Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cybersecurity jobs are grounded in patriotism. Every single day, businesses and government entities across the nation are being targeted and breached by opportunists (with varying motives) who identify vulnerabilities and take advantage of those vulnerabilities, leaving a wake of victims in their path.

All industries are now targets, with millions of citizens being victimized in our country. Therefore, the mission to provide defenses, reduce vulnerabilities and protect citizens is a priority both in the public and private sectors. The difficulty, though, has been to identify enough talent to fill the significant cybersecurity workforce gap — one estimate put it at 1.8 million workers by 2022 — we see today. This is where the importance of veterans comes into play.

Today, many veterans are trying to find a promising career path following their tenure in the service. Whether they have a technological background or not, veterans should strongly consider the field of cybersecurity as a potential path. With a history of serving the nation and securing the homeland, veterans already have the mental attitude and protective instincts needed to be successful new cybersecurity hires. Veterans also have extensive experience in high-stress, high-stakes situations mirroring cybersecurity breach response and the strategies needed to defend assets.

Today, there is a wealth of training opportunities to help veterans break into the field without investing significant time and money. All that’s necessary is a desire and natural interest to pursue a cybersecurity career and the initiative to take the first steps. Although employers appreciate degrees, having a four-year degree in computer science with a cybersecurity focus is not required. Barriers to entry have thus been reduced. Employers realize that with technology constantly changing, they need to hire talent that is naturally interested and curious in information security and independently exploring and developing their skills. Employers want to know potential hires can do the job beginning on Day One, and a diploma doesn’t guarantee this capability. Instead, employers recognize there are other skills-set qualifiers — specifically, competitions.

Cybersecurity competitions are a method of validating skill levels, whether the individual learned these skills in a formal education environment or not, and successful performance in competitions holds significant weight on an individual’s resume. Veterans have the opportunity to participate in such competitions and build their resumes in such a way that will make them attractive for a cybersecurity-focused position.

U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) was created as one of the methods to identify, train and validate skills and performance while providing networking opportunities with potential employers.

As an educational program, USCC first identifies talent through an annual online competition called Cyber Quests. Top performers in the online competition are then invited to one of the week-long boot camps throughout the country to receive high-caliber training with our nation’s leading experts in the fields. The competitor’s performance determines the fees associated with the boot camp.

In addition to technical training, USCC camps also offer ethics training, resume workshops and job fairs. This holistic approach to cybersecurity training helps direct a career path for aspiring talent.

A substantial list of cybersecurity competitions is provided on the CyberCompEx.org website. CyberCompEx.org was developed as an online social community for those interested in deepening their knowledge of cybersecurity and networking in the community for potential opportunities. CyberCompEx offers an updated list of cybersecurity competitions offered across the country, which are mapped to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. The NICE Framework was developed by National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) as a “resource that categorizes and describes cybersecurity work.” By applying the NICE Framework to competitions, individuals can strategically choose the competitions best fitting their career aspirations for specific cybersecurity positions. The NICE Framework also helps employers identify gaps in their workforce and accurately describe the positions available for prospective employees.

The need for cybersecurity professionals is great, and veterans can help us close the workforce gap. To get started, veterans can join the CyberCompEx.org community to understand what opportunities for competition involvement are available to them and next steps in their pursuit of a career in cybersecurity.

Karen S. Evans is National Director of U.S. Cyber Challenge. The USCC is a program supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate through a contract with the Center for Internet Security, a 501(c)3 organization. It has the mission to significantly reduce the shortage in the cyber workforce by serving as the premier program to identify, attract, recruit and place the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. USCC’s goal is to find 10,000 of America’s best and brightest to fill the ranks of cybersecurity professionals in jobs where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation. Visit us online: www.uscyberchallenge.org. Network with others in cybersecurity: www.cybercompex.org.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.