That’s what a group of attendees attempted to do this week during the Interop ITX Leadership Summit. They sat down to hash out: What makes IT great, and how do we share that with young people entering the market as well as career-changers?

Here’s what they came up with.

IT is no longer just the person who read the manual.

It’s also not just what the popular media portrays it to be: “IT isn’t just hacking, or whatever you hear about on social media,” said one Leadership Summit attendee. “IT is huge, you’ve got everything from coding to infrastructure. Four million flavors of networking and three million flavors of servers,” he said.

And it’s not just for people with a computer science degree.

“IT is, in reality, more diverse,” said another attendee. “[People outside IT], they think science and extreme [left-side of the brain subjects], but it’s much more creative,” she added.

It’s the new skilled trade, said another attendee.

So how do you approach new talent about a career in IT or reach out to the younger generation in your organization and keep them in IT? Their answer was to find common ground.

Among this crowd, the word ‘millennial’ wasn’t used as a curse-word. While they noted that there can be generational culture clashes: “Boomers want to come in and do their job, maybe get recognized, and are not used to back rubbing. Millennials want instant gratification. ‘Look at this piece of code I wrote,’” said one attendee – the group decided that IT is not about pitting one generation’s work style against the other, it’s about finding the commonalities and benefiting from the other’s strengths.

Common ground can be built be doing something as simple as finding the other person in the office that also likes dogs, said one attendee.

Connections between senior staff and younger staff are vital if you want to attract new talent to the industry, and the big takeaway from the group was that contrary to popular belief, they can be made.

Katy Tynan, managing director for Liteskip Consulting Group and Interop ITX Leadership Track chair summarized the separate groups’ thoughts in the room during this video.

They also talked about what drives today’s young people to certain careers.

“Making money is good, but I think [young people] want to have an effect,” said one attendee.

“Millennials are used to things changing faster,” said another attendee. “They’re used to multitasking…and are very intelligent,” who added that they’re often after a flexible workplace and flexible hours.

And to this, one attendee answered:

“IT is not a traditional 9-5, leave it at the door, type job. It’s a career, a field, a calling. It’s a passion.”

This group also came to the conclusion that IT is incredibly diverse in terms of roles and projects and industries.

“There’s a lot of flexibility…It’s whatever you want to do and whatever direction you want to go in, and if the company doesn’t have it, you can move to another company,” said an attendee.

As the discussion came to a close, there was a palpable feeling of pride in the room. For all the whining and moaning, IT is an awesome career.

Tynan said, “IT is the power that is underneath — it is the engine that drives the bus…so how do we all become better ambassadors for what IT is?”

Her answer was simple.

“Try and spend more time saying it’s awesome. Especially to people that are not in IT. Remember that your messaging in the world is what people will think of IT,” said Tynan.

She added these final words: If you’re not already engaged with the local school system, get involved, because if you’re not out there saying you’re from IT and you love it, then you’re letting us all down. Tell them: “If you never want to be bored, you should get into IT.”


Those efforts were on display April 28 as more than 160 middle and high school students participated in the California Mayors Cyber Cup competition. The event, organized by the California Cyberhub and principally funded by the California Community Colleges, Information and Communication Technology / Digital Media sector, was a product of collaboration by business, government, and educational partners.

Much like the students collaborating to solve cyber challenges, these groups are working together to ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to the tools that will prepare them to fill the demand for cybersecurity workers in California.

These are the results of the four regional California Mayors Cyber Cup events:

Sacramento


  • First place: Jesuit High School Team R-4808N, Carmichael
  • Second place: Monterey Trail Team 3, Elk Grove
  • Third place: Naval Sea Cadets, Sacramento

Orange County


  • First place: Troy High School InSecT DesTROYers, Fullerton
  • \Second place: Troy High School Team 1, Fullerton
  • Third place: Valencia High School, Valencia 

Inland Empire/Desert


  • First place: M.L. King High School Jr. NROTC Team 1, Riverside
  • Second place: M.L. King High School Jr. NROTC Team 2, Riverside
  • Third place: Canyon Springs High School Team 1, Moreno Valley


Central Valley


  • First place: Turlock High School, Turlock
  • Second place: CART, Clovis
  • Third place: Dinuba High School, Dinuba


The winning teams from each event will compete in the statewide California Cyber Innovation Challenge, which will be held June 23-25 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Keith Tresh, commander of the California Cybersecurity Integration Center in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said he was impressed by the students he saw at the event and that the need for well-trained cybersecurity professionals has never been greater.

“It’s really cool to see that this generation is looking at this kind of work and excelling at it,” Tresh said. “Cybersecurity is an insurance policy, and people are now realizing that if you don’t have that insurance policy in place, it can have a dramatic impact on a company.”

As the name suggests, the California Mayors Cyber Cup includes buy-in from mayors across the state. Rocklin Mayor Ken Broadway said it’s critical for the government to support cyber competitions alongside local business and education partners.

“Having Sierra College host the Greater Sacramento California Mayors Cyber Cup in Rocklin was an honor,” Broadway said. “Tech skills are in high demand and preparing our students for high-paying careers that meet the cyber needs of business and government through an innovative program like this is imperative.”

Cybersecurity education is a priority for the California State Assembly, with select members as key partners with the California Cyberhub in creating and promoting events like the California Mayors Cyber Cup.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley attended the California Mayors Cyber Cup event in Sacramento and said the event helped make the community aware of cybersecurity threats and how to solve them through education and collaboration.

“California Mayors Cyber Cup competitions foster the next generation of cybersecurity professionals by bringing together students with leaders in government and industry,” Kiley said. “This collaborative approach ensures a holistic understanding of security challenges while promoting communitywide awareness of cybersecurity issues.”

The California Cyberhub is promoting participation in cyber camps and competitions being held throughout the summer to build on the energy generated at the California Mayors Cyber Cup and ensure that the cyber heroes don’t fall behind in their training. See a complete listing of upcoming camps and workshops at California Cybersecurity Integration Center

About the California Cyberhub

The California Cyberhub is a virtual, neutral, nimble online organization that is a collaboration of public higher education, K-12, government, business, and military working to enable a future workforce of ethical cybersecurity experts in California. Their mission is to enable a future ethical workforce by expanding and supporting quality cyber training across the State with a one-stop source for best practices and resources gathered from all cyber training and competition activities in California.

About Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy – Strong Workforce Program
Doing What MATTERS for jobs and the economy is a four-pronged framework to respond to the call of our nation, state, and regions to close the skills gap. The four prongs are: Give Priority for Jobs and the Economy » Make Room for Jobs and the Economy » Promote Student Success » Innovate for Jobs and the Economy.

The goals of Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy are to supply in-demand skills for employers, create relevant career pathways and stackable credentials, promote student success, and get Californians into open jobs.

About the California Cybersecurity Integration Center (Cal-CSIC)

The California Cybersecurity Integration Center was created in 2015 to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber-attacks, improve inter-agency and cross-sector collaboration, prioritize cyber threats and alert potential victims, and strengthen the state’s cybersecurity strategy.
The Cal-CSIC is made up of four core partners, including the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Technology, the California MilitaryDepartment, and the California Highway Patrol.


 Mayors Cyber Cup 1Orange County Winners:  Troy High School, Jared Flores, Kanin Liang, Jennifer Ho, Jino Siravatanarat, Khao Nguyen

 Mayors Cyber Cup 2Inland Empire Region: Tiffany Tran – Asseblymember Jose Medina’s office, Coach Billy Springfield, Hope Gillett, Ethan Michalak, Arnib Quazi, Mason Cleland, Brett Hile, George Elias, Julius Mesias, Moreno Valley City Councilmember, David Marquez, California Cyberhub Community Manager – Donna Woods, California Community Colleges, ICT Regional Coordinator – Susanne Mata

 

“This cyber program and competition has opened my eyes to the opportunities and the vast array of careers in the cybersecurity field. I thought I had my mind set on a career in the health field, however with the experience I have gained, I can incorporate my knowledge of technology and security into practically any career I choose.” – Abigail Barahona, Sophomore

Several California Community College regions have joined to engage the California Cyberhub to coordinate, promote, and develop this concept. All locations will be linked with a live video feed to inspire the feeling of a state-wide community and come back to the core idea that “we are in it together.” The Mayors Cyber Cup will utilize one of the California Community Colleges’ virtual lab hubs to host the competition images used by competitors at all locations. This will not only reduce the cost of hosting and participating in a cyber competition, but it will also allow for all cities in the state to participate, regardless of their economic status.

Aggressive marketing and outreach efforts leading up to the competition are underway to ensure parents, business owners, high school and faculty administrators, and community government officials attend. After the competition is over, the winning team leaves with an incredible sense of pride to continue inspiring their respective communities to get involved in the cybersecurity revolution. The experience helps empower students to concern themselves with the safety of their cities at large, in an ongoing way. Furthermore, the Mayors Cyber Cup support team will continue to follow-up and follow through with efforts to establish new cyber teams, recruit local business sponsors, build summer camp cyber enrollment, and inform parents and students of the many cyber career and education opportunities available in the California state education system.

“As an educator, I place a high value on the equitable access and opportunities that the California Mayors Cyber Cup provides for my students. Regardless of their individual backgrounds, the collaborative nature of the competition ensures they rely on each other’s strengths, unifying their efforts, and instilling personal value and worth to each of them.” – Donna Woods, Academic Coach

These students could be compared to technological superheroes, brilliant in their own right, yet also reminding us that nothing can be completely solved without the help and effort of ordinary citizens at large. It is our collective diligence, attention, commitment, and action, that sustains the safety, longevity, and peace of our communities, long after the proverbial day has been saved. Our survival, comfort, and protection is really up to us. The California Mayors Cyber Cup is a starting point for every individual to become their community’s own superhero, in an age that is nothing if not limitless.

“Our businesses need next generation cybersecurity leaders and entrepreneurs to protect everything from our personal health data to the development of autonomous vehicles,” said Panorea Avdis, Director of GO-Biz “The California Mayors Cyber Cup demonstrates California’s commitment to lead the way to addressing the global cybersecurity skills gap.”

About the California Cyberhub

The California Cyberhub is a virtual, neutral, nimble on-line organization that is a collaboration of public higher education, K-12, government, business, and military working to enable a future workforce of ethical cybersecurity experts in California. Their mission is to enable a future ethical workforce by expanding and supporting quality cyber training across the State with a one-stop source for best practices and resources gathered from all cyber training and competition activities in California.

About Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy – Strong Workforce Program

Doing What MATTERS for jobs and the economy is a four-pronged framework to respond to the call of our nation, state, and regions to close the skills gap. The four prongs are: Give Priority for Jobs and the Economy » Make Room for Jobs and the Economy » Promote Student Success »
Innovate for Jobs and the Economy. The goals of Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy are to supply in-demand skills for employers, create relevant career pathways and stackable credentials, promote student success, and get Californians into open jobs.

About GO-Biz

GO-Biz serves as the State of California’s leader in job growth and economic development efforts. GO-Biz offers a range of services to business owners including: attraction, retention and expansion services, site selection, permit streamlining, clearing of regulatory hurdles, small business assistance, international trade development, assistance with state government, and more.

 Lemus was content working in the industry and never saw himself as a teacher. A few years ago, he started helping a friend who is a high school drama teacher. Lemus is a lifelong musician who plays piano, drums, guitar, bass, and saxophone. He helped compose music for the school’s productions and quickly found that he enjoyed working with students through that process.

His presence in the school led to an invitation to coach a CyberPatriot team. Lemus was not familiar with CyberPatriot but was intrigued enough to give it a shot. It was pitched to him as a hacking competition, but he quickly learned that it wasn’t that.

After that first year, he was hooked and hasn’t looked back since. Lemus now works with CyberPatriot, Cisco and other cyber challenges to engage as many students as he can in the cybersecurity field.

“I like to create labs and challenges; I like to show students that they can do this and cybersecurity isn’t some scary thing that’s out of their reach,” Lemus said. “When students understand and see how this knowledge applies to their world, they can see themselves in the field, as well as how topics discussed affect themselves and others around them.”

Richard Grotegut, Bay Area Deputy Sector Navigator for IT and Computer Science, met Lemus in southern California and recruited him to move up north to assist with summer cyber camps. What started with one camp has now grown to 30 events held at 20 community colleges.

Grotegut said he was impressed by Lemus’ ability to connect with students, and the work ethic he’s shown in coordinating the cyber events.

“He’s very relatable, professional and contentious,” Grotegut said. “We launched our cyber camp program again this summer and have been overwhelmed by the response. Irvin’s done a lot of work to make that happen”

Lemus moved to northern California and now makes his home in Monterrey. He set up the Bay Area Cyber Competitions website and now serves as the coordinator for all events in the region.

In addition to those responsibilities, Lemus also helps other coaches learn the CyberPatriot ropes and avoid some of the same mistakes he made when he was starting out in the program.

Andrea Salas, a CyberPatriot coach at Alhambra High School, connected with Lemus earlier this year after running into trouble with the CyberPatriot Primary Round.

“My principal had just paid $200 to register my new after-school Cybersecurity club for the competition, and the kids were ridiculously underprepared,” Salas said. “Although they had an abundance of enthusiasm to make up for it, at that moment, we were faced with a situation where we couldn’t get past the ‘Read Me’ document.”

Salas said Lemus remained calm despite her frustration with the situation and guided her through what she needed to do to get her team up and running. That demeanor translates into his work with students.

“He knows how to engage with kids from different backgrounds and encourages and models positive social interactions among them,” Salas said. “He understands that his job is about outreach and that keeping kids interested means making what he presents interesting, something that is difficult to do when the cybersecurity concepts the kids are learning are purely defensive.”

Lemus is currently pursuing his master’s degree in cybersecurity at Webster University. He hopes to see cybersecurity become an even bigger part of the K-12 curriculum in California to show students that IT is about much more than coding and writing programs.

“Just like coding is being pushed, how computers work and how they talk together should also be a core curriculum,” Lemus said. “I would like to see schools teach these topics so everyone becomes more secure and our next generations are inherently more secure than the one that came before it.”

Lemus1

Lemus2

Lemus3