Problem solver: Kennesaw State professor’s career follows the cutting edge

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 27, 2023

Humayun Zafar
Roger Tutterow

In 2004, Humayun Zafar was a young computer programmer working for Kodak when a hacker nearly derailed his first major project. That incident was the catalyst that changed the course of his career. 

“At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty with the company, and my boss, who recognized that I enjoy solving problems, suggested that I pursue a Ph.D., which is all about learning how to solve problems,” said Zafar, who was already on track to earn a master’s in information technology from Rochester Institute of Technology. 

With the Kodak incident fresh in his mind, Zafar went on to earn his doctorate in business administration with an emphasis on information technology from the University of Texas, San Antonio. His research focused on organizational information security strategies, known today simply as cybersecurity.

“When I started out, information security was seen predominantly as a compliance issue,” Zafar said, adding that many businesses started taking information security seriously only after the 2013 Target data breach that saw hackers steal 70 million of the retailer’s customer credit card numbers. “From that moment, cybersecurity became a risk management issue, and suddenly the chief information officer was part of top corporate management.”

Today, as assistant chair in the Department of Information Systems and Security and professor of information security and assurance in the Michael J. Coles College of Business, Zafar still looks for ways to solve problems. Recently, he was named director of the College’s new financial technology programs.

KSU’s fintech degree programs are an extension of the University’s involvement in the Georgia FinTech Academy, a statewide initiative to create a talent pipeline for Georgia’s fintech industry. 

Zafar says that KSU’s focus on digital payments within the fintech space aligns with the market demands of the state. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, 118 billion digital transactions—or 70% of the total U.S. volume—are processed by more than 170 fintech companies based in Georgia. Given the volume, companies including FIS Global, NCR, Equifax, Fiserv, and Global Payments are creating new fintech jobs at the rate of an estimated 1,000 jobs annually.

For Zafar, focusing on fintech is a natural extension of his work in cybersecurity and fills his own penchant for solving problems.

“This is one of the few times where industry and academia are on the same page when it comes to understanding an industry,” Zafar said. “In most fields, industry is ahead of the curve. But both sides are currently working out what fintech is going to look like. Our students have the chance to help shape the industry’s direction.”

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