Cyber academy - Building future leaders

Raytheon UK returns to University of Gloucestershire to train cybersecurity undergrads.  

Cezar is a part-time chef who came to the UK from Romania at 13 without knowing a word of English. Jacob is a cybersecurity major who has been on track for that career since his first coding class in high school.

Both are participants in Raytheon UK's Cyber Academy, a programme at the University of Gloucestershire where experts from the company train undergraduates in an effort to stem the acute national shortage of cybersecurity practitioners.

The programme, initially launched in 2018, has trained hundreds of students and veterans in cyber skills and breaks down barriers to learning.

Here Cezar and Jacob explain how the programme is shaping their future.

Cezar: Sous chef and cyber guardian 

Cezar’s road towards a cyber career has been hard won.

He moved to England from Romania at the age of 13 and, unable to speak any English, he found himself catapulted into the UK’s GCSE examination syllabus.

“At the beginning it was very challenging. I had to skip an academic year due to the different education system, but my school was very supportive and within six months I’d learned to speak English. I managed to pass pretty much all my GCSE exams, except English, in which I got a D.”

He left school age 16 to train to be a chef and by age 19 he’d been promoted to Junior Sous Chef.

“I was doing well, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing long-term. I was very interested in cyber, which led me to go back to college to study a Level 3 BTEC in cybersecurity.”

Since then, Cezar hasn’t missed a beat. He re-sat and passed the GCSE English exam and was awarded a triple star distinction in his BTEC.

This led to an opportunity to study cybersecurity at the University of Gloucestershire, where he learned about Raytheon UK’s Cyber Academy programme. Each course is divided into 10 modules comprising a lecture component and a hands-on lab component where the students apply the material taught in the lecture component.

The lab format has already given him a real taste of what it’s like to be a cyber professional. “Last year, I took the Intermediate modules, so now I'm learning more advanced skills,” he says.

His university syllabus is mostly theory-based, so he’s found the hands-on structure of the modules particularly beneficial. “I’m quite a curious person so the idea of being involved in discovering threats, and analysing networks is exciting. When I graduate, I’m leaning towards a Security Operations Centre, or SOC, analyst role.”

Meanwhile, Cezar still works part-time as a chef – “The pay is higher than minimum wage and I have to work and study, so it makes sense to carry it on just while I’m finishing my degree,” he says.

And, surprisingly, he’s discovered that catering isn’t worlds away from the cyber security field, pointing out transferable skills, such as teamwork and communication.

Cezar is the first person in his family to go to university and has this advice for anyone interested in pursuing a career in cyber:

“If you put in the hard work, have the willingness to learn and you're not afraid to step out of your comfort zone, anything is possible.”

Jacob: Cracking the code to a cyber career

Jacob has been laser-focused on pursuing a career in cyber since a coding lesson at his high school piqued his interest. He went on to attain a diploma in computer science at college, which paved the way for entry to a cybersecurity degree at the University of Gloucestershire.

A university lecturer encouraged Jacob to sign up for Raytheon UK’s Cyber Academy programme in his first year. He credits the course design for developing his skills and knowledge in the field, and for giving him confidence in his ability.

“The labs are structured in such a way that you are guided towards a solution, but you have to think for yourself to get there, and I believe that’s the best way to learn,” says Jacob who placed first in the programme’s capstone challenge.

Each Cyber Academy course culminates in a two-to-three-hour long capstone exercise where students consolidate and strengthen what they’ve learned during the training. Capstone challenge simulations mirror the real-world challenges that cybersecurity practitioners encounter on a day-to-day basis and give them the offence techniques, tactics and tools needed to defend against cyber attacks.

Participants will also have learned the skills required to pursue a wide range of roles within the cybersecurity sector, from information systems auditor to cyber analyst; IT systems administrator to information assurance officer/manager.

Jacob says he is driven by cyber threat landscape continuously changing and evolving rapidly.

“Cyber attacks are increasingly frequent and that’s why cyber roles are extremely important today. Without cybersecurity protection, the information-driven world we live in would struggle to function safely,” he says.

“I’ll never run out of things to learn.”