Mind the Gap: Cultivating the Next Generation of Cyber Talent
by Angie Lienert, President & CEO of IntelliGenesis, LLC
There are currently 350,000 open cybersecurity positions in the U.S. and it’s only getting worse – by 2021, the cybersecurity field is expected to see 3.5 million unfilled jobs, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures. Bottom line: The cybersecurity skills gap is real. And the stakes are higher than ever. Below are some specific observations and challenges I’ve observed in the last 10 years of running my company, IntelliGenesis, as we continue to seek out and hire the best and the brightest in intelligence analysis, machine learning, and cyber application roles.
The gap between education and industry must be closed.
Right now, there’s a major disconnect between what’s happening in the classroom and the industry itself. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs. It’s that the people graduating into the workforce aren’t trained in the skills they need to succeed in the industry. In fact, there’s an over-abundance of cyber training that saturates the market. People are signing up for cybersecurity courses left and right but they’re just getting the general, conceptual information they need to graduate without any hands-on experience. Then when you put them in front of a computer, they don’t know where to start because they haven’t had the proper training.
That’s where the change needs to occur. Colleges and institutions do need to evolve and provide more hands-on experience for their students so that when they graduate, they’re ready to enter the workforce. But it’s up to us – the leaders of companies who are dealing with the talent gap right now – to take matters into our own hands and provide the training that’s missing for our workforce, as well as to work with institutions to help them better understand the needs of the industry.
Investing in people pays major dividends.
Simply put, it’s up to us to get the ball rolling. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide the hands-on training that candidates need to step into the role we’re trying to fill. We have to identify those with potential and invest in their careers and their future. Not only does that bridge the gap between what they learn in school and what they need to know to help your company succeed, it shows your workforce that you care about them and their career development and that you’re invested in doing what it takes to keep them on your team.
Partnership and collaboration are essential.
But we can’t just point blame on the education systems and have a completely “do it ourselves” approach. As leaders, we must use this as an opportunity to collaborate and partner with those colleges and institutions we’re relying on to evolve. Through conversations and collaborations, it’s our responsibility to help them understand what’s happening in the industry and what’s expected of their graduates. Partnerships that provide internships and apprenticeships are a win-win for both the institution and the company – not to mention the graduate who now has the hands-on experience needed to enter the workforce.
Ask yourself, “What’s important to me as a leader?”
Another key element in attracting talent is knowing who you are as a leader and a company. As a veteran, it’s important to me to hire as many transitioning military personnel as possible. They may not necessarily have the technical skills needed for a particular job, but they do have a lot of other important traits like being team players, the ability and eagerness to learn and develop, punctuality, etc. Those core values along with our investment into training our workforce into the roles we want them to fill lead to not only great employees, but those that trust us as a company and are invested in our success. Because we’re invested in theirs.
Attracting passive job seekers means being a magnet, not a megaphone.
So much of what companies focus on is the hunt for talent. While that’s a critical aspect of hiring, in the current landscape, you can’t just hunt – you have to attract. By making your company a place that candidates seek out, you’re not only going to attract the best talent, you’ll also tap into a relatively untouched pool: the passive job seeker. Culture, for example, is a huge element of attraction. When you create an environment where your workforce feels like they’re a part of a greater cause, where they talk about how incredible their team is, and they stick around, you not only have a built-in network of recruiters, you attract the people who get what your company is all about and who want to be a part of it. And they, in turn, become a part of that network of recruiters, and the cycle continues.
By taking talent acquisition into your own hands by providing the training candidates lack, investing in your people, and creating a culture of caring and investment, you’ll not only find the right people for your company, but you’ll also keep them. And you’ll probably learn something along the way too. After all, like technology, the industry, and the candidates evolve, so must we as leaders.
Credit link for the excerpt, provided by the author under the fair use of the US Copyright Act: Cybersecurity Ventures Cybersecurity Jobs Report 2018-2021
Angie Lienert, President & CEO
Angie Lienert began IntelliGenesis, LLC with a dedication to keeping our soldiers safe through the improved analysis and protection of the USA’s National Security Missions. Angie founded IntelliGenesis in 2007 and has since grown the company to more than 80 employees specializing in Multi-Disciplined Analysis, Machine Learning/Data Science, Mission Application Development, and Computer Network Operations. IntelliGenesis products and services are setting the standard in the Intelligence Community (IC) and helping to change the way government contracts are awarded to small businesses. As a business owner, Angie started the kind of company that she wanted to work for and continues to ensure it has that supportive atmosphere for every employee—one where employees work hard and enjoy coming to work, but also where their personal lives are valued. In addition to a generous benefits package, the company provides 100% tuition reimbursement for all employees seeking to continue their education and employees receive a yearly technology budget for new hardware and software to stay abreast of technologic advances.
Angie began her career as an Arabic Linguist in the USAF and gained professional experience within the Intelligence Community working as a Business Developer and Program Manager. Under her leadership, the contracts and projects she headed consistently grew in user base, team size, and revenue. Along the way, Angie also invested in her own education—achieving her AAS, BS, and MBA degrees, as well as gaining her PMP accreditation.
Today, Angie uses her influence to not only lead a successful and growing small business but also to improve how the IC conducts business and to promote opportunities for other women in business. Over the years, she has served as a Founder and Board Liaison for the Women in Technology (WIT) group, been on the Board of Directors for both the DoD Woman Owned Small Business Consortium (WOSBC) and the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council (CRTC), hosted and promoted various events and mentorships for girls and women in the technology industry, and been a proud supporter of veterans’ charities, especially the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Association, Kentucky Chapter. Angie is also the 2017 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Maryland. IntelliGenesis has also created the Neal A. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship which is awarded yearly to four graduating high school students planning to pursue a college education in STEM areas of study.
About the Author:
Angie Lienert is the President and CEO of IntelliGenesis, LLC, a leading cyber company that proudly supports the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. Angie founded IntelliGenesis in 2007 and has since grown the company to more than 80 employees specializing in Multi-Disciplined Analysis, Machine Learning/Data Science, Mission Application Development, and Computer Network Operations. IntelliGenesis products and services are setting the standard in the Intelligence Community (IC) and helping to change the way government contracts are awarded to small businesses.