Insight by Ciena: In this exclusive executive briefing, experts will discuss the wide-area broadband about to go out of this world. Jonathan Edwards: Great to talk with you, Tom. How are you today? Tom Temin: All right. Let’s start with the foundation itself. What does the CyberWarrior Foundation do? Jonathan Edwards: The CyberWarrior Foundation was founded to fill to the extent possible the talent gap in cybersecurity with underserved populations, specifically women, persons of color, and veterans. They have historically been left on the economic sidelines, especially the cybersecurity sidelines, and it is our goal to train them so that they not only get the job, but they’re good at the job once they get it. So that’s our singular focus.
Chrome, Firefox, or Safari provide the best listening experience. On Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne, you may listen to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews. The Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has given a non-profit a $1 million grant. CISA wants the CyberWarrior Foundation to start a training programme to help more people become cybersecurity experts. The Cybersecurity Workforce Development and Training Pilot for Underserved Communities is the name of the programme. Jonathan Edwards, the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, joined Tom Temin on Federal Drive to discuss the facts.
Tom Temin: And cybersecurity jobs take a hundred different forms. Do you pretty much focus on the technical side — people that can be operators in a say, security operations center — or maybe also on the policy and development side?
Jonathan Edwards: Not yet, but that’s what our plan is. We were founded so that we could help those companies that desperately need talent. And we hope that this CISA grant will provide some ability to amplify what we do to the corporations that desperately need that talent and the corporations that want to and should diversify their professional ranks. Jonathan Edwards: Absolutely it does. We had a great presentation by someone from CISA recently, and he was all about making sure that we understood that the DoD or DHS, or CISA specifically or any number of different federal agencies, they need the talent, they want the talent, and they want to diversify, but not at the expense of the skill set, obviously.
Jonathan Edwards: What we do is we train for entry level jobs. So typically, that’s going to be an analyst I job, a junior engineer position. Then once the student, now professional, gets an understanding of the literally thousands of different pathways in cybersecurity, then with those fundamental skills, they can determine which pathway they want to take. But until they get the fundamental skills, and until they get that first job, it’s very difficult for them to understand I want to go into management, I want to go into policy, I want to go into whatever direction they want. So this is analyst and junior engineer positions.
Jonathan Edwards: Specifically, we are targeting two regions in the country. CISA region number one, which is the Northeast — essentially the six New England states — and CISA region number four, which is the Southeast — that’s based in Atlanta. But we’re touching about eight different states in the South, ranging from Kentucky, North Carolina, all the way down to Florida. The goal of this project is to develop a system that recruits, retains, and then places underserved populations. And the definition here is again, women, persons of color, and veterans, but also people in rural America who don’t have access to the cybersecurity professional opportunities that people in more urban or suburban geographies have. We want to give them that option as well, because a lot of these jobs can be remote. So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to train up people who are really struggling because of the world these days to get a job. And that’s what we’re going to focus on as well.
Jonathan Edwards: We already have a lot of that in place, but we’re going to take it for a series of test drives to see how it works in these two specific areas working with CISA. Our curriculum is a strong curriculum that touches on all facets of cybersecurity at the entry level — firewalls and IDPS, malware analysis, packet analysis, Security+, Network+, Certified Network Defender, etc. Beyond that, then we also want to train someone to understand the practical application that’s necessary. A hiring manager doesn’t want to know you just have the skills. Our hiring manager wants to know that you know how to apply the skills — the who, where, when and why — to apply in different scenarios. So what we’re doing is we are making sure that people have awareness of the program, then access to the program, and then we will help them with job placement or apprenticeship placement as the case of merits.
Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Jonathan Edwards, he’s chief operating officer of the CyberWarrior Foundation. And what are the requisites that people need to bring to it in the first place? Because, say, in dense urban areas, you might have underperforming schools, and therefore students that have not achieved the aptitude they need, say in math. In rural areas, there are social problems of a different nature perhaps. So how do you bring all that together?
Jonathan Edwards: This is where we’re trying to really crack ceiling if you will. We believe that we can train virtually anyone with computer literacy skills into cybersecurity. We’re trying to break the mold in terms of what hiring managers are looking for with cybersecurity talent. There are a half a million open cybersecurity jobs domestically today, and that number is growing. There aren’t enough people who get out of bed every morning saying I want a career in cybersecurity. So we’re planting aspiration in people’s hearts and minds. That means that we are developing systems and curriculums that will train someone who has no experience in cybersecurity or in technology, with the skills necessary, but it also means that we need to work with hiring managers, HR departments to help them understand that the talent that wants to be in cybersecurity today isn’t necessarily meeting the needs of these companies or government agencies. And they need to rethink how they search. And they need to rethink who they work with to meet their talent needs. So that’s the other pretty interesting part of what we’re doing with CISA. We’re going to train them up. But we’re going to work with the private sector, the government sector, nonprofit organizations, whomever to say, okay, now let’s take a real strong look at how you’re hiring, who you’re hiring, and what your expectations are.