John Souza, CEO of Kingsland University, believes certifications are a critical component in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, an important workforce issue he addressed recently in an exclusive interview with A&G Magazine.
“This is especially important for the underserved and marginalized populations who can now now have a clear pathway to prosperity via education,” emphasized Souza, a former finance industry executive who held key roles at JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Skandia and Bank America Capital Management Group before joining Kingsland.
His interview follows below:
Question: Why is it important for corporations to be properly staffed with cybersecurity professionals?
Answer: With the threat of cyber and ransomware attacks always increasing, having properly trained cybersecurity staff is critical when threats arise. How quickly a firm is able to react and defend itself against threats is the key to mitigating the extent of damage a company will sustain. The ability to keep corporate and customers’ data secure is paramount to maintaining trust in your organization. Without trust, there is nothing else.
Having cybersecurity staff ensures that not if, but when your organization is attacked, you will be able to mitigate threats from bad actors. It’s not just about keeping data secure to grow your business. It’s about keeping customers’ private information secure for their benefit and maintaining their trust in your organization. Cybersecurity is an investment in the business, customer, and employees. Again, it goes back to trust.
Q: Why is this such a difficult challenge?
A: I see two primary challenges that organizations of all sizes face.
1) Not every employee’s certification holds the same value for an organization. And not every institution teaching cybersecurity is accredited. When organizations hire cybersecurity professionals, they need to ensure that they hire those who have been certified in an accredited program that teaches real-life skills so they can rest assured that their new cybersecurity hires will secure their business’s assets well.
2) It’s difficult to maintain a great team of cybersecurity professionals. They need to want to constantly learn about and address evolving threats and trends in the industry. And they need to support and educate the other employees while doing so. Cybersecurity professionals are part tech, part support, which can be very challenging for some people.
Q: What qualifications should a company, or government for that matter, look for in a cybersecurity professional?
A: Companies should search for candidates that have a certification in cybersecurity, IT, computer science, forensic computing, network engineering, or network security. A certification like this shows a commitment to learning about the cybersecurity space as well as confirmation that they can excel in real environments that will benefit your business.
Candidates should also be able to spot trends and outliers in data sets, be curious about their work, be able to work under pressure, and be able to communicate effectively.
Q: What trends do you expect to see in the rest of 2022 in the cybersecurity space?
A: I anticipate that we will see businesses change how they organize everything about their cybersecurity efforts – from how they allocate their IT budgets to who manages what in a hybrid environment. I anticipate that cybersecurity departments and firms will rethink how they design their cybersecurity architecture to increase efficiency and effectiveness, specifically for WFH environments.
I also expect the industry to grow to meet demand. Industry statistics tell us that cybercrime increased 600% in 2021 and 57% of businesses say they have unfilled cybersecurity positions – and only 25% of filled cybersecurity positions are held by women. I believe that 2022 is the year where those numbers start to change for the betterment of businesses. As people start to pursue new careers after the Great Resignation, many will find that the cybersecurity space offers high-paying, fulfilling career opportunities they can do from the comfort of their homes. Most people want to help other people in their work, and when they learn that a career in cybersecurity can offer that, they will join this space.