Industry analysts suggest the cyber security industry is looking to fill 1.8 million positions by 2022. Currently the industry is lacking in women and minority employees, leaving companies less secure due to less creativity, less innovation, less cultural awareness and a tendency to do the same things over and over.
Putting together a plan to combat the lack of diversity in cyber security can seem beyond the efforts of the average security manager. It requires many macro activities such as outreach to underrepresented communities to make them aware of the industry, changes to schools to lay a foundation in STEM, and then cost-effective higher-education/workforce development opportunities to provide the requisite skills. This has to happen state-by-state with programs targeting urban and rural locations.
But mentorship is something that any cybersecurity manager can do that can open the door of opportunity and also to help solve the severe shortage of employees in the industry.
If mentorship seems like a drop in the ocean, I am here to tell you that a middle-age white cybersecurity manager became my mentor and gave me my first break in the industry. I was a lawyer who wanted a career change. I confessed to my mentor that I knew very little about cyber security, but was committed to learning. He saw something in me and gave me the opportunity and guidance to succeed. Today, I am a vice president helping companies to manage their third-party risk. Mentorship is a step that anyone in the industry can take.
Mentorship is critical because often times there are challenges that minorities and women have with regard to being able to adjust to new environments. With a mentor, they can gain immediate support from an employee already established in the environment, allowing them to ask questions that they might be otherwise uncomfortable asking. This helps minorities and women acclimate to the company culture (which is often an issue in creating a diverse work force), as the mentor can share how the company operates and typical expectations.
For a mentor, unsure of where to begin, quarterly employee reviews are an excellent opportunity to offer mentorship to someone who may be struggling. Onboarding is also a great time to share with new employees that a mentor is available, should the need arise or if they're interested. When determining who might benefit best from a mentorship program, mentors should look for someone who is open and willing to learn and shows great active listening skills. But really, anyone that requests a mentor is a great candidate for mentorship.
While mentorship has great value for the mentee, it's also valuable to the mentor. Mentorship is a critical building block for anyone that wants to be a leader in cyber security. Mentorship allows a mentor to learn about people outside of his or her typical social group and can allow them to put themselves in a position of empathy and really understand the situation of someone else that may have different circumstances.
Not only is a mentor able to help build the career of someone else, he or she is able to build their own career, helping them to be a better leader down the road.