The term “skills gap” is widespread in today’s business media. Eighty-six percent of the 600 business executives CompTIA polled recall hearing or seeing something about skills gaps, regardless of job role, with the concept being most prevalent among companies in the information technology (IT) industry. And while “skills gap” has become a catch-all phrase for other workplace challenges, such as a labor supply gap or generational differences in work styles, whatever the cause there clearly is a chasm between the skills employers want and their perception of the skills their workers have.
Perhaps the most troubling arena for these misaligned perceptions is cybersecurity. Researchers foresee cybercrime tripling during the next five years, while the number of cybersecurity professionals employed to keep cybercrooks at bay will not keep pace with this hazard. During the next five to six years, analysts project the number of unfilled positions in cybersecurity could surpass 3 million globally, creating a talent fissure that could cost businesses $6 trillion.
If these forecasts are anywhere near accurate, U.S. companies have a brief time to confront this burgeoning cybersecurity skills gap before it overwhelms them. And I believe best way for corporate leadership to begin is by reframing the challenge.
Cybersecurity is not an issue confined to IT departments. The menace of cybercrime looms over business operations of all kinds and cuts across industries in this country. Cybercrooks breach healthcare databases for the credentials – such as user IDs, passwords and credit card numbers – that enable retail fraud. They raid email servers and social networks for lists of familiar contact names to inform their “phishing” expeditions and other social engineering techniques.
So, if the scope of the problem reaches outside the confines of technology, our pursuit of solutions must rise above technical constraints. Yes, we need more technicians, if we intend to close the cybersecurity skills gap. But the projected gulf is vast enough to require more than one category of worker. We need technologists, too.
“Technologist” is not a term we hear often in the technology industry. But it should be, because it’s a label that applies not only to the day-to-day work of people in companies of all shapes and sizes across the country, but to a broad spectrum of industries – not just those that create software and build hardware. Technologists have diverse interests and multifaceted personalities, but most share these five traits:
A Technologist Thinks Strategy First
The definition of “strategy” is a “plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Technologists favor strategies before tactics – i.e., the actions and activities implemented to achieve an objective. Before they start working with technology or put technology to work, technologists step back and plan.
A Technologist Has a Passion for Solving Problems and a General Curiosity
Technologists don’t see problems as obstacles to avoid. Rather, they consider problems to be opportunities for solutions. Their innate curiosity leads them to confront challenges even when those solutions are not obvious.
A Technologist Sees Technology in a Constructive Context
Technologists appreciate that, in the broadest sense, technology is a tool with a value determined by its application for the benefit and assistance of people, whether in their personal or professional lives.
A Technologist Believes Tech Is about Humans, not Hardware
Technologists see gadgetry as solutions that serve people. No gadget has value unless it helps a customer, colleague, citizen, patient, or any other type of person a technologist may encounter during their career.
A Technologist Values Respect, Cooperation and Collaboration
Technologists maintain a positive, helpful disposition on the job and in relationships in or out of the workplace. They respect their employers’ codes of conduct, appreciate the contributions of colleagues, and understand that going rogue isn’t the best way to analyze a problem, execute a strategy, or implement a solution in a business context.
We believe today’s tweens and teens – a group often called Generation Z, the large and culturally diverse cohort of children born during the mid-90s and later – are poised as our next generation of technologists – the solution to the cybersecurity skills gap.
Why? I’ll elaborate on that in the next article in this series.
About Charles Eaton
Charles Eaton leads three philanthropic endeavors for CompTIA, the world’s largest IT trade association: Executive Vice President of Social Innovation, CEO of Creating IT Futures and NextUp, the organization’s initiative to inspire young people to choose technology careers.