The energy was palpable at the recent Alamo Chapter Event (ACE) for the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). Members from across various military branches, as well as vendors and those in academia, came together at the beautiful La Cantera resort for the first gathering in over two years. The conference provided several updates on military defense, opportunities to discover companies in the cybersecurity space, and training on special topics.
I was able to attend as a University Career Center representative, and ask anyone I could around me, what skills do our students need to build to be in this industry? What can we tell our UTSA students to set themselves up for the greatest success?
Many of the vendors in attendance were sales based, with backgrounds in marketing, business, communications, computer science, cybersecurity, and information systems. They are looking for the same set of skills for their employees. I took many notes from those who shared their advice with me, and listed it below:
- Think about why you want to be in this industry – this field has many niche areas you can specialize in – to help you distinguish areas of interest for your career development. Cloud migration, Risk Management, Data Analytics, Info security, Mobile security…the list is endless. By focusing on your interests, you can better research where you want to work, what type of company you want to hire you, where you would like to do an internship and gain experience and more.
- Get plugged in to a network, any network, all networks. The more people you know in the industry, the more questions you can get answered. The more people you connect with, the more chances you have at your intended career path. Professional associations are a solid start to building connections. LinkedIn is also a good place to start with colleagues, classmates, professors, supervisors, and other industry professionals. We also need to mention our very own Roadrunner Network, which connects UTSA alumni and current students. It’s a helpful tool to ask discussion questions, join the affinity groups you most relate to, and even meet up with alums to ask questions about their current career paths.
- Different jobs require different skill sets, however, you can get a jump on exactly what you need to for your career field. Check out this awesome tool to get you started before you graduate –> CompTIA Certification Roadmap. UTSA has a strong Student-led CompTIA chapter as well, and assists with plugging you in to industry requirements and needs.
- Excitement is building for the National Security Collaboration Center and School of Data Science set to open in 2022. The construction in downtown San Antonio, puts UTSA students less than a half mile from Tech Bloc and the rising local technology scene. The preparation and opportunities coming in the next few years will come through the goal to create a powerful ecosystem to engage government, industry and academia to tackle the nation’s greatest cybersecurity threats.
The best information shared throughout the event was how you need to get involved as soon as possible. Start building a network through events, workshops, seminars, conferences and a great place to start is with local networking and professional associations. Students who join AFCEA pay a minimal $15 fee. Choosing an affiliation chapter, such as San Antonio, also keeps you in the loop for upcoming events. The Young Professionals for AFCEA led by Shawn Cressman, welcomes students to participate in events hosted throughout the year. More info can be found here. Students can participate/attend the ACE for free, as well as participate in the Deloitte Capture the Flag!
Not sure where to start? Here are a few leads for job/internship opportunities shared with me:
Centre Technologies, Darryl Drenon, VP of Sales: looking for Business Majors with Sales experience, or a willingness to learn. Christian Albright, Cloud Architect: looking for experience with Cisco systems, Checkpoint, Fortinet (network)
Fortinet, Inc., Jay Garcia, Global Vets Program Manager: Advocating for Veterans and military members to secure free education and programs for advancing in the industry. He recommends for anyone, to gain vendor neutral certifications (i.e. CompTIA) as well as vendor specific (Checkpoint, Palo Alto Networks, FireEye). Here’s a link he shared for their special program
SMS, Josh Wagner, Director of Talent Acquisition: manages internship opportunities. Joseph (Ted) Crowley, Director of Bus. Development: looking for experts in RMF and have TS/SCI
Sumaria Systems Inc., Delbert (Del) Atkinson, NetOps Bus. Development Director: looking for Cybersecurity and Data Analytics interns. Internships are paid and take place in Alabama.
SAIC, Fred J. Silva, VP Chief Solution Architect: Data Science, Digital Engineering, AI Internships available. The key takeaway from SAIC is to do your research. Dig deep into your area of interest, what is required, do you enjoy the idea of spending time in that space, get your focus on increasing in that specific area. It is important to get clarity because the tech industry is so broad.
Veeam, Keegan Turcotte, Inside Account Manager
B.E.A.T. LLC, Kyle C. Campbell USA Ret., Director of Bus. Development
It was a pleasure to sit in a Fireside Chat: Creating a national security training and education pipeline hosted by Brig Gen (Ret) Guy Walsh, Dr. Nicole Beebe, and Dr. Rajendra Boppana. They shared the news of a recent $1.7 million Security Service grant, and several partnerships with intelligence agencies to further our student knowledge.
Other sessions I attended included hearing straight from the Air Force CIO, Lauren Knausenberger, General Miller with a JBSA Military City USA update, Women In AFCEA: Equipping Today’s Cyberspace Operators hosted by SES Diane Janosek, Commandant National Cryptologic School (NSA), and updates on the Air Force Cyber Civilian Career Field.