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The Future of Cybersecurity Starts with Education

Career Blog (12)

By: Jen Miller Osborn, Sr Mgr, Research

At the end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, also frequently referred to as October, costumed children will fill our streets and doorstops, ready for candy and compliments. Trying on a new role - whether fictional monsters or heroes, firefighters, veterinarians, or pilots - is something people have always done. For the cybersecurity industry it begs the question: How do we help people “see themselves in cyber,” as CISA challenges us to do this month?

At Palo Alto Networks, we believe a safer cyber future depends on early education, whether or not a child “sees themselves” pursuing  cybersecurity as an adult. We are deeply committed to both advancing cyber best practices to the general public and building a diverse and inclusive cyber workforce of the future. We do this through cybersecurity awareness, education, and training for both adults and children to help them to stay safe online or even see themselves join the cybersecurity workforce.

Whether it’s our policy leadership, our brick-and-mortar and virtual academies, or our national and international partnerships, our plans are long-term and crafted with deep involvement from the communities and organizations with which we work. This includes:

  • We serve as Co-Chair of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education K12 Cybersecurity Education Community of Interest;
  • In our partnerships with the Girl Scouts of America and USA Girl Scouts Overseas, we developed a cybersecurity curriculum and corresponding first-ever Cyber Security Badge, encouraging young girls’ interest in STEM;
  • Our Cyber A.C.E.S. program creates strong digital knowledge foundations by teaching cybersecurity basics through easily accessible modules tailored for age groups between 5 and 15;
  • Cyber STARS is a collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to target the digital divide and the technology field’s racial disparity by offering scholarships, one-on-one mentorships, and apprenticeships to undergraduate and graduate HBCU students majoring in STEM or Business;
  • The second SE (Systems Engineering) Academy opened in North Dakota last February, offering a six-month cybersecurity curriculum for recent college graduates, followed by the opportunity to enter a rotational program at Palo Alto Networks that could lead to a permanent position;
  • Our ever-expanding Cybersecurity Academy trains the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with free curriculum and faculty training for institutions, and has rapidly grown from 369 to 2,236 academies in just the last five years, with 400,000 students engaged in the curriculum across 86+ countries to date. 

It’s vitally important that people of all races, orientations, and genders are encouraged to join the effort to keep our networks safe since a diversity of voices and talents makes us stronger. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made to close the cyber skills gap, but there is still much work to be done. Education alone is not enough - to attract and retain the next generation of top talent in our field, we need to leverage the best combination of people, process, and technology. 

 As new colleagues enter the cybersecurity profession, it’s crucial they understand and commit to the values and work environment we’re fostering at Palo Alto Networks to make them feel truly welcomed:

  • A “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality,” we earned our 3rd consecutive 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index in 2022
  • A “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion,” we earned a 100% rating from the Disability Index in 2022
  • The invention of our FLEXWORK policy puts our people first, and makes two-way trust and respect core to our day-to-day work culture
  • 30.6% of our our global employees participated in volunteerism/giving programs in FY22 
  • Our bold environmental goals continue to grow and include commitments to be carbon neutral by 2030, expand our partnerships and product stewardship, and enhanced ESG reporting and transparency efforts

“Seeing yourself in cyber” isn’t as simple as putting on a costume, but we won’t stop until it is. Whether teaching basic best practices for day-to-day cyber hygiene, or training the next generation of incident responders, Palo Alto Networks and its league of world-class partners is up to the task. 

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