It's been two years since an unarmed man, 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, was shot and killed by police in Fairfax County. Kojo sits down with Bijan's family to discuss their quest for answers.
The Washington region has the highest density of cybersecurity jobs in the nation. And, just like the rest of the cybersecurity industry, it’s grappling with a shortage of workers. An estimated 44,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled from September 2017 to August 2018 in the Washington metro area. The number of cyber-related jobs is expected to increase, especially as cyber attacks — like the recent ransomware attack on the city of Baltimore — remain a threat.
Local organizations are looking to fill these empty seats with a diverse workforce — diverse not only in terms of race, gender or socioeconomic status, but also in skills and thought processes. Programs from universities and companies are training students and career-changers for cybersecurity jobs.
We’ll talk with two cybersecurity professionals and mentors, as well as a graduate of the SANS Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland about creating a more diverse cybersecurity workforce and what’s at stake if these positions remain vacant.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
- Dr. Charles Johnson-Bey Director, Engineering & Technology, Cyber Innovations, Lockheed Martin
- Carrie Drake President, Women in Technology; Director of Strategic Engagement and Outreach, Parsons; @drake_carrie
- Whitney White Graduate, SANS Cyber Workforce Academy - Maryland
KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. What questions do you have about a career in cybersecurity? You can start calling us now, 800-433-8850. Or, if you actually work in cybersecurity, what drew you to that career? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. In the Washington region, four out of every 1,000 people work in cybersecurity, but that's still not enough to fill all the jobs. In fact, from September 2017 to August 2018, an estimated 44,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled in this Washington Metro area. So, what are local organizations doing to build a cybersecurity workforce?
KOJO NNAMDIJoining me to discuss this is Dr. Charles Johnson-Bey. He's the director of engineering and technology for Cyber Innovations at Lockheed Martin. Charles Johnson-Bey, thank you for joining us.
CHARLES JOHNSON-BEYMy pleasure.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Carrie Drake. She's the president of Women in Technology, a local organization supporting women in tech and STEM fields. Carrie Drake, thank you for joining us.
CARRIE DRAKEThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Whitney White is a graduate of SANS Institute Cyber Workforce Academy for Maryland residents. Whitney White, thank you for joining us.
WHITNEY WHITEIt's a pleasure.
NNAMDICharles, when I think of someone who works in cybersecurity, I think of computer programmers and computer hackers, but that is not always the case. Can you explain what the cybersecurity industry looks like, and what types of jobs fall under this umbrella?
JOHNSON-BEYYeah, that's a very good question. I think one of the things, as we work with students, both college students, high schools students, elementary and middle schools students, we let them know that cyber has a place for everybody. It's not just the folks that understand the ones and zeros, but it's also we need folks who understand language, different types of languages, folks who can write and understand writing and how to communicate. But also folks who understand politics and political science and what's going on across the world.
JOHNSON-BEYAnd so one of the things that we do is we work with students to help them see themselves in this space and let them know that there's plenty of opportunities for people who have skills that they would not authorize see themselves having.
NNAMDIWe've been hearing about a shortage of cybersecurity workers across the country. What does that look like in the Washington region?
JOHNSON-BEYOh, it's quite a number. It's about several thousand jobs that are going unfilled right now. At Lockheed Martin, we have over 700 job openings right now. And just to put that into some perspective, we hired about 300 people last year. We're looking to hire 300 more, just in my particular division. And we could still hire 500 more, if we could find them. And I think with the struggle that we have, one is having folks with clearances. And I think that's a good thing for folks understanding the communities that we serve. It's like, you know, being able to get a clearance, and we can help do that.
JOHNSON-BEYBut also letting them see, again, the types of jobs that we do, the type of precision and skills that we need in the complex systems that we build to help do that cyber-resiliency.
NNAMDICarrie Drake, both you and Charles have been working with bringing underrepresented groups into the cybersecurity field. Why is it important to attract more women, more people of color, other minorities into the cybersecurity workforce, other than the obvious reason, to have a workforce that looks more like America?
DRAKEWell, I think it really touches on what Charles was saying. There's a lot that makes up cybersecurity and other, you know, intelligence communities. And I think that you need to know about cultures. People behave differently on technology. So, what women are drawn to, what they might click on, what they might look up and how they interact with these technologies are different than other genders, other religions, other races or other cultures. So, having this diverse workforce is really bringing a depth and wealth of information and behaviors to the practice.
NNAMDIAnd Charles Johnson-Bey, are there any studies that indicate how diversity can affect the bottom line in the cybersecurity business?
JOHNSON-BEYYeah. There's a lot of studies that show that, both diversity in thought, but also diversity in the makeup. Quite frankly, we need all the children in our playgrounds to understand and speak the language of the 21st century of STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. But also, more importantly, how do they take their ideas, monetize them, but also help solve the communities' problems? So, we have to help people understand, here are the tools that you need, and then take these tools and help solve the communities' problems and the nation's problems.
NNAMDICarrie, tell us a little bit about your organization, Women in Technology?
DRAKEYeah, so Women in Technology is a non-profit, 100 percent volunteer-run organization in the DC Metro area. And we exist to develop women and girls in STEM fields from the classroom to the boardroom. So, we have what I like to call three pillar programs, starting with girls in technology. And, in that program, not only do they provide a mentorship program, a scholarship program, a sharing or success program for young girls, but they also develop Cyber Patriots, a girls' team for the Air Force Association Cyber Patriots Program.
DRAKEAnd then we move on into the mentor protégé program that we have for people in their mid careers because learning and development and developing relationships throughout your career is key to longevity and how you can expand your knowledge. And then we go all the way into our Leadership Foundry program which is about getting more women on corporate boards.
DRAKEAnd so each of those programs are year-long programs with an application process. And so, they have a different class every year. And those women and girls complete those programs over the year and develop those relationships and build a pipeline.
NNAMDICharles, you've been a longtime mentor in the STEM world. How would you encourage more people to enter and stay in the cybersecurity field?
JOHNSON-BEYSo, I think it's all about helping the students and people see that what they like to do has relevance, and their skills have relevance to the broader world, to their community, to our nation when you look at, you know, some of the national security issues that we have and that we deal with.
JOHNSON-BEYAnd when you look at some of the types of programs that we have, where we reach also back into, starting with pre-K, we have a program that we work with Johns Hopkins University on where we've gone into, you know, a local school there, Barclay School, to help those kids understand and bring relevance and application to the math that they're learning. To help them understand that you can apply the math that you learn to solve everyday problems.
JOHNSON-BEYAnd all we're doing is doing it at a larger level for platforms and systems and radars and boats and ships that are both manned and unmanned, and help them know that they have the skills that are applicable there. That they should see themselves there, and that we bring people into the classroom to help them see that every day.
NNAMDII know you taught for a long time at Morgan State, which is a part of the University of Maryland system that is a predominantly African American school. How were you able to do recruiting, so to speak, there?
JOHNSON-BEYSo, I'm going to tell you now, I started at age five. I had a camp for five-year-olds. And if I could tell a quick story, I've got -- some of my students -- and here's what I did. I start them off at five-years old. From five to nine was the age that I had. I had them do 100 problems a day. They wrote stories, because you can communicate via numbers and equations. You can also communicate via words. So, I had them working on that.
JOHNSON-BEYAnd some of my students, I have one student right now who's at the Naval Academy, studying engineering. I have another student who is just getting ready to graduate materials engineering from Johns Hopkins. And I have one other student, happens to be my son, (laugh) who just graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering. But all of the students that came through that program are in this field today, and they're working very hard.
NNAMDIStarting at five years old.
JOHNSON-BEYStarting at five.
NNAMDIWhitney, you made a career change into the world of cybersecurity. What were you doing before, and why did you decide to switch careers?
WHITEBefore I went into cybersecurity, I was doing predominantly event, conference planning and sales. And so, yes, I made like a complete (laugh) 180. And I just kind of felt like it was time for a chance. And I also wanted to be in a space where I didn't have to worry about someone saying something nice in order for me to get a job. So, a lot of times in sales, you know, it's whoever you can refer and whoever's willing to say something nice about you. And so if you can't find them, and they retire, then it gets a little dicey.
WHITEAnd so at least in this space there's certifications, and you know going in at least someone has like a base set of knowledge. And I guess it's more comforting and this is -- it was an exciting change.
NNAMDIWell, we're going to talk about the Cyber Workforce Academy for a minutes, but first, we've got to take a break. And before we go to that break, I want to talk with Jennifer in Maryland. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENNIFERHey there, Kojo. Thank you. I wanted to just say that this is just a relevant topic. I've been in cyber for a little over 20 years, but I'm in my fourth year of assisting with a nonprofit called InfraGard. And we do -- it's InfraGard National Capital Region, a local chapter, and we partner with Northrop. And we're on our fourth year of a cyber camp for high school age students. They don't have to have any specific skills. It's a two-week camp from July 15th to July 26th. And we'd love to have some more students come through the program.
NNAMDIOh, well, thank you very much for sharing that with us. And hopefully there are people or people whose parents are listening will be interested in the program, also. We've got to take a short break. Thank you for your call, Jennifer. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation about cybersecurity companies seeking diverse candidates. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about cybersecurity companies seeking diverse candidates with Carrie Drake, president of Women in Technology, a local organization supporting women in tech and STEM fields. Charles Johnson-Bey is the director of engineering and technology for Cyber Innovations at Lockheed Martin. And Whitney White is a graduate of the SANS Institute Cyber Workforce Academy for Maryland residents. Whitney, what is the SANS Institute Cyber Workforce Academy for Maryland residents?
WHITEIt's a program, it's in partnership with SANS, which is very well-known in the security industry for their certification program in, obviously, the state of Maryland. And they are looking for people who are ex-military who are women, who are recent graduates, who are minorities who have not -- anybody who's not maybe in the cybersecurity space. And they're giving us an opportunity to kind of leap right in.
WHITEAnd so, you go, you take a quick kind of aptitude test. I was really nervous, because I don't have an IT background, but a lot of it was, like, puzzly type questions. And then...
NNAMDIOn the aptitude test?
NNAMDI(laugh) So, the aptitude test wasn't that intimidating for you.
WHITEAfter I finished it, I was like, I have no idea how I did it. (laugh)
NNAMDIDid the SANS program also help you build your network?
WHITEYes, they did. So, after we completed the program, they hosted, like, meet and greets and would invite different companies to come and talk about their openings, to talk about ways to network. They did professional headshots. So, they really kind of set us up to succeed.
NNAMDIThat's what Patrick in Virginia would like to know. Patrick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICKHi. My question was, I'm pretty much, being in the business (unintelligible) space, and I'm looking to transition to the cyber environment. So, my question was, what's the skill set, and how is the transition working to -- or what organization do I work with, or what (unintelligible) program for a Master's degree? Or is there some certification or some program out there that I can basically be a part of, and then get the skills I need to be (unintelligible) ?
NNAMDI(overlapping) What do you think, Whitney?
WHITEThere are several programs. I know Maryland sponsors some. I know SANS has other, like, nationwide types of programs. That was actually one of the questions I asked when I decided to switch careers, was: can I get into another career without going back to school? And the answer is yes, because I did. And so if you want to go back to school, great. I don't think it's a requirement. I think there are tons and tons of just IT and cyber-related conferences and meet-ups, and you can kind of start there. I think SANS has a huge, huge amount of different types of various focused security options. So, I kind of say just dive right in.
NNAMDIWell, both Charles and Carrie, what skills, what backgrounds -- other than technology -- translate well to the cybersecurity field?
JOHNSON-BEYSo one thing I'll say, and it might surprise some people, but folks who have a background in music tend to prove to be very good cyber intelligence analysts. So, if you have a background in music, there is a place -- a few. The other thing that I will say is that SANS, I think, has very good programs, but also the community colleges are a good option for folks to go to. We work very closely with our community colleges, both, you know, in Maryland, in this DMV area. They have very good programs. So, we help bring people in.
JOHNSON-BEYBut also, just like Patrick, who called in, for folks who are looking -- and Whitney, for folks who are looking to change careers or go someplace. One of the things that we're looking to do is establish an intern and an apprenticeship program so that folks can come in, where they may not have all the skills ready, but they have the aptitude, and all that. So, how do we get them started and grow them in the skills that they need? And we need a whole mix of people there.
NNAMDICare to add anything to that, Carrie?
DRAKEYeah, and I was just going to say, you know, attention to detail, communication skills, those things are really key, because, again, like we've commented on, it's not always about the ones and zeros. It's about how you interpret information and how people are behaving and what you can predict.
NNAMDITell us about the National Security Scholars Program for college students in Maryland. How does that program work?
JOHNSON-BEYSo, that program, that's a very good program, because what it does is it works with a number of universities in the state of Maryland. And what it does is it provides a scholarship for the students, also provides a security clearance for the students. And so you come out with a security clearance. You get a paid internship. So, we've done very well. We've had about 30 students from the National Security Scholarship Program work with us at Lockheed Martin. And they do all kinds of things.
JOHNSON-BEYSo, the things that I like about the students that we get, they come in and they work really hard on the frontlines in cyber. So, they'll do anything from, again, Intel analyst, cyber defense, but also looking at -- we had a linguist last year who came in and worked with us. So, again, we take all kinds.
NNAMDIHow diverse is the cybersecurity workforce now, and how do you think it needs to grow?
DRAKESo, you know, we talked about unfilled cyber jobs. Right now, there's about 20 percent female representation in Fortune 500, like chief information security officer roles. Women make up about 20 percent of the cyber field, which is up from 11 percent in 2013. So, it's growing, right. We're making progress. But one of the most important things is we all want to see ourselves in leadership roles, right. And if you don't see leaders that look like you, that sound like you, that act like you, then it's hard for you to see yourself growing into those positions.
DRAKESo, it's really important for those of us that are in some of these key roles to get out there and encourage and mentor these young people, so that they can see this as an opportunity for themselves. And that's how we can really grow diversity in these fields.
NNAMDIWhitney, you currently work in cybersecurity at large auto insurance company. How diverse is the team where you work?
WHITEThe company overall, the IT company's, I would say, really diverse. Like, I was surprised, especially considering all of the conferences I go to. The cyber -- our security area, not as much, but they are making, like, purposeful action to try to increase. And everybody's been super, super welcoming of me. So, I never feel out of place.
NNAMDICharles, you brought the issue of security clearance up earlier. One part of the issue that some people face when breaking into the cyber security field is getting security clearance. Many people born in the Middle East or China have difficulty ever getting that clearance. Do you think this is a barrier that is limiting the cybersecurity workforce?
JOHNSON-BEYYeah. So, from a clearance perspective, the clearance process is owned by the U.S. government and the various departments at the government. And so what we do at Lockheed, we help support that, and we work with them to make sure that we work with people and help them understand what that process is and help them through that. But I think the real question is, from the speed at which things happen and the types of folks that we look at. So, we do have some folks -- so if you move around, so one of the things that you've got to do when you're applying for your security clearance is talk about all the places you've lived and all those kinds of things.
JOHNSON-BEYAnd some people -- particularly like myself. I grew up in Baltimore City. At one point in time, like, we moved around a lot, at one point in time, too. You got to fill all that stuff out. And that might slow down the process, some But I think -- but we did have a situation, like, last year, one of our NSSP scholars, who lived in multiple different countries because of what her parents did, her clearance went through pretty quickly. So, it is a person-by-person standpoint. So, I wouldn't necessarily call it a barrier, but it is a person-by-person.
JOHNSON-BEYBut the thing that, I think, that folks really have to do is really focus on what is it that they want to do. And the point I want to make is that there is zero percent unemployment if you have a clearance in cyber. It's a negative, right? There's some people who aren't, right -- they're some people who dead...
NNAMDI(overlapping) I guess that's why to remove any such barriers that there are...
NNAMDI...to getting clearance. But here is Nicholi, in Virginia Beach. Nicholi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NICHOLIHi, Mr. Nnamdi. I'm a cybersecurity Master's degree student at ODU. You had asked earlier, why did you decide to choose this? I was a government major, and I decided to do cybersec because I like to do cyber policy and to defend against nations -- don't want to namedrop -- but China, for example, that seem to be way ahead and way more aggressive in their cyber attacks against us. And I want to be on the frontlines and defend our country from that.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. People enter this field for a variety of reasons, but it's one thing to attract new workers into the cybersecurity industry. But what are companies doing to retain this diverse talent?
DRAKEYou know, I think there's a lot of movements right now for diversity and inclusion and making people feel a part of that company. So, things that companies can do are providing opportunities for training and education for those employees so that they can continue their certifications or get certifications that they didn't have, offering them a look at other opportunities to move throughout their organizations, and identifying those unique skill sets that might help them to expand their careers.
JOHNSON-BEYYeah. And I would also add that the thing that also you have people do, like, so we have people who go to conferences. So, we support like the Black Engineer of the Year award ceremony. We report the Hispanic engineer, the HENAAC conference. So, getting people exposure to those places sort of, as you were talking about earlier, with respect to people need to see people that look like them, or from their neighborhoods, or talk like them. That's very important.
JOHNSON-BEYSo, a way to retain is to make sure that people are getting experiences and opportunities for leadership, for networking. But also the thing that -- so, one of the things that we've done at Lockheed Martin, is we've invested millions of bucks -- of bucks. (laugh) Sorry about that, but I said it, now. It's live. But millions bucks in retraining our employees and making sure that their certifications stay up. Or if they have opportunities to go somewhere, to receive other kinds of training, that they have that. So, that's very important.
NNAMDIWhitney, now that you have a job in cybersecurity, do you feel like you're being provided with the means and resources to stay in the field?
WHITEI do. So, right now, one of the reasons I actually took the job was because it would allow me to have exposure to different areas within cybersecurity. So, I'm in a rotational program. It's three years, and each year, I kind of get to have a different focus. And so even though I don't have the background and I might not have taken a whole bunch of classes, I can still try a little bit of everything and kind of see where I fall.
WHITESo, even though I enjoy what I'm doing now, I don't think it was what I thought I was going to be doing when I finished the program. And so it's been a great opportunity. And then they're really, really big on continuing education. So, all the time, we have people that are going to conferences or getting more certifications, that is supplied and supported by my company.
NNAMDIFinally back to the issue of clearance, here's Nigella in Alexandria, Virginia. Nigella, we only have about a minute left, but go ahead, please.
NIGELLAYeah, I see a chicken-and-egg situation. One, you can't get a job until you get the clearance, and you can't get the clearance until you get the job. So, that's an issue. The other thing is the best people that you really need are the immigrants who already speak the languages and know the areas, the other countries that you're worried about. But these are the people that cannot get clearances. And even if they do, then you prevent them from talking to their families, because they lose their clearance. Or every time you talk to any (word?) person, they have to report that. That's not...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Are you talk...
NNAMDIDo you have personal experience with this, Nigella, or have you known people who have dealt with this?
NIGELLAYes, I have. I mean, I am an American, born here, but lived in the Middle East. I have a Masters in computer science. I have a Bachelor's in math. I've worked in the IT field my whole life. It took me nine months to get the secret clearance, just because I owned land somewhere in the Middle East, and because I have family. It's crazy. And that was years ago. Today, I'm sure I would never get the clearance.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, thank you very much for your call, and we are just about out of time, here. We got one email from Faith, who says: is there anything similar to the SANS program in Maryland for women or minorities seeking a career change in Virginia or DC that you know of, Whitney?
WHITESANS does have a women's workforce academy that is nationwide. And they also have a vet success program and a minorities program that are very similar.
NNAMDIWhitney White is a graduate of the SANS Institute Cyber Workforce Academy for Maryland students. Carrie Drake is president of Women in Technology, and Dr. Charles Johnson-Bey is the director of engineering and technology for Cyber Innovations at Lockheed Martin. Thank you all for joining us.
NNAMDIThis conversation about diversity in the cybersecurity workforce was produced by Cydney Grannan. And our update on local law enforcement on ICE raids was produced by Maura Currie. Coming up tomorrow, warm summer weather is officially upon us, and with that comes peak season for catching Lyme disease. We'll explore what Lyme is, why it's so common in the Washington region, and how to enjoy the outdoors while staying safe from tick bites that transmit the disease. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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