03-23-2020

Training The Next Generation Of Cyber Warriors

There are many cyber security job openings, but the industry can’t fill them due to the low supply of workers and or low supply of qualified cyber professionals. This is how Parsons is approaching this problem, and how other cyber professionals can help.

The Cyber Workforce & Skills Deficit Problem

You have heard it; and here at Parsons we’ve seen, experienced, and are working hard to address it – the cybersecurity skills and workforce deficit. Parsons Cyber has over 1,500 cyber and intelligence professionals working across the United States and abroad. Each of those individuals is continuously honing their skills every day to address the changing cyber threats of tomorrow.

But even this is not sustainable, and we know it. The current field of cybersecurity is short in terms of the qualified cyber workforce, and the cyber threats grow larger every day. As new technologies enter the business and government environments, new software upgrades are pushed out, increases are seen within legacy systems reliance and utilization, and more network integrations occur due to mergers and acquisitions. The number of potential vulnerabilities that arise is increasing every day.

Even though many security companies and research institutes are developing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and other similar systems to address the growing cyber threats, these solutions are not yet mature enough to operate without human intervention reliably. The decisions they make cannot be compared to the human factor – not yet anyways. The fact is, the field of cybersecurity still needs human cyber professionals to protect organizations from cyber threats.  

Leveraging Internships As Part Of The Cyber Workforce Solution

One way we address the qualified cyber workforce issue is through our internship program. For many years now, the Parsons Cyber and Defense markets have brought in summer interns to help train incoming cyber professionals who are close to graduating university – some even started their freshman or sophomore year.

The goal is for our current cyber professionals to work with and pass on best practices they’ve learned over the years to these interns in an environment where discussion, hands-on activities, research and development initiatives, and client-facing projects are happening. This environment allows our interns to apply what they have learned in their classes to the industry; it allows them to ask questions to real cyber professionals; it allows them to share their innovative ideas with our professionals, and it allows them to become a better prepared and more skilled cyber worker.

Many former interns return to Parsons following graduation to continue working on the exciting projects that they were a part of during their internship. Others that come back participate in new projects as well as interdisciplinary projects such as missile defense cybersecurity, cyberinfrastructure protection, and healthcare security. Others, of course, go to other companies to work on their cyber work. Either way, we are proud of all our interns who pass through our company’s program because they are taking what they’ve learned and are contributing to making the cyber world safer for our nation, businesses, infrastructure, and people.

Leveraging Teaching As Part Of The Cyber Workforce Solution

Another way we address the qualified cyber workforce issue is through teaching. Many of Parsons’ cyber professionals are turning into adjunct professors or nighttime technical trainers outside of their Parsons working hours. Why? Who better to teach the next generation of cyber professionals than current cyber professionals in the field? These current cyber professionals see day-to-day threats and the step-by-step process of responding to potential cyber incidents and how to securely implement systems and applications.

Moreover, it has been our experience that students are more engaged when being taught by professionals who also practice currently in the field. They enjoy hearing the stories of what is currently happening day-to-day and how their instructor reacted to a potential or realized cyber incident. What student doesn’t love being taught by somebody who just finished patching a router vulnerability which allowed an intruder to take control of the router as an administrator; or penetration testing a DoD network to ensure our nation’s defenses are secure from hackers, or dissecting a new variant of ransomware which recently infected a healthcare organization; or detected and stopped a Denial of Service attack thanks to a custom integration of data analytics tools?

As current cyber professionals, we understand the current threat environment, the cyber best practices, the significance of proper planning, the necessity of continuous monitoring, and the importance of gaining executive management support and corporate cyber funding. As we pass these important lessons and principles down to the next generation of cyber warriors and leaders, we hope to see the cyber organizational culture change to a more understanding, aware, and supportive environment for cybersecurity and its human defenders. This all starts with the current cyber practitioner.

We are proud to know that many of our cyber professionals are giving back to the field by training the next generation. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help train the next generation of cyber warriors and join our team check out our careers page.

About the author

Brian has been with Parsons Corporation since he was a Freshman Intern back in 2013 and has done multiple projects in different domains of technology. He is currently the Deputy for an Internal Research & Development Program. He is also an Instructor at George Mason University’s School of Business where he teaches cybersecurity, systems analysis & design, and database management systems. Brian holds multiple industry certifications including the C|CISO, CISSP, CISM, & PMP.

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