Industry: Unconventional Methods Needed to Recruit Cyberwarriors

By Eric Beidel
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When looking for fresh talent, the nation's largest government contractors often head to prestigious universities to recruit high-performing students with top GPAs.
But that’s not where they will find the best minds that they need to tackle cybersecurity threats, said Lynn Dugle, president of Raytheon’s intelligence and information systems division. The names of the individuals whom industry needs may not even make it on a diploma, she said.
Of the last three premier cyber-related hires her company has made, none had a college degree. One was a high-school dropout who stuffed pills into bottles at a pharmaceutical plant by day and dominated hacking competitions at night.
“We’re looking for talent in all of the wrong places,” Dugle said during a March 31 panel discussion at the Air Force Association’s CyberFutures symposium. Companies, she said, are not helping themselves by failing to become attractive places of employment for the talented individuals they seek.
Large companies are perceived as being too conventional — with strict workday schedules, dress codes, and management structures that reward those who climb up the corporate ladder. This doesn’t mesh with the lifestyle of many individuals with the hands-on knowledge and experience operating in cyberspace, Dugle said. She said industry should turn things upside down and offer straightforward incentives in a true pay-for-performance scheme. “For every vulnerability you solve, I’ll cut you a check,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re in the office or not.”
Industry also is relying too much on antiquated training methods, Dugle said. “In this field, dynamic learning is the name of the game.”
At Northrop Grumman, employees are expected to have a basic understanding of cybersecurity issues, said Robert Brammer, vice president for advanced technology. Beyond the basics, the firm runs an internal cyber academy. About 1,000 employees are expected to complete the course this year, with more scheduled to attend in future years.
These activities are aimed at turning cybersecurity work from a niche to a mainstream career path. And that will happen, said Barbara Fast, vice president of cyber and information solutions at Boeing Network and Space Systems. Eventually, there will even be an Air Force chief of staff who will also be a cyberwarrior, she said. Fast called U.S. Cyber Command’s leader Army Gen. Keith Alexander the first in what will be a long line of “cyber seniors" in the military and industry, she said.
Agencies also must continue to improve ways to identify talent, industry executives said. It’s not enough to look at someone's resume, Fast found out when she recently asked a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman what he considered the most important competency for a cyberwarrior. “A devious mind,” he said.

Topics: C4ISR, Cybersecurity, Cyber, Cybersecurity, Infotech

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