In addition to the Student Poster Presentations which will help introduce graduate and undergraduate researchers to the professionals attending our conference, Cal Poly Pomona Professor Dan Manson and lecturer Anna Carlin will speak about developing a more in-depth training program for the next generation of cyber warriors.
“We’re talking about what we’ve learned from five years of work,” says Carlin. In the beginning, few other schools were involved with digital forensics education; training was available primarily from vendors, and Manson and Carlin had not yet been introduced to HTCIA. “We felt like we were alone in what we wanted to do,” says Carlin.
As they continued to develop more classes, they also became more active in professional associations, including HTCIA. That gave them insights into what employers were looking for, and the skills students would need to meet the demand.
Workforce development through competition
“More companies want people who can secure and defend their networks,” says Carlin. “But you can’t just fill a position; you want to match students as best you can with the company so that they end up staying there for years.”
To get a true sense of students’ capabilities, Carlin and Manson encouraged them to start student clubs, including HTCIA’s first student charter: FAST (Forensic and Security Technology). They also helped to involve their students in the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, a concept that they’re now working on expanding.
“We want to create a National Cyber League, which will be like the way professional sports are set up – going from a preseason to rounds of events between competing teams,” says Carlin. “The only way to get better at skills like the kind security requires, is to practice. So this is workforce development more than an academic exercise.”
The role of professional associations
Associations’ involvement in competitive activities is important. But they also serve a crucial role on their own: allowing students to develop networking skills. “Our HTCIA student charter has access to chapter meetings, and they’re not shy about inviting people they want to hear,” says Carlin.
Student-focused meetings might include a Career Night, on which four to five senior professionals gather on a panel to answer questions about what they do and what they look for – as well as challenges they faced along the way, and what they would’ve wanted to know when they were starting out.
At these kinds of events, Carlin says she makes the students split up and sit at tables with the pros, where they must collect at least one business card along with two unique things they learned about that person.
In fact, at one meeting, an employee from one of the Big 4 consulting firms liked the student so much that even though the student’s GPA didn’t meet their requirements, they asked for a resume.
The associations’ full-time professional members like the students’ enthusiasm, and they enjoy taking the time to help students out. The more involved students are, in turn – such as volunteering at association events – the more they transition from students to business professionals.
“We’re not a big school, so we have to work a little harder to get our students noticed by the best employers,” says Carlin. But that hard work has paid off, and she and Manson are glad to share their experiences with others who want more for their students as well.
Image: West Point Public Affairs via Flickr