Develop your cyber career roadmap at Leidos
More people than ever are considering a career in cybersecurity, and for good reason. Cybersecurity professionals are always in demand, can command competitive salaries, and have great job security.
Yet it can be frustratingly difficult to break in or move up. There are many reasons why, including company bureaucracy, being pigeonholed, not knowing how to bring up your interests with your supervisor, not wanting to jeopardize your current job, or just not knowing how to start.
According to one survey, fewer than a third of cyber professionals have a well-defined career path. That same survey found that most believe that their career would benefit from a combination of a mentorship program, career mapping, and a technical training career plan.
That's exactly the approach Leidos has taken to ensure that any employee who wants to start on the path to a cyber career, further that career, or change paths within their cyber career, is fully supported.
"We want our employees to understand what's possible and help them develop a roadmap that defines how their career should progress," says James (Slim) Beamon, dean of the CyberEDGE Academy at Leidos.
The key, Beamon says, is taking a holistic approach that includes knowledge-based learning, hands-on learning, mentorships, and collaboration forums.
"Too many cyber professionals and program managers look at certifications and associated training as the answer to what they need to meet their career aspirations and accomplish their mission," he says. "But often, the training comes up short — it simply cannot achieve all the intended requirements sought by both the cyber professional and program managers."
For example, a cyber professional may be expected to know how to perform tasks that the program manager or mission wants them to be able to do immediately after training, which, says Beamon, is unrealistic. This can start a cycle of more and more training, which is expensive and time-consuming.
"It's much better for both the employees and their employers to create a program that allows a cyber professional to understand a concept, attempt to put that concept into use via a lab environment, collaborate with mentors that demonstrate how it could be used or provide added challenges with that concept, and finally allow a cyber professional to view this concept played out in a large group environment," he says. "It provides tremendous synergy and rapidly creates a much more skilled cyber professional than could be obtained via a single-source, or dual-source training program."
A holistic approach
CyberEDGE (Engage, Develop, Grow, Experience) focuses on identifying each person's unique capabilities and translating them, based on a cyber roadmap for each candidate, to a focused curriculum. CyberEDGE enables collaboration among cyber professionals, identifies training opportunities, and provides mentoring. It also includes a full-spectrum cyber certification program spearheaded by the Leidos Homeland Security Solutions Group around NIST's NICE framework criteria, tailored to each individual. This program complements the cybersecurity certification training offered by organizations like CompTIA, (ISC)2, EC-Council, ISACA, and SANS, but it does so in a way that aligns with Leidos's customer proposals and requirements, and its mission.
“We started CyberEDGE to address the cyber talent shortage within the market and grow our staff internally and offer them additional career opportunities – it is a known fact that cyber skills are in high demand,” said Jason McCarthy, Leidos vice president and division manager, Enforcement and Public Safety Solutions.
To determine what skills a cyber professional should acquire with what type of training, the process starts with analyzing an employee's CyberDNA. Like human DNA, it is unique to each individual. In other words, each employee enters the cyber environment with a unique set of skills that can be developed to support the company's cyber mission. Depending on their CyberDNA, some employees will be identified as having very strong potential, while others will not. All, however, will have some capability, and their CyberDNA will help determine the best fit in terms of specialization.
Our consistent methodology creates consistently trained graduates who are ready to perform their mission at the desired level.
“We believe CyberEDGE provides an opportunity to recruit, retain and advance our employees career aspirations,” McCarthy added. “Slim and his team are a critical component of the success of CyberEDGE as he mentors, coaches and teaches each employee at their current skill level.”
For Leidos, this is just the beginning of what's possible. Beamon's team is busy absorbing valuable lessons learned for updates, changes, and refinements to CyberEDGE. Beamon expects the program to continue growing quickly in 2021 and 2022, and thinks it could eventually be offered to Leidos customers and even the cyber community at large.
“As Leidos continues to grow its cyber business and footprint, the CyberEDGE Academy will become an even more critical asset to leverage,” said McCarthy.
"We need to find ways to retain, acquire, and train our workforce to ensure we keep the best and brightest and train them to meet future requirements of our customers," Beamon said. "This holistic approach will get us there."