Helping Teens Find Their Career Path in Technology

One of my early jobs was working at an ice cream company, where I was surrounded by mint chocolate chip and strawberry ice cream by the gallons. I did invoicing and billing, back when everything was done using pen, paper and calculators. A special delivery to our company forever changed my life—it was an IBM mainframe. A large truck delivered this curiosity, a box that barely fit through the door. I was the only one brave enough to unbox it. Curiosity got the best of me and I hit the “power on” button. This was the beginning of my odyssey into technology (not ice cream)!

I now have more than 20 years working in information technology and security, leading technology teams. Throughout my career, I am most proud of the young people I have mentored. In particular, the young women who are trying to find their place in an industry dominated by men. Teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses and encouraging young women at an early age to pursue technology careers is very important. Whether in coding, testing, designing, or organizing—there is room for everyone, with every skill.

Cybersecurity is one of today’s hottest careers because there is such a critical need for cybersecurity professions due to ongoing data breaches and other cyberattacks around the world. In every industry, companies are trying to protect information, while cyberattacks and data breaches are on the rise. Barely a day goes by that we don’t hear about a hack, ransomware, or a phishing scam. Yet, there is a critical shortage in talent with nearly 3,000 unfilled cybersecurity job openings in Oregon and more than 301,000 unfilled cybersecurity job openings across the U.S., According to TechRepublic, the cybersecurity field is expected to more than quadruple, reaching 1.8 million jobs by 2022.

One of the problems is a lack of awareness of the cybersecurity field and how to go about getting into it. A recent survey found that only nine percent of millennials are interested in cybersecurity, while another survey found that nearly 70 percent of millennials had never taken a security class in school. This is a pipeline problem. We need to get more youths interested in technology and into the technology pipeline. Another upside: companies are willing to pay well for cybersecurity skills, with salaries growing nearly as fast as data breaches.

NW Cyber Camp is helping with the pipeline problem
NW Cyber Camp is helping with this pipeline problem. NW Cyber Camp 2018 is a week-long summer camp where high school students get immersed in cybersecurity. The Camp takes place July 16 through July 20, 2018 in five locations across Oregon. Registration for NW Cyber Camp is still open in Bend, Gresham, and Portland for local-area high school students: https://www.nwcyber.camp/register/. Because interest in the camp has spread and NW Cyber Camp is now in its third year.

My co-worker Tyler Hardison, chief technology officer here at Bend-based Redhawk Network Security, and I are looking forward to taking part in this hands-on immersive camp.  Together, with other educators and professionals, we will teach students how to defend computer systems and networks from cyberattacks, breaches, and malware. By supporting and encouraging our high school students to get excited and empowered about technology, they may pursue a future in technology. Students will realize that cybersecurity isn’t just for nerds or hard-core gamers anymore—there is room for everyone with all skills. Tyler was recently interviewed about NW Cyber Camp on Central Oregon Daily.

Not only will students gain valuable skills to prepare them for a possible tech career, but they will gain confidence and feel empowered with options as they move to the next step in their lives. We hope to instill confidence and teach our youth that they can do anything, that there is room for them. It’s about offering encouragement and positive support. It’s about transferring knowledge. But really, it’s about people and the connections we make along our journey. So, as many high school students may be serving up ice cream scoops this summer, they may want to consider a future career monitoring cyber threats and protecting the digital lives of people in Oregon and beyond.

Toni Overton

Author: Toni Overton, Redhawk Network Security

As implementation officer at Redhawk Network Security, Toni Overton provides project management leadership and builds teams to manage, implement and streamline complex information technology projects.