Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

UAE Portrait of a Nation: Government IT expert a role model for ambitious women

The 48-year-old Filipina, a planning and IT security head at the Western Region Municipality, relishes the tough and constantly changing challenges of securing the organisation from cyber attacks.
Irene Corpuz leads a busy life in the bid to stay at least one step a head of cyber criminals. Reem Mohammed / The National
Irene Corpuz leads a busy life in the bid to stay at least one step a head of cyber criminals. Reem Mohammed / The National

ABU DHABI // For information technology expert Irene Corpuz, diligent day-to-day work protecting her colleagues and employer has led to a truly international calling.

The 48-year-old Filipina, a planning and IT security head at the Western Region Municipality, relishes the tough and constantly changing challenges of keeping the organisation from cyber attacks.

“As technology evolves, so have the security threats,” she says. “Cyber security is a continuous cat-and-mouse game, so there is this constant need to stay ahead of the attackers.”

The only way to be on top, she says, is to create awareness, implement policies and standards, and manage the risk of security exposure or compromise.

“As a woman, I feel empowered and accomplished,” she says.

Her journey to work usually takes about two-and-a-half hours and then she spends the next 8 hours at work until her trip back from Madinat Zayed to Abu Dhabi city, which takes about three hours.

“Many wonder how I can afford such a long travel time,” Mrs Corpuz says.

“I’d say I use the long commute to my advantage. I use the time to read, do research and prepare conference presentations.”

A big part of her job is reading, conducting research and attending conferences in the UAE and overseas.

Known as one of the emerging speakers on information and cyber security conferences, Mrs Corpuz has spoken at events in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

“It all started with a conference in Singapore in 2014, and everything else followed,” she says.

“I have spoken in Oman, London, Copenhagen, Manila, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.”

In 2016, she started receiving invitations to participate as a speaker and panellist promoting gender equality and women in IT and cyber security. However, she had to turn down invitations in Kenya, Egypt and Sri Lanka due to schedule conflicts.

At the Cyber Resilience and InfoSec conference in Abu Dhabi last month, she joined other female IT and security experts in a “women empowerment” panel. Discussions centred on the evolving role of women and the need to narrow the gender gap in the industry.

Mrs Corpuz has won a string of accolades during her career, most notably the Award for Innovation in Cyber Security at an IT conference in London two years ago.

“I wish to inspire other women as most believe that IT is a man’s world,” she says.

“We have broken the glass firewall so we should move forward to accomplish our goals and our dreams.”

Her other awards are Female Executive of the Year at the Women in Business Awards in New York, Stevie Awards IT Executive of the Year in Canada, and Information Security Executive Award at the Middle East Security Awards in Dubai.

Mrs Corpuz was among last year’s 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the World. She and three UAE residents earned a top spot on the prestigious list compiled by the Filipina Women’s Network in the United States, a non-profit professional association for women of Philippine ancestry.

When not at work or attending conferences, Mrs Corpuz spends most of her time with her husband Robert and their sons, Josh, 23 and Job, 19 and seven-year-old daughter Jewel.

“I do not take much of our family time,” she says. “That’s why I appreciate the long commute to work where I do all my work activities. When I get home, my family takes priority.”

Josh works at an animation company in Dubai, while her husband and two other children have since moved back to Manila.

The mother-of-three believes today’s parents and children tend to spend more time glue to their gadgets and social media, ruining face-to-face interactions.

“Parents must ensure there is constant communication as young ones are vulnerable to cyber bullying,” she says.

“To keep them safe online, parents can restrict the use of a laptop, or enable an parental guidance feature to restrict access to certain websites.”

rruiz@thenational.ae

Updated: March 2, 2017 04:00 AM

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