These days, you can hardly get through a day without hearing about a major cyber-attack. For major retailers like Target and government systems alike, it’s a major threat and can have devastating consequences for just about anyone involved.
Then it’s no surprise that security analysts are in higher demand than ever before. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this field to grow by 37 percent between now and 2022—three times the national average for other occupations.
I sat down with a few experts in the field to better understand what a large, global company like St. Jude Medical is looking for in information security talent, and also learned what it takes to obtain the skills and expertise needed to land a job in this growing and ever-changing field.
Finding and Training Talent
At St. Jude Medical, information security is of critical importance and, according to chief information security officer Chris Tyberg, they are making significant investments in the people, process and technology required to protect their patient information, medical devices, intellectual property and business information.
He shares, “We [St. Jude Medical] like to see applicants that have a good combination of security, technical, communication and teaming skills. We don’t expect someone in an entry-level position to be a security expert, but a good understanding of the various aspects of security is important…Our success and the success of the information security field is dependent on our ability to find and develop new talent.”
Tyberg has been active in ensuring tech-related degree programs at schools like Pine Technical and Community College (PTCC) in Pine City, Minn. are teaching critical skills in information security and has been a key advisor on PTCC’s new groundbreaking Cyber Security AAS degree program, launching spring 2016.
Cybersecurity at PTCC
PTCC Cyber Security and Network Administration Instructor Chris Morgan developed the curriculum based on input from advisors like Tyberg. He says, “They [employers] are often looking for talent with associates degrees and they then train them on their systems...Nearly all major companies have security in place but their nuances for security vary, so it’s’ important that their staff are in the know on their specific system.”
The curriculum Morgan developed for PTCC is open source so other colleges can utilize it as well. “We’re on the threshold now where you’ll start to see this type of associate degree offered at more colleges. PTCC is one of the first to roll it out in the Midwest. You’ll find bachelor’s or master’s programs in cybersecurity but very few associate degree programs,” says Morgan.
PTCC is one of four community colleges in the Rural Information Technical Alliance (RITA) consortium, which includes Central Lakes College, Brainerd; Ridgewater College, Willmar and Hutchinson; and North Central Texas College. The consortium, funded by a DOL grant, addresses the growing need in rural communities for skilled information technology professionals.
“The [RITA] consortium has dedicated people to help students all the way through their programs, including resume building, internship placement and more,” said Morgan. “There’s a high demand for cybersecurity professionals and there aren’t enough bodies to fill them...By obtaining an associate degree and getting the hands on experience, a key part of the program at PTCC, you will be well-prepared for a job.”
Tyberg said they are in need of entry-level talent at St. Jude Medical, many of whom have associate degrees, “We need new perspectives and new ideas to help with solving this complex problem and entry-level resources often bring that.”
He adds, “Probably the most important thing we seek in talent is a passion for the information security area. Information security is a dynamic and constantly changing area. In order to keep pace, a candidate needs to be willing to dedicate the time to keep up with the latest trends and developments.”
To learn more about the cybersecurity degrees and certificates offered by the RITA consortium of community colleges, click here.