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Palo Alto Networks Secure The Future Competition

Secure The Future Careers Corp 650X440 R1

Charting the Future of Cybersecurity Excellence 

In an era where cyber threats loom large and pose a significant risk to businesses, Palo Alto Networks is taking a proactive approach to address the escalating challenges with an academic competition to challenge students to make informed decisions in protecting operational assets. The "Secure the Future" competition, organized by the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy team, aims to cultivate the next generation of cybersecurity leaders and innovators. “The competition is not just about technical cybersecurity competence because the candidates are also consistently assessed over a four month period based on their power skills including research, writing, communication, time management, presentations and on-time deadline delivery,” says Thomas Trevethan, Academic Program Director.

How The Competition Works

The competition encompasses diverse domains, including adversarial behavior, artificial Intelligence, machine learning, threat intelligence, data islands and DevSecOps, among others. Participants will focus on specific industry sectors such as energy, transportation, health care or finance, tailoring their solutions to address sector-specific challenges. Previous contestant Meghan Koester, systems engineering manager, shares that the competition “contributes to building a more resilient cybersecurity workforce by capitalizing on the interest areas of participating students. Many who have an interest in cybersecurity had a particular reason that drew them to the field, whether that’s securing retail transactions, financial data, energy providers or educational facilities. Those students who take advantage of the opportunity and research the areas of interest to them end up coming out of the competition with deep knowledge in their chosen field.” 

Grand Finale in Silicon Valley

The top 10 candidates earn a coveted opportunity to present their competition reports at Palo Alto Networks headquarters in Santa Clara, California. The final round serves as a platform for students to pitch their recommendations for their industry to a group of leaders across our Sales, Cybersecurity (Unit 42) and Engineering organizations. Previous contestant and now principal software engineer, Lionel Some says, “Presenting in front of subject matter experts can be intimidating. I did my best to keep my presentation concise and precise by rehearsing multiple times beforehand. It was a great experience overall and I was impressed by the quality of the work of the other participants.” Lionel also shared that, "The highlight for me was finishing in the top three and receiving my prize from the hands of Palo Alto Networks Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey.”

Meghan’s advice for contestants is to “look not just at the potential threats to their chosen sector of research, but really look at contributing factors to see what you can uncover. No network is truly built in a vacuum and it helps to also look at the history of what would have been in place ten years ago.”

Shaping Future Cybersecurity Leaders

The "Secure the Future" academic competition is more than a contest; it's a platform for students to demonstrate their expertise, contribute to the cybersecurity dialogue, and provide an opportunity to kickstart their career with the global cybersecurity leader. Palo Alto Networks recognizes and rewards excellence, offering cash prizes of $10,000 for the first-place winner, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. What’s more? The top 10 candidates are eligible for interviews for internships or full-time positions. Palo Alto Networks is not only investing in securing current industries, but also in uplifting the talent that will lead efforts against cyber threats in the years to come. Interested in learning more about how Palo Alto Networks is investing in cybersecurity education? Check out the Cybersecurity Academy!


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