Editor’s note: Alison Levine, First American Women's Everest Expedition Team Captain and a New York Times bestselling author of “On the Edge,” will be the opening keynote speaker at ISACA’s 2020 North America CACS conference, to take place 12-14 May in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Levine draws upon her background in extreme adventuring to convey insights on leadership and overcoming difficult challenges. She recently visited with ISACA Now to provide her perspective on navigating fear and professional challenges. The following is a transcript, edited for length and clarity:
ISACA Now: What was the toughest aspect of the American Women’s Everest Expedition?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. There are so many things that were really tough: the weather, the effects of extreme altitude, the homesickness, the doubt that kept crawling back into my mind that said, “Don't be silly – you can’t do this!” And I had to just keep saying, “SHUT UP. Yes I can!”
ISACA Now: What are the main life lessons that stick with you from your extreme adventuring background?
You don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest to get to the top of a mountain; you just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other.
ISACA Now: The title of your keynote is “Fear is OK, But Complacency Will Kill You.” What is the fine line for when fear is constructive as opposed to paralyzing?
Fear is a normal, human emotion, and when you feel fear, it’s a good thing because it means you are alert, aware, and you are processing what is going on around you. Fear is only dangerous when it paralyzes you. COMPLACENCY is what puts you at risk. If you do not move, you are not going to survive.
ISACA Now: How is the fast-evolving technology landscape changing what it means to be a leader today?
Leaders today need to be able to pivot and change direction quickly since the business landscape is constantly shifting and changing. You have to be able to take action based on the situation at the time, and not based on a plan that you came up with at some point in the past. Plans are outdated as soon as they are finished.
ISACA Now: What do you consider to be some overlooked characteristics of excellent leaders?
Often people equate quietness with weakness or apathy, when in reality, the ability to stay quiet and still is actually a display of strength.
Theresa Payton set the tone for the first day of last week’s Infosecurity ISACA North America Expo & Conference in New York City, delving into the multifaceted landscape of emerging technologies with the audience of information security professionals, and also sharing anecdotes from one of her most high-profile jobs, as White House CIO under the George W. Bush administration—including a story of negotiating with a cyber criminal on the dark web at her kitchen table over three nights.
Throughout her talk on how to work with a range of technologies, like blockchain and AI, she emphasized that the focus needs to be on the people using them, to “design security with the human in mind,” as well as to integrate them into one’s business. “People expect it,” she said. However, she noted, “You have to make sure you have the right strategies in place; you can’t ‘lift and shift.’”
In addition to offering guidance around domain names, segmentation and incident response playbooks, Payton shared some of her striking predictions for 2020—among them that the blockchain will be cracked and that AI-powered bots will adapt and evolve to commit cybercrimes without human intervention.
Other experts provided their perspectives on the theme of emerging technologies throughout the two-day event, as well as cyber threat intelligence, leadership, risk, compliance and data analytics, during presentations offered through the conference’s educational track.
ISACA Board Director Asaf Weisberg discussed the potential for cyber threats to have severe impact on industrial control systems (ICS) in his presentation, “Illuminating the CISO’s ICS Blind Spot.” Citing disastrous examples of these kinds of cyberattacks on a train system in Denmark and a hotel in Austria, he noted that “not-so-sophisticated attacks can shut down whole systems,” and made a case for the CISO to be able to take control of all systems.
Attendees also had the opportunity for hands-on learning through the conference’s Geek Street offerings, including lessons on IoT hacking from Dustin Brewer, ISACA principal futurist, and the CSX Cyber Hunt, a live competition hosted by Frank Downs, ISACA’s director of cybersecurity practices, in which participants could race against each other to respond to attacks while conducting a penetration test.
Closing keynote speaker Jamie Bartlett, senior fellow and former director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos, explored how targeted, customized and data-driven messages will continue to play a huge role in influencing our decisions, including in how we vote—and likely reach people through their IoT devices, such as their smart fridges. He walked through the vast world of the deep web and dark web and both the positive and negative uses, including in applications that protect journalists and whistleblowers as well as for more nefarious activity, like selling dangerous drugs.
He warned that “criminals are thinking in the same way you are,” noting that hackers are using machine learning and that “crime is the next industry to be automated.” However, he ended on a hopeful note, stressing that these technologies also provide “an amazing set of opportunities.” This could entail building in more transparency into how people are targeted, including adding every political advertisement into a database that tracks which populations they have reached.
Following the close of the conference, the conversations continued at a dynamic SheLeadsTech panel discussion of women leaders in tech hosted by the ISACA New York Metropolitan Chapter, with the theme, “Women Leading with Impact – I am Fearless, Innovative and Inspiring.” Ginger Spitzer, executive director of ISACA’s One in Tech Foundation, and Alisha Wenc, program director for the foundation, offered the group an update on the SheLeadsTech program and its recent Tech Workforce 2020 survey findings, and the priorities of the foundation in the coming year.
They then opened the floor to the panelists Radhika Bajpai, Medha Bhalodkar, Chloe Demrovsky, Jennifer Kamrowski, Jessica Robinson and Michelle Schaap, and moderator Johna Till Johnson, who dived into topics around the qualities that make a good leader, the difference between mentors and sponsors, and breaking through barriers.
Schaap noted that when facing a situation at work that is holding them back, “Half of life is showing up. Look for other avenues or diagonals, and show yourself to others beyond your boss.” And for those who have pushed through barriers to achieve career success, Kamrowski offered a powerful reminder: “When you get to the top, send the elevator back down” to lift other women.
What are some of the major changes you expect to see in the technology landscape in the next decade?
Join ISACA’s 50th anniversary social media campaign by providing your tech prediction for the next decade, using the image provided on the Participate page of ISACA’s 50th anniversary website and the hash tags #nextdecadeoftech and #ISACA50.
The more creative the prediction, the better!
Predictions are starting to roll in on social media, including these posts (pictured) forecasting the future of smart contracts and advancements in reducing the challenges of language barriers.
For more on ISACA’s 50th anniversary, visit www.isaca50.org, and stay tuned in December for new survey findings from ISACA looking ahead to the technology landscape in the coming decade.
Depending on your personal interests, social skills and professional goals, professional networking may or may not be your favorite activity. Whether or not you enjoy networking, it should be a priority in your professional life – especially earlier in your career as you are building your professional network.
Make Networking Part of Your Regular Routine
Networking should not be reserved for when you are actively searching for a new job or the next opportunity. Like all relationships in your life, professional relationships require ongoing effort. If you reach out to your professional or personal network only in your time of need, you are not making the effort to maintain a relationship. Ongoing networking also allows opportunities to emerge organically. Instead of having to actively look for opportunities, they may find you by way of referrals or recommendations within your existing networks.
Join an Industry Group
If you struggle with where to start, join an industry group such as ISACA and find an event or two in your area that interests you. Online events and meet-ups can also be leveraged depending on where you are located, but the best practice will come from in-person events. If allowed, bring a friend or peer to the event to make you feel more comfortable. It can be easier to navigate if you have someone to help facilitate the conversations. If you are not overly social, bring a more outgoing friend or peer to help you network.
Look Inside Your Organization
Look for opportunities within your organization to network – this can be as simple as walking around the office and meeting people you do not usually work with or asking those you work with regularly who might be good new resources for you. Your management and leadership may also be able to share networking tips or help make introductions for you. Try getting involved in an employee network at your organization if there is one or look at starting one if there is not.
Keep Your Connections Active
Successful networking must expand beyond the initial connection or meet-up – follow-up is critical. You do not want to become a nuisance, but you can find a way to foster ongoing communication naturally. You can share events, articles, book recommendations or other relevant content with people you have networked with if they have indicated an interest in maintaining contact.
Unexpected Opportunities Will Find You
The more you network, the more doors you may open to new and unexpected opportunities. Exposure helps grow your career in ways you may not be able to do on your own. You do not need to plot your next career move on your own – use your network for support.
Editor’s note: For more career insights for newcomers to the IT audit, governance, risk and security fields, visit ISACA’s Young Professionals page.
When most people think about coworking spaces, they immediately picture a bunch of freelancers and solopreneurs working on independent ventures at shared desks. But coworking spaces are more versatile than this. Many technology startups actually find them to be the perfect place to launch and grow their fledgling businesses. Perhaps you will, too.
What the Heck is a Coworking Space?
In the simplest terms, a coworking space is a shared office space in which individuals and businesses work independently and/or collaboratively within the same physical environment. The owner of the coworking space generally charges a monthly fee to members and, in return, provides amenities like workspaces, 24/7 access, conference rooms, printers and copiers, shared kitchens and bathrooms, coffee and snacks, and mailing addresses.
“Coworking facilities follow various business models,” IT industry insider Margaret Rouse writes. “Some facilities, for example, are cooperatively managed spaces run as non-profit organizations. Such organizations may charge members just enough to support operations. Other models include flat-rate memberships and fee structures based on access for a single visit or a certain number of days per week, month or year.”
Technically speaking, shared office spaces have been around for decades. However, it’s really been within the past decade that they’ve become mainstream.
Five Profound Benefits for Tech Startups
While individual freelancers make up the majority of coworking spaces, it’s becoming increasingly popular for tech startups and their teams to utilize shared office space in lieu of traditional leased office space. Here are a few reasons why:
When compared to the traditional cost of leasing office space in a big city or desirable area, a coworking space gives startup teams a cost-effective alternative that’s comparatively inexpensive. Not only do you get the office space, but you also gain access to other resources that would add up if they were to be purchased individually (like copiers, printers, utilities, desks, chairs, etc.).
The tricky thing for startups is the lack of predictability. You might have a team of three people producing US$100,000 in revenue today, and a team of 12 people producing $10 million in revenue 18 months from now. If you lock yourself into a traditional office space lease, you’ll be forced to make some tough financial decisions. With a coworking space, you can go month to month and change your office space as you scale (up or down). This flexibility is invaluable.
As previously mentioned, real estate is often expensive in markets where business is thriving. But if you’re a new startup looking to grow, you need to be in the thick of things. After all, it’s beneficial to rub shoulders with business leaders and entrepreneurs who have clout. Renting coworking space allows you to insert your startup into a prime physical location without paying a massive premium.
Take Houston, Texas, USA as an example. It has one of the fastest-growing tech scenes in the US and commercial real estate is expensive. But startups can circumvent this premium price by using a Houston coworking space like Novel, which has a location in the heart of the Houston Central Business District.
Where else can you spend hours, days, weeks and months working alongside other business owners who are successful and skilled, yet aren’t competing directly against you for customers or revenue? A coworking space creates an environment that’s ripe for natural networking. You don’t have to schedule coffee meetings or attend conferences – you just show up to work every morning and you’re able to rub shoulders with a network of talented people and interact with their businesses.
Research shows that people who spend time in coworking spaces see their work as more meaningful than they would in a stale, traditional office space. In response, they thrive and their performance skyrockets. There are a couple of reasons for this.
“First, unlike a traditional office, coworking spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures, and projects. Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in,” researcher Gretchen Spreitzer writes for Harvard Business Review. “Working amidst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger.”
Secondly, coworking spaces usually cultivate a culture where it’s normal to help each other out – and there are lots of opportunities to do so. With so much support coming from within the startup and outside of it, it’s hard not to get excited about doing good work.
Think Outside the Box
As the founder of a startup, you can’t afford to do things the same as every other business. You don’t have the luxury of following the status quo and assuming everything will work out. The only way to make headway and succeed is to think creatively and to do things differently than the rest of the pack. Making a coworking space your home base is just one step in this direction. Try it and see what you think!
A future in which passengers order air taxis, victims of serious accidents tap neurotechnology to rise above limitations and AI/machine learning-fueled space exploration allows astronauts to trek deeper into the universe – for longer periods – was boldly presented on Monday, 28 October, at the Dare Mighty Things technology conference in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Envisioning the soaring progress that can be made in the coming years was the order of the day, and considering how much progress technology already has set in motion, why not dream (and dare) big? As one of the sessions contended, there is the truly impossible and the regular impossible. “Regular impossible we can do,” said presenter James Beacham, a particle physicist at Large Hadron Collider.
Below are a handful of highlights from the event:
Need a Taxi? Look Up!
In a session titled “The Urban Air Mobility Evolution,” presenter Dr. Anita Sengupta, co-founder and chief product officer with Airspace Experience Technologies, cited statistics such as US$1.9 billion gallons of fuel wasted each year due to vehicles stalled in traffic and 97 hours per year that typical urban commuters spend inching their way to work.
With urbanization intensifying in much of the world, Sengupta suggested that the path forward is providing a new ecosystem of urban air taxis. Her company is on the front lines of navigating the obstacles of transitioning commutes skyward, acknowledging that regulatory and logistical challenges remain considerable at this stage.
Still, Sengupta said energy-efficient, tilt-wing aircrafts can be deployed to make commuting in urban areas much swifter and more enjoyable. She said obstacle-avoidance in the air is much easier than it is on the ground, and envisions a user experience that will include spacious cabins, accessible WiFi, minimal noise and breathtaking views, all for prices in line with a typical Uber fare. In addition to untangling commutes, Sengupta said this paradigm shift also would have major applications for improving emergency services.
Neurotechnology to Transform People’s Lives
Dr. Justin Sanchez, a life science research technical fellow at Battelle, addressed the future of neurotechnology. Already, Sanchez said, doctors are able to harness neurotechnology to stimulate patients’ memories, help people recall words and empower accident victims and others with physical disabilities to participate in routine activities, such as swiping a credit card or reaching out to touch a loved one.
The ability to solve medical issues without medication, in many cases by leveraging advanced artificial intelligence to translate neuron activity into actionable behavior, makes neurotechnology one of the more promising technology-driven fields on the healthcare landscape.
Sanchez said neurotechnology is advancing steadily and will soon provide capabilities that will spark major progress in an array of fields, such as bioelectronic medicine, brain-controlled vehicles, virtual reality and gaming.
Possibilities Abound in Tech Entrepreneurship
It took 18 years to go from the first Siri prototype to its widespread launch, recalled Adam Cheyer, co-founder of the enormously popular, voice-activated virtual assistant. But Cheyer said those who have conviction in their ideas and are willing to keep iterating have the chance to strike it big in this era of technology innovation, and improve millions of people’s lives along the way.
Cheyer said it is important for tech entrepreneurs to “look for trends and triggers” to time the commercial rollout of their ideas because “timing is everything.”
He also emphasized the need to follow the data. Citing another of his major ventures, Change.org, Cheyer said the original concept was for Change.org to be known as a social network, but analysis of the website’s analytics revealed the petition component was appealing to visitors, so that became the focal point.
Aiming big – both in terms of the number of users affected by an idea and the amount of revenue that can be generated – are other keys in tech entrepreneurship, said Cheyer, in addition to visualizing success.
The Space Race is Just Beginning
While impressive strides have been made in space exploration in recent decades, technology is expected to set in motion even larger breakthroughs in the not-too-distant future.
Dr. Linda Godwin, one of two retired astronauts to present at Dare Mighty Things, cited NASA’s goal of going to the moon to stay by 2024.
Another presenter, Dr. Steve Chien, head of the AI Group at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the ultimate challenge will be hunting for life in another star system – which will need to be a full AI mission because of distance and logistics, he said.
Chien said machine learning and AI are essential for advancing space exploration by converting massive data sets into practical knowledge, managing anomalies and improving space missions with more efficient scheduling and data collection.
What This Means for You
James Beacham is right – the regular impossible is being done right now. But if the trends identified from the Dare Mighty Things conference is any indication, today’s technology leaders need to prepare themselves for the even more sweeping innovations of the future, because conquering the truly impossible isn’t that far off.
Is your organization supporting women in reaching leadership positions? Why is this important?
A global study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that corporations that went from having no women in corporate leadership to 30 percent in leadership roles saw a one-percentage-point increase in net margin — which translates to a 15 percent increase in profitability for a typical firm.
Having a culture that supports women growing as leaders in the organization is important, whether you are a female leader and want to make a good career decision or you are a leader who recognizes the importance of a diverse leadership team as a key factor in increasing long-term profitability.
The following signs are indicators of an organization’s emphasis on creating an inclusive culture and providing equal opportunities to men and women for advancement and recognition.
Setting the Tone at the Top
Like other cultural cues, the tone at the top drives this culture and availability of key roles for women. To evaluate top leadership’s commitment to diversity, ask the CEO the following three questions:
- Do you think diversity is important?
- What is the direct impact on profitability when women occupy leadership positions?
- Are there any cultural benefits, or other benefits, to having an affirmative diversity program?
The responses would immediately provide a good understanding of the organization’s culture regarding inclusivity and diversity.
Current Gender Balance in Leadership Positions
According to ISACA’s Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap, 30 percent of women say they are facing unequal growth opportunities and only 59 percent of women say their employers have a program to encourage the promotion/advancement of women. Organizations need to provide support for women to grow to leadership positions.
Ask the following to assess the situation for your organization: Are there women in leadership roles in the organization? What percentage of a management team are women? What functions do they represent? Are females employed only in support roles only or do they also occupy business critical roles?
Having female leaders also serves to provide role models for other women aspiring to careers in technology-related fields.
Formal Diversity Programs and Women’s Networks
Diversity programs and women’s networks indicate that there are formal and informal channels of support for women. These programs help in retention by giving women a forum to discuss specific challenges, create strategies to overcome them and hence contribute to the overall growth of women within the organization.
Women in Middle Management
Just having women at the top is not enough. To foster a gender-inclusive workplace, women need to be hired, supported and trained for all levels and groomed to reach top positions. This is only possible if women are present in middle management, leading teams and driving value for business. This is where they also build their networks and acquire sponsors to help them grow to leadership positions.
Are women part of mentoring programs, as both mentors and mentees? Are women given equal mentoring opportunities? Growing to a leadership position requires one to be a high performer, but also requires mentors and sponsors to help them navigate through the challenges. According to the Tech Workforce 2020 research, a top obstacle in career advancement for women is lack of mentors.
According to the Tech Workforce 2020 research, there is a gender perception gap. Men seem to think more is being done to recruit, retain and promote women than women think is being done. Sixty-five percent of men say their employers have a program to encourage the hiring of women, whereas only 51 percent of women agree.
Does the organization have policies that support the needs of women, especially to attract more women and grow them into leadership positions?
Does the organization support working from home; flexible time; support for child-care, especially in emergencies; and have recruitment policies that encourage women to apply, as well as other policies that would help to attract and retain women and provide an environment in which they can thrive?
Does your organization meet the above criteria? Have leaders in your organization embedded a culture to empower and elevate women? The above indicators help employees to understand and evaluate the nature of the organization better, or help leaders who want to assess their organizational culture and attract a diverse pool of talent to make the company more successful.
Whatever the vantage point, you will be creating a more profitable organization by having more women in leadership roles.
On ISACA’s first CommunITy Day on 5 October, 2019 – a day in which our global professional community came together over one day to volunteer in their local communities – the passion, creativity and industriousness of ISACA’s professional community was on full display.
It started with a simple idea: the suggestion of a day of giving across the globe in which ISACA’s rich legacy of volunteerism can help every local community. Be careful what you ask for.
All around the globe, ISACA members, staff and, in many cases, their families, banded together and gave their time and talent to strengthen their communities and improve people’s lives. While statistics alone cannot fully convey the day’s value, the participation of 90 volunteer teams, representing 49 countries and contributing more than 6,000 volunteer hours, provides a sense of how much was accomplished and a benchmark for continued growth. A few of the social images from the day are included with this post, but I encourage you to visit the ISACA CommunITy Day Impact page on Engage for a more extensive recap of the day’s many triumphs.
Below are just a handful of examples:
- In Hong Kong, ISACA members used their tech skills to give a smartphone tutorial to seniors.
- In Luxembourg, an ISACA group came together to crowdsource historical transcripts and learn about digital safety.
- ISACA members in Melbourne gave blood and volunteered at the Australian Red Cross blood drive.
- In Kenya, members supplied donations and helped with clean-up at Heritage of Faith & Hope Children’s Home, a school for needy children. Interestingly enough, a newborn calf at Heritage (pictured) was named “ISACA,” in honor of the volunteer effort during CommunITy Day.
- ISACA members in Atlanta, Georgia (US) joined the 1 Million Meal Pack initiative with the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team to pack healthy meals for children and families in need.
- In Valencia, Spain, ISACA members gathered to do a beach clean-up and promote environmental awareness.
Whether through advancing digital transformation, diligently protecting customer data or otherwise enabling secure and effective implementation of technology, ISACA’s professional community makes a major difference for our enterprises every day. As important as our professional community’s work is – and in our world, it becomes more important with each passing day – this can-do spirit and desire to make a difference is not limited to our professional roles. The resourceful characteristics that allow ISACA community members to thrive in our jobs, and the volunteer spirit that is evident every day as part of ISACA, has easily translated to making meaningful contributions in the communities in which we live and in our personal lives.
On our inaugural CommunITy Day, ISACA’s professional community and staff pulled together to make an especially profound impact, one we should all be proud of, and that can serve as a reminder of the remarkable potential of ISACA’s global network to be a powerful force for good in the world.
More than 60 women and men gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on 7 October for the SheLeadsTech program’s second annual Day of Advocacy. Featuring presentations on issues facing the tech workforce and women in the field, plus congressional visits, the Day of Advocacy allowed SheLeadsTech professionals to connect their own experiences with policy and expand their networks. ISACA also launched its “Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap” study at the event.
The mission of SheLeadsTech is to increase the representation of women in technology leadership roles and the tech workforce through raising awareness, preparing to lead, and building global alliances. In addition to visiting 19 congressional offices representing nine states and the District of Columbia, SheLeadsTech professionals met with staff from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (Subcommittee on Science and Technology) and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and Internet). The SheLeadsTech delegates were able to share their experiences with members of Congress to bring to life the issues that women face in the technology workforce as well as discuss three proposed pieces of legislation: the Building Blocks of STEM Act, the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act and the Cyber Ready Workforce Act.
- The Building Blocks of STEM Act (S. 737, H.R. 1665) would create and expand upon science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for young children, including new research grants to increase the participation of girls in computer science.
- The 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act (H.R. 1591, S. 1299) would empower school districts to better engage girls, young women and minority students in the STEM fields. It would also provide funding for local school districts to create the necessary infrastructure for enhanced STEM learning early in a student’s academic career.
- The Cyber Ready Workforce Act (S. 1466, H.R. 2721) would establish a grant program within the Department of Labor where grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to workforce intermediaries to support the creation, implementation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity.
Staff from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology noted that constituents sending letters of support for legislation is critical for Congress to understand the grassroots interests and individual perspectives from professionals in the tech field.
ISACA released its “Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap” research in conjunction with the SheLeadsTech Day of Advocacy. The study found that women professionals in IT often feel stuck in their current positions and are unsure of what steps can be taken to advance their careers; they believe that more women in the tech workforce will allow for more role models and mentors. Additionally, the report found that 49 percent of women say their employers have no programs that focus on recruiting more women into tech roles.
One SheLeadsTech delegate from the Washington, DC, area, noted that she is the highest-level woman in her company “and shouldn’t be,” as she has been in the field for a decade and is in middle-management. “No one ahead of me is tackling diversity and inclusion.”
ISACA CEO David Samuelson visited US Sen. Dick Durbin’s office as well as the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and joined delegates from Washington, DC, as they visited their representative. He explained that the SheLeadsTech program has been a grassroots movement from ISACA’s global membership and is leading the drive for more leaders in the technology workforce. “The cybersecurity battlefield needs diversity of thought to actually win,” he said. “It requires differing skill sets, amplified skill sets. We won’t win without women.”
Visiting the Hill, attending the morning keynote and panel sessions, and being able to network with other SheLeadsTech participants allowed for women and men to engage with policy and personal career goals. “This was such a unique experience,” said attendee Jeanette Snook, cybersecurity analyst for Visa, Inc. “I’ve lived [in the DC area] for years and have never visited my members of Congress to discuss issues. I want to make a difference and take it back with me to my role and for others.”
I am the product of a liberal arts education. On the surface, what I learned in school has very little relevance to my day to day right now, yet, when you dig deeper, the communication and critical thinking skills that education instilled in me helped in ways beyond measure. To be fair, though, I am not protecting an organization against a cybersecurity attack, writing the next AI algorithm, or planning security measures for my organization’s network. Those skills would likely have to come from different places.
In 2019’s Inside Higher Ed survey of chief academic officers at public and private colleges and universities, the percentage of provosts rating their institutions as very effective in preparing students for the world of work ranged from 41 to 45 percent, with community colleges giving themselves the highest marks. This is down significantly from 2014, when the number of those strongly agreeing hovered around 56 percent. Is academia beginning to realize what hiring managers already know? In fact, many of us are surprised that the number is even that high. At this point, companies are hiring for fit more than anything else, accepting the fact that most skills have to be taught on the job.
Having spent the past 21 years working for businesses that support educational institutions with products and services, I have a first-hand account of the challenges these institutions face as they try to adjust to meet the needs of the changing job market. Some of them are making great strides, adjusting their curriculum by infusing courses and degrees that are aligned with market needs. In fact, my children’s elementary school recently became the first in the nation to implement an AI curriculum. On the other end, however, the majority continue to run as they always have, complacent with the fact that after high school, kids will need to relearn things in college, and after college, young adults will need to learn things on the job.
This presents an opportunity. Having started recently as ISACA’s Chief Learning Officer, I am tasked to help determine which solutions and services we can provide to help address this skills gap in areas where it is most pronounced, such as cybersecurity, risk, privacy, artificial intelligence, and many other terms that are not even yet mainstream. As an association with leading certificates and certifications in a number of these areas, I am confident we can play a role to bridge schooling to work in a way that has not been done before. We have the ability to connect students and institutions to jobs and opportunities through our vast, global chapter and member network, in areas with the highest worker demand, unlike anyone else. We also can help these students as they embark on their careers, supporting them all the way to retirement, with professional learning opportunities that meet them right where they are.
To do this, we are embarking on a global project to study and document a learner’s journey – from middle school to retirement, in a number of key areas that fall within ISACA’s domain. This will help us determine ways that ISACA can support these pathways – from a CISA looking to expand his or her expertise to learn the intricacies of blockchain, to the high schooler who may bypass college altogether to earn a cybersecurity practitioner certification. It will also help inform how jobs may be changing – how does the work of an auditor change in an AI-driven world? What are the ethical implications of all these technological advances and what training and controls need to exist to keep it all in check? Further, it will help inform the types of products we develop. Because today’s students consume content differently in school than previous generations, how will this affect how they want to learn when on the job in the future? Do we need to create more bite-size learning content? Should we be assessing performance through real-life scenarios as opposed to simply knowledge of subject matter?
Stronger collaboration between the academic and corporate worlds is long overdue. Associations such as ISACA, which operates in one of the fastest-growing and most exciting domains, can facilitate and expedite this collaboration. We can also do good in the process. Underrepresented communities can be lifted with the right training. We can connect high-demand jobs with candidates all over the world, presenting them with opportunities they never even knew existed. We can provide skills-based training, coupled with core, general education, and aligned to specific company demands – no shiny objects, no technology frills. This is the future of learning.