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STEM mentors put students on path to careers in security

Mar 16, 20165 mins
CareersIT LeadershipTechnology Industry

Providing training and mentoring to students might be the solution to filling the enormous dearth of skilled candidates needed in cybersecurity.

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I registered my daughter for kindergarten last week. Parents have to list their top three school choices and hope that their child is assigned to the top pick.

Though we have several schools in our zone, we wanted either the neighborhood school or the slightly further away school that is more focused on the arts. I didn’t have a third choice until I learned of the STEM school program and thought that perhaps this should be my top pick.

I’m a writer and a reader, which is why the arts program appealed to me, but when I learned of the STEM  program, I had visions of my daughter growing up to be the most successful woman in cybersecurity. 

Some might think that I’m off my rocker for trying to discern the trajectory of my soon-to-be-5-year-old daughter’s career, but folks at Trustwave and LifeJourney would surely agree that training young students with the skills they need to become the next generation of cybersecurity experts is important.

Brian Hussey, global director of incident response and computer forensics of Trustwave’s SpiderLabs division, is one of those several volunteer mentors who is excited to sign on with LifeJourney, “a technology company whose online career simulation and mentorship platform enables students to test drive their future in Cyber by living a day in the life of America’s STEM professionals.”

Hussey’s route to his current position was what he called, a bit atypical. “There is much more to this job than just the technical side. Coming out of high school, I had a lot of literature, poetry, thematic analysis experience. That’s what I did and loved to do. I was an English literature and public speaking major in undergrad,” said Hussey.

Having a strong interest in digging to the bottom of problems served as an asset in his study of literature, and his love for teaching and learning drove him to take a three-year position teaching English to high school and special education students in Japan. There he had the opportunity to learn the language, culture, and people, as well as travel through Asia. 

Upon his return home, Hussey grew more interested in a deeper way of digging into investigations, particularly with the FBI and IT capability. “I came across what was then the only computer forensic program at George Washington University and earned my MS Forensic Science in high tech crime investigation,” he said.

This shift in careers required that he take some pre-requisite courses to get the right technical background and get his foot in the door, but he persevered. “I fell in love with the field. After I graduated, I went to a unit developed by folks who left the CIA, and they brought me on as a trainee. They were great mentors for me. I went off to lead incident response for USDA. From there I joined with the FBI in a contractor role,” Hussey said.

As he progressed in his career, he joined a unit of highly specialized malware reverse engineers and worked on counter terrorism and counter espionage. “I’ve worked on some very high profile cases.  There was on one where we caught a child predator, put him in jail, and rescued two little girls,” Hussey said.

But the work was not the only reward for Hussey whose position allowed him the chance to travel throughout the world to places like Latvia, Ukraine, and Romania. “I taught FBI streaming curriculum, which was a great experience. I was managing and leading the group in the FBI, then I started teaching at George Mason. From there, I was approached by Trustwave to lead their global team at Spiderlabs,” Hussey said. 

What made the greatest impact on the evolution of his career was the consistent opportunities for both teaching and learning, which is why he is so enthusiastically supportive of the new global initiative that Trustwave LifeJourney are endeavoring upon.

“It’s a great opportunity. I like working with kids in general. As a mentor, I get to help kids and help develop future talent,” Hussey said. The value of the program goes beyond filling positions in cybersecurity, though, as it also puts young children on a path to success. “If they start early, they are less likely to make mistakes in their lives early on. We are helping young students plan out their STEM education because we are a growing company in a very competitive field and we have to find people to do this work. The more demand there is, the harder it is to find these people,” Hussey said.

The hope is that if students are engaged in long-term planning, they can start to alleviate the shortage.

There are a lot of technical people in IT and cybersecurity, but the communications element is equally as important and will continue to be as the field grows and evolves. “Kids can click on my face and see my background, and realize that there is more than one way to get here,” Hussey said.  

So, perhaps there is still of hope for my daughter if she ends up in our neighborhood school.

Are you a LifeJourney mentor? Connect with me to share the story of your career.


Kacy Zurkus is a freelance writer for CSO and has contributed to several other publications including The Parallax, and K12 Tech Decisions. She covers a variety of security and risk topics as well as technology in education, privacy and dating. She has also self-published a memoir, Finding My Way Home: A Memoir about Life, Love, and Family under the pseudonym "C.K. O'Neil."

Zurkus has nearly 20 years experience as a high school teacher on English and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University (2011). She earned a Master's in Education from University of Massachusetts (1999) and a BA in English from Regis College (1996). Recently, The University of Southern California invited Zurkus to give a guest lecture on social engineering.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Kacy Zurkus and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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