Franz Payer Selected As SynED’s Cyber Hero for Bringing Innovation to Cybersecurity Education

Today, SynED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers, announced that Franz Payer was selected as its national Cyber Hero for May 2021.

Payer is the CEO of Cyber Skyline, a leading provider of cybersecurity education and training for more than 100,000 students and professionals around the world. He founded the company in 2014 after seeing gaps in the training field while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland.

“Cyber Skyline started as a dorm room project when I got frustrated with the cyber competitions that were out there,” Payer said. “It was a lot of one-off things and I wanted to build more of a cohesive experience.” 

Payer built a prototype for hands-on exercises that could go along with workshops and landed a contract with the National Cyber League before he finished college. He turned the project into a full-time venture once he graduated.

Cyber Skyline houses training for high school and college students, as well as professional development for IT and cybersecurity workers, in one easy-to-use platform. Companies and schools can create content that’s easily accessible and plants the seeds for lifelong learning as the field continues to evolve. 

The company was the platform of choice for three regional California Mayors Cyber Cup competitions, a team based competition with teams from cities across the respective regions competing for possession of the perpetual Mayors Cyber Cup.

Participants created Cyber Skyline profiles that will also display any other courses or training they complete on the platform. These credentials can also be shared to LinkedIn or other social media platforms as a way for students to demonstrate career readiness to potential employers and foster a greater sense of community in cybersecurity education. The platform also includes a job directory that highlights entry-level jobs and allows employers can assess candidates.

“Cybersecurity is only a scary field because the media mystifies it, so it doesn’t seem relatable to most people,” Payer said. “We’re trying to create a space where people can work together as a team and create that social proof for what they do.”

Cyber Skyline is also the hosting platform for the National Cyber League, one of the earliest e-sports events in the U.S. and one of the country’s largest cyber competitions with more than 10,000 students from 450 colleges and universities represented. 

Payer said Cyber Skyline also provides an opportunity for businesses to both support their own employees and “pay it forward” for future generations of the cyber workforce. With thousands of cybersecurity jobs going unfilled each year, Payer has heard from businesses that are interested in supporting cyber education in any way they can to ensure that they have job candidates who can hit the ground running once they finish school.

“All businesses need to be secure, but small and medium-sized companies don’t have the resources to send people off site for training or bring someone in,” Payer said. “A lot of businesses have small budgets and are looking for self-paced learning education, which is where we see ourselves fitting in.”

Keith Bertolino, CEO of digital forensics training firm Cipher Tech Solutions, described Payer as a maverick in the cybersecurity industry who revolutionized cyber competitions and immersive cyber training.

“Cyber Skyline has taken our industry by storm,” Bertolino said. “It is the first company I’ve seen to materially improve the entire lifecycle of attracting, training, testing, and placing the driven talent that national security jobs demand … an amazing accomplishment.”

David Zeichick, assistant professor of computer science at CSU Chico, said his students have been part of 10 Cyber Skyline competitions, including the National Cyber League. Zeichick said the events were well-received by the students and set them up for long-term professional success.

“I realized that the categories of challenges that Franz and his team selected matched up perfectly to what I considered base knowledge for the security industry,” Zeichick said, “Cyber Skyline’s NCL competition has allowed my students to level up their security knowledge in a fun, engaging way where they hardly think of it as schoolwork.”

Cyber Skyline was well-positioned when COVID-19 struck because the company already offered remote learning options. Payer sees remote instruction becoming an even bigger part of cybersecurity education moving forward — and as a way to meet the skills gaps that currently exist in the cyber workforce.

“The trend right now is to go more online with boot camps and programs that can be done remotely,” Payer said. “The fact that instruction will become more online helps us reach more people that the educational system can’t accommodate using traditional methods.”

About Cyber Skyline
Cyber Skyline is a leading provider of cybersecurity experiences for over 100,000 students and professionals in the United StatesAustralia, and Singapore. It is a revolutionary cloud platform to practice, develop, and measure technical cybersecurity skills and is used in both educational and professional settings.

About SynED®
SynED’s CyberHero 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®.

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