It's week three of Cyber Security Awareness Month at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the focus is on the future security workforce. Here's what DHS says on its website:
As technology continues to evolve and improve, the need to protect against evolving cyber threats also requires improvement and expansion. To meet the growing technological needs of government and industry, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is building strong cybersecurity career paths within the Department and in partnership with other government agencies. In order to ensure that the next generation of cyber leaders is prepared to protect against cyber threats, it is crucial that we help to prepare them. To accomplish this critical task, we have created a number of very competitive scholarship, fellowship, and internship programs to attract top talent. As the agency responsible for securing federal civilian networks, DHS works closely with its partners in the private sector and federal, state and local governments to educate and engage the next generation of cyber professionals.
One thing I'm learning is that we have to cast a wider net for security talent. We can't limit our search to the usual places, like the halls of academia. It's a point Mark Weatherford, former undersecretary of cybersecurity for DHS, made during an event last year put on by CSO Magazine.
He spelled it out this way: If you're a so-called computer geek who likes to break things and put them back together again, the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division wants you. Nobody would expect you to stick around forever, and lack of a college degree wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker.
"We need to make it so people want to do this for a career," he said at the time. "The goal isn't necessarily to create DHS lifers, but to make the agency's cybersecurity division a step on the career ladder. For the most part, he said, "people don't work in government forever. But having DHS experience on your resume will mean a lot when you go back out to the private sector."
And despite all that's been said about the importance of a college education for those hoping to succeed in the workforce, Weatherford said those without a degree are welcome to come forward.
"There are people out there who didn't go to college, but they spent much of their time breaking things and putting them back together," and DHS needs their help, too, he said.
After a stint with DHS, who knows what could be next? As I said, Akamai always has its eyes open in the never-ending search for security talent.