I could have imagine: She served on my dissertation committee as my subject matter expert to supervise my research work in the field of the dark web.

Anyone who knows Cynthia knows how busy she, however, when I read from her these words,

That’s the whole Try and Grasp point, Francisca! … I will help by being honest, open, and supportive in your endeavors to create the best final product possible. Whether putting you in touch with executives, showing you insight into the corporate side of dark web needs, or mentioning resources I know of that can be helpful.

This was golden for me.

Be Google

Cynthia has a way of always uplifting me as a mentee, when I most need it. As she rises in her field, she has given the grace and space to others—like me—to rise as well, a trait I am a testimony to. Reading quotes like  Watch this space Francisca, good things are coming your way!” is one of the many ways she expresses how excited she is to help me. Cynthia has always made time for me and kept her word!

She always makes our mentoring session very engaging and always comes with “the good stuff”—be it information, resources (introducing me to someone new or pointing me in the right direction), or sharing in-depth illustrations to help me better understand life and my new professional field. Cynthia has a way of pouring into me as her mentee, and lately our buzz/sign-off word after our mentoring sessions is “Be Google”—a way for her to remind me to keep improving myself and not to stop developing my skills. As her mentee, I feel very confident in myself knowing that she does not only believe in my capabilities but is excited about my future and how I am going to impact others with what I have learned and experienced from her.

Making Connections

In terms of my academic studies and working on developing a framework for a more efficient investigation of dark web COVID-19 vaccine products, Cynthia has been of tremendous assistance to me. She has gone above and beyond pointing me in the right direction, while connecting me to other experts in the field of cybersecurity. Specifically, investigative professionals within top-tiered pharmaceutical companies like Moderna, Sanofi, and Johnson and Johnson as well as organizations like Dark Owl and other federal government entities like the Department of Defense (DoD). My exposure with these awesome experts did not only allow me to learn from them, know what they do, and how this can help me in my research but also confirms to me how amazing a mentor Cynthia is—by going to that extent and making connections for me with them is an expression of how strong an advocate she is for me.

Giving Back

As a mentee, I am a firm believer that mentoring is a way to give back to one’s community. Sometimes life happens and some people will eith not get good mentors earlier in their academic and professional journey or be exposed to bad mentoring and fake feedback. There are others, however, like Cynthia who, through mentoring, get to share and right some of these wrongs; while individuals like myself ultimately get encouraged, developed, and enabled professionally and personally. Therefore, I do not take this mentoring relationship for granted because I want to be able to implement and give back as I keep telling Cynthia, “Wow, I want to be like Cynthia when I grow up!” Ha-ha!

Overall, my relationship with Cynthia has surpassed just mentorship! Everyone needs a Cynthia Hetherington! Together with the Hetherington Group, they are now Family!

Read Part I of Ms. Opoku-Boateng’s mentee experience!

About Francisca Opoku-Boateng

Ms. Opoku-Boateng is an assistant professor of cybersecurity at Dakota State University. Her teaching specialization revolves around Digital, Windows, and Mobile Forensics as well as Incident Response. Her research areas include Dark Web and OSINT Investigations, General Cyber Awareness, Black Girls in STEM specifically in the Cybersecurity space, and Cyber Threat Intelligence. Ms. Opoku-Boateng possesses both academic knowledge and hands-on experience in addressing growing cyber threats, risk management strategies, designing and implementing security policies, and investigating cybercrimes. She has worked on several high-stress cybercrimes investigations and assisted law enforcement under the South Dakota Attorney General Office and Division of Crime Investigations extracting and analyzing data as well as solving investigations around the state. These investigations range from identity theft to business email compromises and website scams, drug-related crimes, and fraudulent activities. Ms. Opoku-Boateng is passionate about giving back to her community, serving as a mentor, speaker, and presenter at several events, including community outreach events that involve cybersecurity awareness. Currently, Ms. Opoku-Boateng is an ambassador for Blacks in Cybersercity (BIC) and the Google Women Techmakers. She is a 2022 Women In Cybersecurity (WiCyS) scholar and is an alum of Google Women Techmaker and AnitaB.org Scholar.