Outside IT, few aware of projected skills gap to impact security by 2019

Massachusetts boasts lots of new innovations, but what is the focus on security

Kimba via Flickr

This month Boston hosted the fifth annual Boston TechJam--a virtual block party in the heart of Government Center, complete with food trucks, live music, Jack's Abby brews, and tents filled with new tech innovations.

Thousands of people roamed about playing with new virtual reality tools or learning about promising new  job opportunities. While hundreds more attended the event, more than 100 companies, ranging from Black Duck Software, Carbon Black, CyberArk Software, and Innovation Women, waved their banners at their exhibit booths.

I listened to the panel on Diversity, Talent, & Leadership, moderated by Asma Khalid, a reporter at WBUR and NPR. And a diverse panel it was, with Dena Upton, vice president of people and talent at LogMeIn, Yulkendy Valdez, cofounder, Project 99: Changemakers, David Delmar, executive director, founder, Resilient Coder, and David Chang, entrepreneur and angel investor.

Khalid's final question to the panel, "What would you say if you were talking to a junior or senior in high school right now, and you could advise them of the most necessary skill set to enter into the tech sector?"

Upton stole everyone's answer with her shout out, "Coding. Tell them to code."

"Find other people that want to solve the same kind of problem," Chang said. 

"Go to meet ups. Get involved. The tech industry is growing in every city," Valdez said.

Delmar made the analogy of watching someone play a game of pool, encouraging them to think about the next shot--the long and the short shots they have to take.

This analogy made me think of the current and emerging security risks in the tech sector, particularly because information and cybersecurity were not mentioned at all in this discussion of recruiting talent. 

While I appreciate that coding is a necessary skill set to get into the tech sector, I also know that vulnerabilities in software are a formidable obstacle for security practitioners, so is coding without security at the forefront of mind really going to address the challenges of cybersecurity? 

Of the four panel members, only one was able to respond to my inquiry of what they are doing to attract and feed the pipeline specific to cybersecurity. 

"I can venture an answer. I can tell you there is a growing and still very nascent effort to bring computer science education to all, into schools, across the border. Cybersecurity is obviously a small part of that, but I have to say it's a start," Delmar said.

That was it. None of the other panelists attempted a response, which got me to thinking, Who--outside of the small part of tech that is cybersecuirty--is thinking about and working to fill this projected skills gap?

I was listening to a panel at a TechJam in one of the most technologically innovative cities in the world, where no one was talking about security.

Last month I was a panelist at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform on the topic of cybersecurity and its impact on our lives, and when I mentioned this 2 million jobs gap expected by 2019, the audience was in shock.

Who knew? I had no idea? What are people doing about that? were some audience member responses.

After the Boston TechJam, I'm left with the same lingering questions. What are people doing to feed the talent pipeline and educate, attract, and retain talented people for the jobs that have yet to be created in the cybersecurity space? 

Obviously, we have to do more to get the word out. 

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