From penetration testers to information security analysts and security engineers to chief information security officers (CISO), the field of cybersecurity offers many different career paths.
With these positions and the tremendous number of cyber threats facing businesses and individuals alike, it’s safe to say that the demand for cybersecurity employees isn’t declining anytime soon. In fact, there’s an estimated 464,420 cybersecurity job openings in the United States alone.
Unfortunately, only 24 percent of the current cyber workforce is female. But this alarming statistic doesn’t stop the women at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota from making their mark in the cyber world.
The school, nationally known for its cyber curriculum and research, is also home to CybHER – an institute devoted to empowering, motivating, and educating young women and girls in cybersecurity. CybHER was founded in 2013 by Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at DSU, and Dr. Pam Rowland, Associate Dean of Computer Sciences and Technology in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Grand Canyon University.
It is at CybHER where future cybersecurity leaders can take advantage of cybersecurity education and professional development opportunities such as scholarships, camps, and conferences. Amongst them is the national Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS) conference – a national conference established in 2012 by Dr. Ambareen Siraj of Tennessee Tech University via a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.
In just ten short years, the WiCyS organization has grown into a leading alliance between trailblazers from academia, government, and industry. This year, the conference had an astounding 1,315 attendees. Dr. Podhradsky has also been the program chair for WiCyS for the last five years, where she gets to help build the program and support the event.
“WiCyS creates a sense of community with the women in cybersecurity. There’s so few of us, therefore it gives us all a chance to get together, along with our allies, and support each other in bringing diversity into the workforce,” said Kanthi Narukonda, graduate assistant at DSU and chief of operations at CybHER.
Overall, WiCyS has inspired thousands of young professionals and students to advance themselves in the cybersecurity world and achieve their dreams.
This year, SBS CyberSecurity (or SBS) was honored to once again be a part of those dreams, as they sponsored travel for four CybHER students, along with Narukonda, to attend the sold-out convention. “SBS provided travel for us so that we could all go together. It enriched the experience greatly because it ensured that we weren’t alone,” said Abigail Witt, computer science and mathematics double major at DSU.
Witt and her fellow CybHER members definitely didn’t find themselves alone often, as WiCyS offered plenty of cybersecurity-oriented seminars, career villages, networking events, and workshops. These break out events focused on topics like “How to Think Like a Hacker,” “Analyzing IoT Traffic,” and “Hacking Unconscious Biases for a More Inclusive Work Environment,” amongst many more. Students were actively able to participate in any event of their choosing – making it a personalized conference catered specifically to their areas of interest.
“I participated in ‘Think like a Hacker,’ where they had you connect to different boxes and figure out the vulnerabilities with them. It was taught at different levels to help you understand the foundations and concepts of it, but it also gave you some technical experience,” said Annabelle Klosterman, DSU cyber operations major.
Overall, each CybHER member left feeling more connected with the cyber field and its on-site professionals – who ranged from Scholarship for Service (SFS) personnel, as well as NSA, CIA, and FBI agents. These agents scoped out the CybHER students personally and paved the way to a networking road.
“It was an incredible experience to speak with them. If you look at it from our perspective, they’re possible employers who are interested in your post-graduation career,” said Janessa Palmieri, cyber operations major at DSU.
With an unforgettable experience in hand, the CybHER students were adamant in their gratefulness to SBS. “Without SBS I don’t know if I would’ve been able to pay for travel fees. Their sponsorship made the conference a lot more affordable,” said Kinsey Pickering, sound design major at DSU.
A Great Relationship with Secure Ties
This isn’t the first time SBS has worked with CybHER or DSU. In fact, Dr. Podhradsky was a regular speaker for the organization. She spoke at banking events around the country and performed much of SBS’s early Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) work.
“The support of SBS CyberSecurity, specifically Chad Knutson and Jon Waldman, has been incredible. It helps us to go further, faster, with their endless support.” said Dr. Podhradsky.
SBS CyberSecurity has an endowed scholarship for students studying cybersecurity. They also provide professional development resources for DSU and CybHER students, as well as career opportunities.
“We’re honored to have built such a great partnership with CybHER and Dakota State University. We’re very proud of the students and look forward to seeing where their experiences take them,” said Jon Waldman, chief people officer at SBS CyberSecurity.
Written by: Brittni Shoup-Owens
SBS CyberSecurity, LLC
The photo including the 2021 WiCyS attendees from Dakota State University was provided by CybHer.
Hacker Hour webinars are a series of free webinars hosted by SBS CyberSecurity. Unlike paid webinars, Hacker Hours are aimed to meet on a monthly basis to discuss cybersecurity issues and trends in an open format. Attendees are encouraged to join the conversation and get their questions answered. SBS will also offer products and services to help financial institutions with these specific issues.