In Cyber, "Education, Education, Education" trumps "Location, Location, Location."

Cyber talent of the future will have highly diverse skills and interests

By Paul Crichard, Raytheon UK

May 2015

I am often asked if there is anything I worry about when it comes to the future of cyber. The answer is simple. Education.

In the United Kingdom we have made a good start having added computer science to our National Curriculum last year. This moves us in the right direction towards a future with a knowledgeable next generation who are not just aware of the technology available, but also accepting and open to the opportunities that appear to them.

However, cyber is more than just computer science. I have worked with a huge number of cyber professionals over the past decade, and the one thing that stands out is that no two are alike. My biggest worry isn't that there won't be educational paths for certain people, it's that the right people won't see the opportunities that come at the end of these paths. As such, we have to ensure that those paths don't mould the talent out of them.

When working with schools today, we often see individuals with pure, raw talent who sometimes need more freedom to expand their thinking more naturally. I believe that businesses have a role to play in helping maximize the potential of this talent.

One way the commercial world can do this is through supporting regional and national cybersecurity competitions for professionals. In the UK, we have the Cyber Security Challenge, and in the United States, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) offers cybersecurity guidance and training. These organizations, however, are only a starting point. We need to make sure that we don't try and simplify cyber, but instead explain the depths and complexities of the field while demonstrating how deep and rich the work we do is. If we can include a dash of fun, the rest will come naturally.

We have all been guilty of over-complicating cyber or hiding behind technical language without offering suitable explanations. If we don't change our approach, the next generation of potential cyber professionals will likely ignore what we say and move on to a different field. It is our job to talk openly to everyone and help anyone interested in learning about the technical challenges of the cyber realm, from vulnerabilities to denial of service, and network forensics to online personal identity protection.

So how can you make an immediate difference? My philosophy is this: Take a few minutes each week to explain something you understand to someone who doesn't -- no matter what it is.

Good Luck!

Paul Crichard is head of cyber research for Raytheon UK, specializing in innovation and both academic and vulnerability research. Crichard has spent more than a decade working for and with organizations in defensive and research environments.