Having grown up on a steady diet of Dragon Ball Z cartoons and Die Hard movies, Bahirah Adewunmi isn’t surprised at all to be working in cyber—a profession where outsmarting the bad guys is always the ultimate goal. She’s also a huge fan of Mortal Kombat and Muay Thai kickboxing. “It’s not a leap that I’d end up in a career where my literal job is to come up with ways to completely pwn my adversaries,” she says.
Like the heroes she roots for on TV, Bahirah is a person of action. As a founding member of Booz Allen’s Black Analytics Group, she’s organizing a number of efforts within the company to recruit, develop talent, and seed research at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). “If you talk to people who work on similar engagements with HBCUs through Booz Allen, you’ll find they’re often personal passion projects,” she says. “The initiatives we’re rolling out through the Black Analytics Group are our way to formalize and consolidate those types of efforts.”
Bahirah credits her leading role in the Black Analytics Group as one reason that she was recently honored with a Black Engineer of the Year Award from US Black Engineer & Information Technology Magazine. Another reason is the envelope-pushing work she’s doing at Booz Allen’s DarkLabs, where she helps Department of Defense clients integrate artificial intelligence (AI) and other cutting-edge technologies into their offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
We recently talked to Bahirah about her award-winning work and how Hollywood’s version of cyber differs from the real thing. Read on for more of our conversation.