Building a Cybersecurity Workforce to Meet Today’s Challenges

By Kevin Campbell

From ransomware attacks to cyber breaches, Georgia-based companies and municipalities understand all too well why it’s important to maintain a local base of top-notch cybersecurity talent. Cyber threats are growing ever more sophisticated, while there remains a tremendous – and growing – cybersecurity skills gap across the United States. According to recent PwC research, the cybersecurity workforce gap between job vacancies and available talent will widen to 1.5 million job openings by 2019, up from one million last year.

Business leaders have a responsibility to build and train a workforce that can meet today’s threats. To assure preparedness, they’ll need to think holistically and engage a wide spectrum of talent ranging from students to mid-career professionals.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, up to 22.4 million students will enroll next year in degree-granting institutions – an enormous pool of future leaders, many of whom might be interested in launching their cybersecurity careers. However, the term “cybersecurity professional” may evoke the image of a “prodigy hacker” who’s been speaking code since childhood. Many students interested in technology typically pursue information technology (IT) or management information systems (MIS) degrees because they don’t feel they have the skills for cybersecurity.

Yet, careers in cybersecurity vary widely – and may or may not involve hacking – as the field stretches beyond a need to understand coding and access password-protected systems. Those of us building our teams need to emphasize to up-and-coming professionals what cyber teams need beyond the “hacker/coder” stereotype – analysts, compliance and regulation specialists, ISOs, and even finance or business majors are all in-demand skill sets. At PwC, we seek students who are studying business and technology majors because their business acumen can complement a growing security team that translates security risk into business needs for the board.

In fact, many universities are even developing degrees specific to cybersecurity now as the need for the industry grows. In the near future, many students may be able to step directly into education tailored to cybersecurity.

However, the skills gap can’t be solved solely through educating entry-level professionals. The need for cybersecurity talent is too large, and many companies require skilled, efficient colleagues across all career levels. Mid-career IT talent in particular is increasingly sought out for cybersecurity roles. For individuals who might qualify, the CISSP Certification is gaining notoriety as a program that can unlock unrivaled opportunities.

It’s our responsibility as industry leaders to raise awareness of the need for deep cyber skills. A critical component of every business is the modern technology workforce, and one that should be valued by both new and experienced professionals. There’s no need to wait for the next generation – even experienced workers new to the cybersecurity field can find themselves thriving in it. I started my own career as a CPA with an accounting degree, but seeing the marketplace’s tremendous need for someone who understands the unique cross-section of business and technology, I quickly found myself immersed in the vast and incredible industry of cybersecurity.

Students and mid-career professionals interested in cybersecurity need only look locally to find new opportunities. This fall, Atlanta Cyber Week is convening industry specialists to connect the dots in our cybersecurity ecosystem and discuss solutions to topline issues in the field, offering executives and students alike a timely opportunity to begin (or continue) their cyber learning journey.

The ever-present gap of qualified cybersecurity talent presents an opportunity to engage new minds with an evolving industry and introduce new perspectives to one of the most crucial fields within digitally minded enterprises. It’s up to us as business leaders to present these opportunities and provide a potential new workforce with the tools they need to succeed.

Atlanta Cyber Week connects the dots in our cybersecurity ecosystem and contributes to the story of metro Atlanta as a top venue for global commerce. Registration for Atlanta Cyber Week and Cybercon is open now! Visit www.atlcyberweek.com or click here to register.