This spring NCTC was a sponsor for the Third Annual National Women in Cyber Security Conference. The atmosphere was exhilarating! Nearly 800 attendees gathered together in Dallas, TX, to collaborate, learn, compete, network and enjoy the fellowship of those who share their passion. There was incredible diversity in age, experience, background, college major, gender, culture and nationality, but all sharing a common focus – expanding the success of women in Cyber Security and STEM.
The conference offered enlightening keynote speakers, including Heather Adkins from Google, Yael Kalai from IBM, Regina Wallace-Jones from Facebook, and Margaret N. White, Bank of America. Each shared their journey and the impact their experience has brought to their company. All came from different majors and had put great focus on their careers, as well as finding the right work/life balance. It was very reassuring to hear how the choices they made were based on responding to opportunities as they presented themselves and being willing to take risks; we are stronger than we imagine.
In addition to the keynotes, the poster competition was very impressive with Community Colleges, Undergraduate and Graduate divisions. The focus of the posters was as diverse as the presenters, including Military Applications, Safety, Encryption, Networking, Behavior Analysis and more. Listening to them describe their thought processes and the real world applications was intriguing and inspiring. So much intelligence and talent and so many dreams in such a small space.
The conference included lightening rounds where attendees were given five minutes to share their topics, which included CyberCorps scholarship opportunities, Building a Start Up, courses designed to bridge the gap for non-computer science students to succeed in Cyber and a huge list of Online Cyber Resources. Throughout these sessions we were highly engaged and scrambling to take notes in these condensed power sessions. They were definitely food for thought in sharing valuable information in a concentrated format.
As a conference sponsor we were able to participate in the Career & Graduate School Fair. We encountered a myriad of talented and confident women who were interested in exploring all their options. Several were interested in the approach that NCTC and our Minnesota RITA partners are taking with hands-on experiential learning. Many of the 4-year college programs begin their training with a theory based focus. It appeared that graduate programs were the ones where students rolled up their sleeves and developed trouble shooting and incident detection skills. In addition to visiting with students at the Career & Graduate School Fair, we also took time to talk with other businesses who were recruiting candidates, like Microsoft, Fidelity Investments, Raytheon, Intel, CISCO, Homeland Security, and the US Navy Cyber Defense.
All in all, this was an action packed three days, without a minute to spare. We had some interesting conversations about the long standing barriers that exist for women in STEM, many of which are systemic within our culture. We are working hard to keep these in mind at NCTC RITA in our presentations, marketing, and in our classrooms. When this conference first began two years ago, there were 200 attendees, last year 400, and this year twice that. It’s obvious the interest exists and is growing. NCTC and each RITA partner college are working to be on the leading edge of growing the workforce in the high-need area of cyber Security, as well as ensuring that women have the education, training, and confidence to compete.