You are currently viewing Harrison Nnaji: Pioneering Cybersecurity Excellence through Strategic Vision
Harrison Nnaji

Harrison Nnaji: Pioneering Cybersecurity Excellence through Strategic Vision

Forging Impenetrable Security Landscapes and Transforming Organizations!

In the dynamic landscape of today’s digital age, safeguarding sensitive information and digital assets has remained a paramount concern. The escalation of cyber threats necessitates visionary leaders who possess a deep understanding of cybersecurity intricacies along with the strategic foresight to pave the way for excellence.

Meet Dr. Engr. Harrison Nnaji, is a distinguished professional with an impressive array of qualifications, including four Masters degrees, a Ph.D. and an extensive list of certifications: CCISO, CISM, CEH, CCNP, CCSP, CISSP, MoR, and TOGAF9. With over 17 years of experience, he has earned a reputation as a trailblazer in the fields of cyber, data, and information security. His journey has been marked by consistent successes in steering organizations toward resilient security measures while optimizing resources for maximum impact.

Harrison isn’t just known for his cybersecurity expertise; he’s a prominent figure who generously shares his wealth of knowledge without reservation, particularly in areas such as:

Leadership: Harrison’s leadership skills are evident in his ability to guide teams and foster unity, not just in securing systems but in bringing diverse groups together towards achieving common goals.

Motivation: His commitment to excellence, evident in his pursuit of continuous professional development, serves as motivation for those around him. He also regularly shares motivational nuggets across different channels to keep his followers engaged, coached, and guided.

Career Success: With a track record of transforming challenges into opportunities, Harrison has consistently delivered year-over-year improvements in key metrics, cementing his role as a transformational force.

Entrepreneurship: His strategic acumen goes beyond traditional roles, as he has demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit in his ability to engineer, design, and deliver security solutions that transcend industry boundaries.

Harrison Nnaji is the Group Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at FirstBank Nigeria and its subsidiaries, where his influence extends far beyond his formal title. Holding a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, a Master’s in Project Management, an M.Phil. in Management, an M.Sc. in Security Management, and another M.Sc. in Cyber Security majoring in Cloud Security, he possesses a formidable skill set, knowledge, and experience. His unwavering commitment to ethical standards and integrity is evident in every facet of his work.

Harrison’s legacy is built on his ability to seamlessly engineer, design, and deliver security solutions that transcend industry boundaries. His expertise in internetworking, IT governance, infrastructure architectures, people management, emerging technologies, strategy formulation and execution, and IT delivery management has been instrumental in fostering holistic improvements in the cyber security landscape.

A diplomatic virtuoso, Harrison’s natural affinity for building relationships, persuading stakeholders, and fostering consensus sets him apart as a leader who not only secures systems but unites teams. His journey thrives in a fast-paced, multicultural, and multilingual arena where challenges fuel his growth, and his dedication to continual professional development is palpable in every endeavor.

Under his leadership, working with all stakeholders to harmonize emerging technologies and secure computing practices has been nothing short of exemplary. His ability to turn challenges into opportunities has led to remarkable year-over-year improvements in key metrics. His pursuit of excellence remains unwavering, ensuring that loyalty, productivity, and profitability are constant companions on his journey. These achievements have earned Harrison Nnaji the title of “The Most Influential CISO of the Year 2024,” an award bestowed by The CIO World, a prestigious global magazine dedicated to sharing the inspiring and transformative stories of professionals and leading businesses worldwide.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Unleashing Strategic Vision: Harrison Nnaji’s Impact on Today’s Security and Tomorrow’s Possibilities Harrison Nnaji is an accomplished data and information security strategist and practitioner with 17+ years of solid experience in the conception, engineering, design, delivery, operation, and optimization of cyber, data, and information security, risk management, networking, IT operations, and project management.

He has achieved repeated successes in leading cybersecurity strategies and secure computing practices with both emerging and established technologies and processes, surpassing maximum operational impacts with minimum resource expenditures across diverse industries, including Banking, Telecommunications, Distribution, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and Service Integration.

His proficiency extends to areas such as internetworking, contract management, IT governance and processes, IT portfolio management, infrastructure architectures, and IT delivery management. Harrison possesses strong diplomatic skills, a natural affinity for cultivating relationships, and a talent for persuading, facilitating, and building consensus among diverse individuals, all with an undiluted focus on prime objectives.

Thriving in a fast-paced, multicultural, multilingual, and multifaceted arena, Harrison embraces challenges as opportunities for continual professional growth. He is currently completing another Ph.D. in Offensive Cyber Engineering to deepen his knowledge of the continuous changes in the cyber threat landscape and the impact of emerging technologies. Harrison’s diverse capabilities translate to immediate value while upholding prevailing ethics and standards for integrity, dedication, teamwork, productivity, profitability, and excellence.

Visionary: From Engineering to Cybersecurity Leadership

Prior to his academic pursuits, Harrison embarked on a career in Nigeria, fulfilling his national youth service requirements. He gained valuable experience working for Telnet, a premier IT systems organization in the country, where he served as an IT Support Engineer. This role fueled his passion for information technology and allowed him to witness various IT interactions, interventions, and troubleshooting processes.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, Harrison began to develop his skills in IT alongside his engineering background. He obtained the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification even before his graduation from the national youth service program. Impressed by his performance, Telnet Nigeria Ltd. decided to retain his services as a Network Support Engineer, and he continued working for the company after completing his national youth service.

Within Telnet, Harrison expanded his knowledge of information technology, focusing on networking and network technologies at a subsidiary called iTECO. He thereafter joined a new company, Reddington Nigeria Ltd., a VAD (Value Added Distributor) as the Cisco Pre-sales Engineer. This opportunity exposed him to sales, marketing, contract closure, partner management, and contract management, which significantly enhanced his customer engagement, people management skills, and business acumen.

During his time with Reddington Nigeria, where he worked on various projects and prospects, Harrison received another career opportunity to join Airtel Nigeria Ltd., a telecommunications company, as an IT security specialist, shifting his focus from networking to security. This role exposed him to the Airtel Group’s practices and further expanded his experience in the telecommunications industry.

In 2011, he joined IBM as a network security and infrastructure manager. Within IBM, he supported numerous projects, taking on responsibilities for networking and security components. Harrison’s career continued to evolve, propelled by his determination to enhance his skills, knowledge, and experiences and take on new roles for expanded value creation. This drive led him to pursue a Master’s Degree in Project Management, enabling him to contribute more effectively to major regional projects at IBM.

In pursuit of his passion for organizational transformation and digitalization, Harrison seized an opportunity to join UBA Plc, a major pan-African bank, as the pioneer head of their Enterprise Security Division. During his tenure, he focused on building security standards and architecture and implementing measures to mitigate cyberattacks and fraud. His expertise in technology management, practices, and regulations played a crucial role in driving UBA’s digital and cyber defense transformation.

As his career progressed, Harrison continued to acquire knowledge, experience, and skills to stay ahead. He pursued additional master’s degrees, this time focusing on security, management, and cloud technologies. Recognizing the potential of cloud adoption, he delved into cloud security and cloud technology to ensure well-informed decision-making.

Driven by a desire to remain a transformational leader, he pursued a Ph.D. in Management, Leadership, and Organizational Strategy at Walden University. This advanced degree equipped him with the necessary tools to drive organizational transformation and maximize opportunities for value creation at scale.

Transforming Individuals and Organizations

Many challenges have been encountered and addressed in college, leading to personal transformation for numerous individuals. Harrison has played a role in transforming those who work with him. Additionally, he has spoken at various regional, local, and global conferences, even participating in major conferences as a speaker, panelist, or moderator.

However, the focus remains on acquiring sufficient relevant knowledge and understanding of the terrain and potential threats to effectively mitigate cyber risks and related threats while maximally promoting and protecting business aspirations. In terms of cybersecurity and its associated concerns, Harrison offers unique selling propositions, precautionary measures, and comprehensive systems to ensure the protection of both customers and clients.

Harrison championed the development of intricate systems, architectures, and strategies to continue serving all customers with minimal exposure to risks. Records show that necessary steps are being taken to safeguard the customers and maintain their satisfaction.

Harrison’s Guide to Navigating Cyber Risks

In the world of managing cyber risks, Harrison is a leading expert. He wants us to know that dealing with cyber risks is an ongoing journey, not a one-time project. He knows a lot about this topic and makes it easy to understand. Harrison says that cyber risks are not just about a company’s reputation. They are about protecting important assets, adopting enriching practices, stopping threats, and effectively defending against cyber threats. To make a good plan for cyber risks, he says you need to know what your business is about. This will improve the chances of finding and protecting important assets like systems, people, contracts, ideas, and partnerships. Harrison also talks about how even if you use products and services without knowing who made them, you still need to keep them safe by applying your personal cyber hygiene practices. He doesn’t only talk about cyber risks. He also talks about other problems, like fraud and weak systems.

When something goes wrong, he has ideas on how to fix it. He talks about using a technique called heat mapping to understand the state of the ecosystem, categorize the issues, and understand what to fix first. He also wants companies to plan for the short, medium, and long term to keep getting better. Harrison says we shouldn’t ignore old problems when we face new ones. Every vulnerability should be tracked until closure is validated. Most importantly, he wants us to know that dealing with

Cyber risks are always changing and challenging. We need to pay attention and be ready to protect our businesses consistently and continuously.

Understanding Business and Cybersecurity

Harrison knows a lot about how business and cybersecurity work together. He says that each business is different, so their cybersecurity plans and practices should be too. Harrison talks about different ways businesses work, like people working from home or on their phones or pursuing different business aspirations. He says we need to hire the right people and be careful—that we should have good practices and follow them.

Technology is a big part of cybersecurity, and he knows it. He wants us to protect things like computers, networks, and data centers. We need to be careful with data and control who can access it. He also says, “Training is important. People need to know what to do to stay safe. And when something bad happens, we need a plan to fix it. We also need to talk to the public if something goes wrong. Hiring other companies to help when necessary is advisable, but we need to make sure they fit our business and keep control in-house.”

Making a Big Impact

Harrison has proven himself to be a valuable asset to both individuals and businesses, bringing a lot of practical benefits. His impact is evident in various aspects of life. Moreover, through his extensive LinkedIn network, he generously shares his valuable knowledge with the community, engaging in events and collaborations. His involvement in cybersecurity rule-making groups highlights his commitment to the industry’s growth.

Harrison earned the title of “CISO of the Year” in a certain region of Africa, a fact he keeps humble and private. His intelligence shines through in real-life scenarios, such as thwarting cyber-attacks originating from different countries. His actions are driven by importance rather than awards, underscoring his genuine nature.

Harrison’s top advice involves thorough planning and continuous learning. He’s adept at setting ambitious objectives and gleaning insights from them. His aspiration is for people to be well-prepared for fresh opportunities and the challenges they bring.

Great Advice from Harrison

Harrison frequently gets asked about becoming a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). He stresses the significance of acquiring the right skills and being open to continuous learning. According to him, it’s essential not to solely focus on the job title. Instead, he recommends gaining a strong grasp of cybersecurity, especially in the realm of infotech. This broader knowledge equips individuals to handle various tasks, not just one. Harrison advises creating a skill checklist and working on acquiring those skills. This approach enhances capabilities and overall job performance.

In addition, he discusses the benefits of setting up a personal home lab. He sees this not only as a practical endeavor but also as a means of continuous learning. He believes that ongoing education is crucial for personal improvement and knowledge enrichment. His concepts carry substantial value and extend aid to numerous individuals and businesses.

Dedicated Pursuit of Personal and Professional Excellence: A Glimpse of Harrison’s Achievements

Throughout his journey of personal and career growth, Harrison has dedicated himself to a diverse range of courses that have enriched his knowledge and skill set. These courses span across various domains, each contributing to his expertise and commitment to continuous improvement:

  1. Accounting & Finance
  2. Business Economics
  3. Computer Application/Information Technology
  4. Contract Law
  5. Cost Management
  6. Design Management
  7. Development Economics
  8. Effective Presentation and Communication Skills
  9. Human & Industrial Relations
  10. Industrial & Labour Law
  11. Nature & Content of Project Management
  12. Negotiation
  13. Organisational Behaviour
  14. Procurement Methods
  15. Quantitative Methods & Simulations Studies
  16. Resource Management
  17. Research Methodology and Project Report
  18. Time Management

These comprehensive courses not only showcase Harrison’s commitment to learning but also his determination to excel in various facets of the ever-evolving fields of technology, management, and cybersecurity.

Honors and Awards – Harrison’s drive for excellence hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he has received multiple honors and awards for his contributions and achievements:

  • 9 Commendation letters for various Exceptional Contributions towards the achievement of the bank’s business aspirations issued by UBA PLC ·
  • IBM Manager’s Choice Award. Issued by IBM · Dec 2013
  • Award for Excellent Service Delivery. Issued by Hamid Husain: Chief Information Officer, ZAIN Nigeria. Jan 2009 · Jan 2009
  • Award for Excellent Service Delivery. Issued by John Ayo: Chief Information Officer, Celtel Nigeria Ltd. Mar 2008 · Mar 2008
  • CISO of the year award – Finnovex West Africa Awards, 2022
  • FirstBank Hero Award – FirstBank Annual Merit Awards, FAMA 2020, 2022

These accolades reflect not only his dedication but also his tangible impact on the organizations he has been a part of. Harrison’s journey is characterized by a relentless pursuit of knowledge, an unwavering commitment to excellence, and a profound impact on the organizations he has served. His achievements, both in terms of educational pursuits and professional recognition, stand as a testament to his passion and determination in the fields of technology, cybersecurity, and management. There are many more highlights on Harrison Nnaji’s LinkedIn profile.

Testimonials from Professionals who have worked with Engr. Harrison Nnaji, Ph.D.

Jacxine Fernandez – VP of Information Security at Bangalore International Airport Ltd:

“I had the privilege of working closely with Harrison during the West Africa IT LAN Zoning project for Airtel. Harrison’s attention to detail, technical expertise, and exceptional project management skills were instrumental in the project’s success. He not only troubleshooted effectively but also sought continuous improvement, demonstrating his commitment to excellence. Harrison’s well-rounded professionalism makes him an asset to any organization.”

Uchechukwu Ngonebu – Project Director at Huawei:

“Having worked with Harrison, I can confidently say he’s a highly detailed professional, particularly in Network & IT Security Management. His deep knowledge of internetwork platforms is a significant asset to any company he collaborates with.”

Fred Ekete – Lead, Quality Assurance and Tools at Airtel Nigeria:

“Throughout my interactions with Harrison over the past 7 years, I have found him to be transparent, diligent, and honest; his integrity is commendable. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to any organization that values these qualities.”

Sunny Birdi – Entrepreneur:

“Harrison’s dedication during the IBM/Airtel partnership was exceptional. He demonstrated a multiskilled and forward-thinking approach, effectively managing both internal and external stakeholders. His business acumen and leadership skills are highly commendable. Harrison is undoubtedly a 5-star player, and I wholeheartedly recommend him.”