THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Today SynED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers, announced that Susanne Mata was selected as its national CyberHero for November.
Mata is the California Community Colleges Regional Director for Employer Engagement in Information Communication Technologies and Digital Media in the Inland Empire/Desert Region. In this role, she works closely with faculty, government and industry partners to prepare students who can address current and future cybersecurity challenges and create innovative ways to fill the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals across California and beyond.
Mata began her role as regional director in 2016 when the area was just beginning to address cybersecurity. She quickly recognized an opportunity to meet employer needs by creating new cybersecurity educational pathways and support activities and building on existing curricula to align with employer expectations.
“Companies and employers everywhere need skilled workers that can help to build, maintain and protect networks and data,” Mata said. “Cybersecurity crosses every industry sector and has a place in every business, no matter the size.”
Under Mata’s leadership, eight of the 12 community colleges in the Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium now offer cybersecurity programs — up from two colleges just a few years ago — including a two-year cybersecurity degree at Chaffey College. The region is also home to nearly 50 CyberPatriot teams and regional cyber competitions for middle and high school students.
Though Mata does not work directly with students, she takes pride in the fact that her work creating systems for them to succeed manifests itself in numerous ways every day.
“The community colleges are a great way for students to pursue a cybersecurity career and gain the skills and certifications necessary to be competitive in today’s workforce,” Mata said. “The competitions are an opportunity for these students to develop their skills and build confidence. It is very rewarding to be a part of that and to see them celebrate their achievements.”
David Nimri, associate professor of computer information systems at Chaffey College, said he appreciates Mata’s support in fostering collaboration among schools across the region — a task that is sometimes easier said than done amid competing priorities and objectives.
“The best part about working with Susanne is how responsive she is and how she has an almost magical ability to get different faculty from different colleges to collaborate and focus on student success in the region,” Nimri said.
Mata’s ability to coordinate partnerships also extends to the government. Scott Agajanian, deputy director of development services for the City of Murrieta, has attended workshops Mata organized and is continually impressed by her ability to get the right people in the right place at the right time.
“Susanne works diligently and brings many fields together,” Agajanian said. “She brings thoughtfulness and high energy to everything she does. There is always a goal in mind and a plan to get there.
Mata also breaks down barriers that hold students back from pursuing cybersecurity education. Suzanne Davis, public sector national account manager for ConvergeOne, works with Mata on creating immersive classroom experiences and new educational partnerships in the region.
Davis praised Mata’s passion for her work and her open mind to embrace new opportunities as they arise.
“Susanne lives her mission and believes these technologies offer tremendous opportunities for those that wish to put in the work,” Davis said. “She works tirelessly to eliminate barriers to those wishing to pursue these careers.”
As she looks ahead to the future of cybersecurity education, Mata hopes her colleagues throughout industry, education and government will continue to embrace new opportunities and break down silos to foster student success and meet changing job market demands.
“As new jobs develop, educators need to be responsive and willing to modify their curriculum and programs,” Mata said “I think one thing is for certain — there will have to be great advancements made so we can stay one step ahead of cyber criminals.”
Prior to her role as regional director, Mata served as Coordinator of Special Programs in Career and Technical Education at Mt. San Jacinto College and K-14 Pathways Regional Technical Assistance Provider in the Inland Empire/Desert Region.
SynED's CyberHeros series, which highlights cyber heroes who quietly go above and beyond in helping to secure our nation and communities, is a monthly column published nationally. SynED is a non-profit organization that acts as a catalyst to help colleges and other higher education partners equip students with the skills they need to enrich their lives through education, knowledge, and skill acquisition, giving them rich career opportunities. SynED also maintains a community for CTE professionals at Cyber-Guild.org®.
About the Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium
The Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium (IEDRC) serves as a regional framework to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, promote and plan career and technical education and workforce and economic development in the Inland Empire/Desert Region. The region includes nine community college districts comprised of 12 community colleges, two county offices of education, 56 public school districts, four regional occupational centers/programs, and more than 50 charter schools.
The ICT-Digital Media Sector focuses on relevant and effective skills training in the ICT sector. Working with employers, recruiters and colleges, our statewide team of 12 ICT Regional Directors of Employer Engagement identify and advance successful and trusted educational strategies, or pathways, for all students – entry, advanced, and incumbent.