Ticket Into Tech shows that IT and cybersecurity are for everyone Michael Specchierla’s career began as a teacher and librarian more than 20 years ago. As computers and the Internet made their way into schools in the mid-1990s, he quickly saw the potential they could have and, although he didn’t know exactly how everything worked, […]
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After more than two decades of working in the private sector, Sara Gopalan saw firsthand the gap between what students were learning and what was needed to be successful in the cybersecurity field. She decided to take matters into her own hands and become a teacher herself. In just a few years, she has become […]
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San Diego is uniquely positioned to be a leader in cybersecurity — not only in California but in the United States and even the world. The city’s proximity to the U.S. military and some of the world’s biggest technology companies has created more than 7,500 cybersecurity jobs.
RADM (Ret.) Kenneth Slaght is at the forefront of growing them and establishing San Diego’s standing in the process. Slaght is Chair and President of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE), an organization established in 2014 to address the region’s cybersecurity industry needs.
“Companies in the region like Qualcomm and FICO said workforce was the biggest issue they faced,” Slaght said. “There are more than 100 companies doing cyber work in this region and they can’t find the people to fill their open positions.”
Thanks to the efforts of Slaght and his team, and the partnerships they’ve made with education and industry, the CCOE is well on its way to tackling that problem and building a robust cybersecurity workforce. The organization maintains a job board of hundreds of open positions and created a career map that shows education and certification pathways to join this in-demand industry.
“On any given day, there are 80-100 job openings here in the region,” Slaght said. “The region’s colleges are just meeting or barely meeting that demand without accounting for the fact that we lose many of our graduates to places like Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.”
While the region’s universities and colleges graduate over 3,000 computer science and engineering students each year, the demand for qualified cyber workers continues to increase across all sectors.
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Dan Manson saw for the vision of what cybersecurity education could become long before many people even knew what cybersecurity was.
Over the past 20 years, he’s helped expand cyber competitions across California while serving as a professor and chair of the Computer Information Systems department at Cal Poly Pomona. After seeing so much success in California, he’s ready to do the same thing in Nevada, where he now lives.
“California has gone so far down the road that they don’t need me,” Manson said. “There are other places that aren’t very far down that road where I can still have an impact.”
Manson joined the cybersecurity world in 2001 after hearing about a Department of Education grant aimed at improving campus cybersecurity. He thought that there might be an opportunity for faculty to become involved and — as he’s done many times throughout his career — invited himself to the meetings to learn more about it.
That grant lead to two $900,000 NSF Advanced Technical Education grants, one in 2003 and one in 2007. Those funds were aimed at workforce development and allowed Manson to begin building partnerships with other colleges that have only grown stronger over time.
In addition, Manson led the effort for Cal Poly Pomona to be designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education in 2005, 2008 and 2014.
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GenCyber Camp Brings Technology to Underserved Groups
Carrie Raleigh didn’t know the first thing about cybersecurity when she started working for the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council. And, who could blame her? It’s a far cry from the things traditionally associated with the scouting program.
Over the past three years, Raleigh and colleague Knea Hawley brought the GenCyber program under the Girl Scouts umbrella and opened the doors for even more young women to learn about cybersecurity.
“I’ve learned so much and it’s been an amazing journey. Now it’s one of those things I talk about all the time,” Raleigh said. “It’s been so eye opening to me realizing the potential in the field for these girls. We can connect them with the training they need for this large opportunity in front of them.”
GenCyber is a nationwide program with camps in nearly all 50 states. The San Bernardino camps were held June 18-22 at CSU San Bernardino. The program was funded by a National Science Foundation grant received by CSUSB that made it free to all attendees. CSUSB has invited the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council to participate in their GenCyber camp since 2015.
Beyond learning the basics of cybersecurity, girls had the opportunity to meet with industry professionals from Google, Facebook and Bank of America just to name a few. While it took a lot of coordination from the GenCyber planning team, Raleigh said it was worth it for the students and the employers.
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Liz Fraumann found her way into an IT focus more than a decade ago and hasn’t looked back since. Along the way, she’s helped make cyber security a priority in San Diego and fostered a love of the field in countless students thanks to programs like the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge and SOeC Cyber Boot Camp.
Fraumann is the executive director of the Securing Our eCity Foundation, an organization that was formally incorporated in 2011 to increase cyber security awareness, education, and prepredness in the San Diego region by focusing on the human element in education and outreach. Prior to this time the program was an initiative fostered by ESET North America.
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William Diaz loves computers as much as anyone else in the cybersecurity community, but he also understands the physical and mental benefits of getting up from behind the screen.
He is combining his passion for IT with his passion for health and wellness through his work with A World Fit for Kids, a Los-Angeles-based non-profit that’s provided after-school programming to underserved communities since 1993.
Diaz learned about the relationship between health and technology the hard way as he became involved in CyberPatriot and changed his college major from English to IT.
“The more Red Bull I drank, the less physical exercise I got,” Diaz said. “It really dawned on me: what is the point of getting all these skills if I’m going to be 35 with a chronic disease?”
That premise now serves as Diaz’s guiding principle at A World Fit for Kids, where he serves as the IT manager. He tries to incorporate healthy habits into all of his CyberPatriot coaching and make students aware that the actions they take today can have implications for the rest of their lives.
“Health and cyber don’t mix and they should because health has become such a big force in our world from the opioid epidemic to the suicide crisis,” Diaz said. “I’m making students aware of the implications of their technology use.”
Some of the healthy habits Diaz emphasizes include drinking water instead of soda or other sugary beverages and taking time to get up and move for a few minutes during each hour of a CyberPatriot competition.
Achieving those goals is sometimes easier said than done, especially in the pressure of a competition setting. However, he sees the work as an essential part of building good habits now that will stick with students once they enter the cybersecurity field.
“The more I see cyber taking off, the more I see health deteriorating,” he said. “If students don’t have role models for healthy behavior, they are never going to learn it.”
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From the moment Irvin Lemus got his first computer, he was hooked. It was an Apple 2E, and he told his dad that he wanted to know exactly what was inside of it.
Now, Lemus works to instill that same passion for technology into the students he teaches and coaches throughout the Bay Area. Lemus is the cybersecurity instructor at Cabrillo College and the Bay Area Cyber Competitions Regional Coordinator for the Western Academy Support and Training Center.
Lemus said he was drawn to cybersecurity because no two days are ever the same and it provides him the opportunity to continue to learn in an ever-changing environment.
“You have to always learn new ways of securing everything. Working in this field put my knowledge and critical thinking skills to the extreme,” Lemus said.
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Sean McNally doesn’t mind being busy. These days, he practically has two full-time jobs — one as a math teacher at Elk Grove High School and the other as a CyberPatriot coach and coordinator.
McNally has become a leader in the cybersecurity education community, continually working to empower his students with the same level of drive and dedication he’s shown over the course of his career.
He was named the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Teacher of the Year for California in 2014 and 2015 and continues to look for new ways to further the CyberPatriot program throughout the state.
Raised by a single mother, McNally credits the Boy Scouts with teaching him the value of leadership. He rose through the ranks and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor, by the time he turned 18. He also developed a love of math as a child and uses that in his work as a teacher.
“Scouting taught me that if you make up your mind ahead of time to do the right thing, then 80% of all your decisions are already made for you. The remaining 20% of your decisions will depend on your experience,” he said. “Not everyone relates to math like I do. It is my responsibility to bring enthusiasm into the classroom and show them they can have fun with math.”
McNally’s enthusiasm and interest in math made him a natural fit for the CyberPatriot program. He first learned about the program when he played softball with an Air Force Association liaison that told him all about CyberPatriot.
After a chance meeting at his 20th high school reunion in 2011, he met James Vahanian, an information security analyst at Wells Fargo, who would go on to help him mentor his first team of nine students at Elk Grove High School. Vahanian’s background helped to supplement instruction in firewall configuration, intrusion detection, and penetration testing.
Cybersecurity Community Mourns Loss of Harry Talbot
The California cyber education community lost a dedicated and passionate cybersecurity education advocate with the passing of Col. Harry Talbot on January 30. He will be remembered as one of CyberPatriot’s greatest advocates and someone who consistently went above and beyond to help students succeed.
Talbot, a longtime employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), founded the district’s CyberPatriot program nearly a decade ago. Under his leadership, LAUSD earned two CyberPatriot National Championships and became the first Center of Excellence to register 100 CyberPatriot teams.
Talbot also served as an Administrative Coordinator with the Beyond the Bell program in the LAUSD. That position included oversight of more than 600 schools offering grant-funded before and after-school programs.
He facilitated the acquisition of federal, state, and private grants for more than 100,000 students in those programs on a daily basis and contributed much of his own time on evenings and weekends to ensure that those efforts were successful.
LAUSD CyberPatriot Coach Carey Peck worked closely with Talbot and said he possessed a combination of big-picture vision and the attention to detail to make his ideas come to life.
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