We are in the midst of graduation season where students say goodbye to their academic institutions and begin taking steps towards what they’ve been preparing for most (or at least for the past four years) of their lives, a career. As someone who built and maintained a career in the cyber security industry, I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to the best and brightest of our new graduates to think about joining the ranks of network security professionals.
Every day we are seeing attacks that are more sophisticated, better funded and emanating from more determined and better organized adversaries. More than ever before, attacks are targeted and have very specific objectives and require intelligent solutions to identify, track and mitigate the threat.
In recent years, critical infrastructure has become an increasingly popular target for attacks by nation states and organized crime. Banking, healthcare, utilities and transportation have all seen an increase in the sheer volume of attacks and sophistication level of the threats. Many in our government’s intelligence and military branches believe that a large scale cyber-attack against our infrastructure is a matter of when, not if and many are fearful that an attack of this nature could take place in the next 18 – 36 months.
This isn’t meant as a scare tactic or industry propaganda, but rather to paint the new reality that exists in a networked world. While greater connectivity has created incredible opportunities for discovery and advanced of critical technologies in fields such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, defense, and other industries, it has also opened up nearly endless points of potential vulnerability to be exploited by would-be hackers. We need skilled developers and engineers on the front lines helping to guard against these attacks so that organizations can continue their important work without fear of classified information becoming compromised.
Our partners at Raytheon released an interesting study late last year that talked about the future of cybersecurity and how it was being viewed as a potential career. In a survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S. aged 18 to 26, the results highlighted some important facts and shortcomings when it comes to preparing our next generation of cyber professionals. The survey found that 82 percent of respondents claim that no high school teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned the idea of a career in cybersecurity.
When asked what careers they were most interested in, being a cybersecurity professional lagged way behind with only twenty-four percent of respondents showing interest. However, when asked what incentives were most important to them, interesting work, promotion opportunities and competitive pay were the top three responses. All of which the cybersecurity industry are competitive with or better than careers found in other industries.
While it would be easy to point fingers in the direction of our academic institutions and blame them for not advancing the cause, we also need to look at ourselves in the industry. Are we doing enough to ensure that we are cultivating the next generation of cyber professionals? You often hear about other industries and corporations such as Raytheon investing heavily in education programs and getting students excited about engineering and software. Do we do enough of that so that students go on to institutions of higher learning with a goal of becoming a cybersecurity expert?
The importance of network security has never been higher which is a positive for our industry however, at the same time, without a steady pipeline of motivated and qualified applicants coming into the fold, we will be compromising our ability to keep pace with hackers down the road.
So my message to our new graduates and others looking for an exciting career full of opportunity is to think cyber. There has never been a better time to embrace this as a career choice and we look forward to welcoming you as peers in our industry.