Cyversity Engage | Community College Pathways to Cybersecurity Careers


Cyversity and NextGen Cyber partnered on May 18th at 12 p.m. PT to host a Bay Area Chapter May monthly speaker series entitled “Community College Pathways to Cybersecurity Careers,” which featured Krishnan Chellakarai – Founder of NextGen Cyber Talent and CISO of Gilead, Steven Booth – VP Product Management at SalesforceJuan Soberanes – Engineer at Balbix, Nina Bachvarova, Engineer at San Francisco International Airport,  Dante Alabastro, Red Team Lead Google and Christina Hanson, Architect at AppDynamics.

00:00:00 In this section, the speakers introduce themselves and the Cybersecurity Engage community and discuss their partnership with Next Gen Cyber, which focuses on community college pathways to cybersecurity careers. The goal of the partnership is to diversify and increase representation in the cybersecurity industry, particularly among underrepresented groups. Next Gen Cyber provides training, mentorship programs, and leadership development opportunities for candidates to pursue careers in cybersecurity. The panel of cyber professionals that follows offers insights and advice for those who have chosen community college pathways to pursue their careers.

00:05:00 In this section, Chris talks about how the cybersecurity talent gap is being bridged through partnerships with community colleges and programs like Next-Gen. Candidates are getting trained and placed in companies, and the community colleges are taking advantage of grant programs. Next-Gen has now shifted focus to mentoring programs and placement, and Chris emphasizes the importance of feedback to improve the program’s effectiveness. They are looking to create a platform to connect Enterprise organizations and candidates, and they encourage mentors to come forward and join the program. Olivia stresses the availability of links to the Next-Gen website where users could sign up for the programs or provide feedback.

00:10:00 In this section of the video, the speaker talks about why community college career education is an effective pathway to cybersecurity careers. The Cyber programs in Bay Area community colleges are industry-driven and revolve around preparing students to sit for industry certifications from CompTIA, AWS, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco. Additionally, the curriculum is developed and taught by cybersecurity professionals and influencers, and community colleges put together strong competition teams, beating out four-year schools on a regular basis. Community colleges are also more affordable compared to four-year schools, making them an attractive option for individuals looking to pursue a degree in cybersecurity or related fields. Steve, an advocate for Community College cybersecurity students, shares his story and how he hired a Merit College student who was a Workhorse and got a lot of incredible work done.

00:15:00 foremost, the Cyversity Engage program aims to increase diversity within the cybersecurity industry. The program pays community college students back for taking cybersecurity classes and even goes as far as paying for their certification exams. The goal is to provide students, especially underserved ones, with the opportunity to get a good seat at the table and successfully enter the industry. The program was started by Steve and Olivia, who saw a need for diversity within cybersecurity and wanted to support and retain students who had to work while going to school. The panel features alumni from community college programs who share their experiences of how the program helped them land successful cybersecurity careers.

00:20:00 In this section, Dante Alabastro, a Red Team Lead at Google, shares his journey to cybersecurity from a background in ballet dancing. He credits the affordability of the City College of San Francisco and its free tuition as the reason he joined and emphasizes the importance of certificates to show a fundamental understanding of concepts in the field. Additionally, he highlights the benefits of participating in cybersecurity competitions, such as the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition, in building experience, skills, and networks. Dante found cybersecurity to be a perfect blend of creativity, problem-solving, and the sciences, allowing him to use his creative background and find unique solutions to new problems.

00:25:00 In this section, Dante discusses how participating in cybersecurity competitions and attending conferences helped him gain valuable work experience and industry connections. He also emphasizes the benefits of coming from a diverse background, such as his own creative arts degree, in the cybersecurity field due to the need for creativity and different perspectives. He credits the community aspects of cybersecurity events and conferences as a great way to learn, network, and gain support.

00:30:00 In this section, Nina Bakarova discusses her pathway to the field of cyber security, which began with taking a network security class at City College of San Francisco in 2016. With the help of her professors and Dr. Olivia Hereford, Nina was able to explore different courses in cyber security, participate in ctfs, and obtain an associate’s degree in network security. After graduating, she became a cyber security apprentice for 18 months, which then turned into her current position as a cyber security engineer at the City and County of San Francisco. Nina emphasizes the importance of networking and attending conferences to stay up-to-date in the field of cyber security.

00:35:00 In this section, Nina discusses her passion for the cybersecurity field and how she pursued it by attending conferences and meetups around the Bay Area and networking with peers. She emphasizes the value of networking, even as someone who has been in the field for a few years, citing her recent attendance at RSA as an opportunity to connect with others who are passionate about cybersecurity. Nina also discusses her experience in an apprenticeship program and how it was a valuable opportunity to gain insight into the field, develop relationships with employers, and determine whether this was what she wanted to do long-term.

00:40:00 In this section, Chris Hanson, an Information Security Architect at Cisco Systems, talks about her background and how she transitioned into information security as her third career. She initially studied Recreation and Leisure Studies and worked in municipal recreation and home-owner associations as an architect. However, after ten years, she went to college and took a security class at Merit college, which then led to a new future in the industry. She enjoyed learning from industry professionals and guest speakers to build her connections in cybersecurity.

00:45:00 In this section, Chris talks about the benefits of attending a community college program for cybersecurity, including meeting industry professionals and participating in capture the flag competitions. Chris also highlights the resources available through the community college program, including a boot camp she attended and an entry-level certification through the Sans Women’s Academy for Cybersecurity. She emphasizes the importance of certifications in getting started in the industry and recommends attending meetups to learn about new topics and build rapport with others in the field. Finally, Nina adds that community colleges receive a lot of resources for workforce development, which is why they can provide so many opportunities for students to learn and grow their cybersecurity skills.

00:50:00 In this section, Juan Silvadones talks about his pathway towards a cybersecurity career. He initially attempted to join a military academy but later realized it wouldn’t lead him to his desired career path. He then pursued a computer engineering degree but felt disillusioned with the education system and its emphasis on grades. He switched to a cybersecurity program at Cabrillo College, where he gained valuable work experience and certifications. Through connections with people like Irvin Lemus and the Next-Gen program, he secured an internship at Balbex, where he currently works as a software engineer. Silvadones’ story exemplifies the importance of networking and finding alternative education pathways in pursuing a career in cybersecurity.

00:55:00 In this section of the video, panelists discuss the various pathways to cybersecurity careers, including the importance of networking and giving back. They also mention various resources available for those looking to break into the field, such as career exploration assessments, scholarships, mentorship programs, and cybersecurity training. The panelists encourage attendees to attend the upcoming annual conference in October and emphasize the need for diversity in the cybersecurity industry. Overall, they stress the importance of building connections and continually developing skills in order to succeed in cybersecurity.

More ICT-DM Articles