Rain’s Bernard Chadenga turned a hobby into a business at a young age

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He started a computer repair business, which paid for his first year of university.

Bernard Chadenga, Rain's head of cyber and information security, has had a fascination with technology since he was in high school. Despite the fact that pursuing a degree was not an option at the time, he did not let that stop him. He started a small computer repair business, fixing computers for as little as R25, which made him enough money to fund his first year of university.

As a result, he’d acquired enough technical knowledge before he even finished his first degree and landed his first full-time job right out of university.

Love for cybersecurity

Today, Bernard is a cybersecurity specialist, and this year marks his 18th year in the field. He is affiliated with several groups in the cybersecurity space, one of which is the newly formed COMRIC group (Communication Risk Information Centre) aimed at tackling crimes facing South Africa’s telco Industry.

“The group is a great forum for telco companies to gather and discuss all things related to cyber security and its impact,” he says. “I’m also part of other groups in the space including the CISO Alliances as well as WhatsApp threat intelligence groups. Over and above my association with these groups, I’m also involved in a number of speaking engagements on cyber related matters.”

Bernard cut his teeth in IT, troubleshooting for both hardware and software support at SABMiller affiliate known as Delta Beverages in Harare, Zimbabwe. He went from being a technician to help desk software engineer and after six years with the company, he gradually shifted into the cybersecurity space. He then moved to South Africa and in the process decided to get his master’s degree in cybersecurity through the University of Liverpool, remotely.

“When I arrived in South Africa, I started off working for smaller IT firms, but in the seven odd years I spent there, the transformation I went through was courtesy of a lot of grit, great opportunities and many tough decisions,” he says.

Cyber workforce development

Bernard is passionate about uplifting young people and is currently working on a new IT workforce development project. “What I’m really trying to put across through this project is that our starting points will always be different. Most people are under the impression that in order to get into IT, you need to have a degree in computer science, but this is not true at all. You need the passion for IT first and then you can figure out what you are actually good at,” he says.

He points out that young people are largely unaware of the endless opportunities IT can bring. Businesses are guilty of this too, he notes: “How do they use IT and systems to their fullest potential if IT only comes to mind when systems are down?” he asks.

“IT’s core responsibility is availability, therefore a CIO’s role is to ensure that we are available. On the other hand, the CISO is looking at confidentiality, integrity and availability, and that’s how to try to merge those two goals.”

Rain's passion for making internet access and its tools available for more South Africans, so that they can learn, communicate and innovate without the burden of high data costs, ultimately driving economic upliftment in the long term is one of the reasons Bernard decided to join the company.

Rain launched its 5G network in Johannesburg in September 2019 and has since expanded six-fold in the past two years, offering coverage to 5,000 new homes every day in the last year across South Africa. For 2022 and beyond, Rain has ambitious plans to continue the same trajectory in expanding its 5G coverage to new regions with new methods of ensuing internet access is made easier and faster.

However, he does point out that these initiatives aren’t helpful unless resources are secured, otherwise it’s a familiar scenario: “Corporate A donates a thousand computers to a school in neighbourhood X, and provides full internet access. The next day, that school is broken into, and the computers and network devices are gone.”

Information sharing

According to Bernard, the most enjoyable part of his work is information sharing, and he does this through his various speaking engagements. “I speak to share my ideas, but I also speak to learn, and I believe that old dogs can learn new tricks,” he says.

“If you can expose yourself to the opportunity of talking to people, you can allow those people to help you when you are not sure. Keeping all the information close to your chest is not my idea of information sharing.”

And, as information is shared, mentorship follows, which Bernard is all too familiar with. He believes that everyone will require some career guidance at some point. “Mentorship is not about holding someone’s hand every step of the way: give them a hand up once and you’ll be surprised at the direction their careers take,” he says.

Bernard is a father and has two sons, the younger of which is eight years old. He says he sometimes runs some of his IT and cyber concepts past his younger son. “The idea is not for him to understand it, but if I can explain a concept to a child and they get it, that means that I myself fully understand that topic,” he says.

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