For Black History Month this year, TechSPARK has teamed up with B in Bath to shine a light on some of the established and emerging Black tech and digital leaders in our community. First up it’s researcher in cybersecurity and privacy Marvin Ramokapane.

What is your job? 

I am a researcher in cybersecurity and privacy. I currently work for the University of Bristol as a postdoc researcher. I am a member of the Bristol Cyber Security group (BCSG). My everyday work involves investigating various technologies, from cloud services to smart home devices, with regards to helping users protect themselves and their data online. I study how users use and perceive technology and come up with different interventions to help them control how much data they share online through their devices and services. In short, my work aims to protect ordinary citizen online.

 Your path into the sector?  

The first time, I set my eyes on a computer was when I was 11 years old at my mom’s workplace. She needed to finish some stuff at work, and she took me along. So, I don’t distract or slow her down she let me use her work computer, Microsoft Word, to be precise, to play around. By then computers in Botswana were scarce, and only a few could be found in government offices. I never looked back, went to university (University of Essex, Colchester), completed my BEng in Computer systems. Then, I immediately went to Cardiff University to complete MEng in the same field. I became a system analyst in Botswana and got bored. I wanted a challenge, so I went to Lancaster University for my PhD in computer science. I completed my PhD and moved to Bristol. 

What interests you about tech/digital? What do you like about working in the sector?  

I love working with people. Seeing my work raise awareness or help someone makes me happy. In fact, I see my work as very important and timely, mainly when cyber-attacks are many, and personal data has become very important. Being able to understand how a piece of technology works, data that is being collected, whether it is known or unknown to the user and being able to highlight issues around that makes me feel good. With my work, I can influence policy, laws and data practices of big tech companies. I guess whatever I do in the future will be along the lines of helping users. 

Your career? 

I have a lot. But one that comes to my mind is my PhD project, cloud deletion. I aimed to understand how deletion in the cloud works (i.e., google drive, dropbox, iCloud), how normal cloud users see and understand it. It took me about six months to set up a cloud environment and run a couple of experiment to understand deletion. I had fun working with cloud users, realising that people have a different understanding of deletion and how it impacts the way they delete. I am interested in working with more technologies in the future and influencing privacy laws around the world. I hope to run my own data privacy firm one day. I could leave academia for a while and come back at a later stage in life. I don’t mind coming back to academia to teach that being innovative does not necessarily mean one should violate people’s data privacy rights.

 Do you have any thoughts on diversity in the tech/digital industries?  

As a black individual, living with a disability, I would love to see more diversity, people like me. I would also say women from minority groups. Since I started university, I have never been in class with more people who identify as women than men. It has always been more men than women. A lot is changing but the numbers are still low. Last time I was teaching programming, there were just two girls in my class. One was black and the other one white. Two females in a class of 23 students. That’s too low. I think in tech, there is still a lot to be done to diversify the sector.

I think more diversity in tech will help a lot of people reach their potential. I have seen my former students not participating in class simply because they think they are from the minority; therefore, they do not know as much as their peers. Diversity can help people feel part of. It can improve the workplace vibe and inspire more people from the minority to take roles in tech. I always think, if my university classes and workplace had been more diverse, I would have taken more risks early on like my other peers. I think it’s time people from the minority background get the same opportunities as the majority, positions where they can be seen and heard.

People, especially children, should not just see billboards with diversity messages but should see and talk to these people. There is a popular believe now that people from minority groups are being hired in tech not because of their skills and qualifications but to balance the numbers. I feel this is disrespect and organisations should stamp out that believe before workplaces become toxic. The message should be loud and clear that we all can regardless of our colour, gender, sexuality and ability.  


Renée Jacobs is a Project Manager at Actual Experience and the Founder of B in Bath. She is passionate about empowering and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace, and she recognises the importance of ensuring diversity of thought and experience in those people who create the technology that permeates all of our lives. Through B in Bath she hopes to enable employers and employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace; creating an environment where everyone, from all backgrounds, can grow, thrive and belong.