It all started with a simple conversation. I was on a call with Salesforce Advisor and Former Chief Trust Officer Jim Alkove when he presented an astonishing statistic: for only $1 million we could fund all Bay Area cybersecurity community college education for a full year.
Our first thought at NightDragon was: So, why don’t we do it?
Six months from that time, we are proud to announce that NightDragon is launching a Coalition to Close the Cybersecurity Talent Gap (“Coalition”), a campaign to raise $1 million to help fund one year of community college courses for Bay Area students pursuing careers in cybersecurity. Pulling together many of NightDragon’s rich network of portfolio companies and go-to-market and investment partners, we are proud to have raised more than $300,000 at launch towards this goal and are now calling on the rest of the industry to join us in this important mission at the 2022 RSA Conference.
This campaign was made possible in close partnership with NextGen Cyber Talent, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry through education and career opportunities for underserved and underrepresented students. The funds will be distributed by Next-Gen Cyber Talent to students at participating Bay Area community colleges pursuing cybersecurity degrees who have applied and meet the qualifying grade criteria of a B- or better.
The esteemed thought leaders who have joined us on this journey are true pioneers. United by passion for education, diversity and hope for the future of our industry, they have joined with us on this important mission to help close the cybersecurity talent gap with concrete action. Founding partners include AllegisCyber Capital, Carahsoft, Claroty, Coalfire, Cyderes, Deloitte, Exclusive Networks, ForgeRock, HUMAN Security, iboss, Immuta, Ingram Micro, Interos, Knight Group, Macnica, Marsh, Merlin, Mezmo, NightDragon, Onapsis, Optiv, Palo Alto Networks, Prosek, Team8, Ten Eleven Ventures, ThriveDX, SafeGuard Cyber, Snowflake, and vArmour. I’m humbled by the response, and grateful to each and every member for their commitment and generosity. This consortium is an exemplary showing of community and a shining example of the good that come when we collectively take action.
By lowering the financial barrier to entry to students interested in getting into the cybersecurity field, we are achieving a great deal. First, we are opening the door to a wide array of diverse and underprivileged individuals that may not have had access or had the means to afford a degree otherwise and providing them with a path to a lucrative and rewarding career in cybersecurity. Second, we are building a pipeline of thousands of new students to fill the 2.7 million estimated open positions in the cybersecurity industry. This will help us all be stronger defenders against today’s cyberthreats, as well as better innovators on new emerging technology categories.
Dave DeWalt, Founder and Managing Director, NightDragon said it well: “The cybersecurity talent shortage is an issue that impacts all of us and is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry and national security. Let’s demonstrate that as an industry we can come together to help solve for the talent shortage and foster the next generation in cyber talent that will help us combat today’s threats.”
While we look to expand to other regions in the future, starting this Coalition in the Bay Area is especially important to me as a life-long Bay Area resident who has now been to more RSA Conferences than I would like to count. It feels especially good to me personally to give back to students in my local community and help elevate the next generation of cybersecurity leaders, many from diverse or underprivileged backgrounds. I hope many executives who call the Bay Area home, or even those that have visited and loved it as I do during the RSA Conference, resemble this sentiment.
While I’m astoundingly proud of the NightDragon network community and how far we have come on this important goal, we have not yet finished. I urge every member of the RSA Community this week to join us on this pledge. Whether it is just $5 (the cost of a free coffee you might have gotten on the show floor), or a more generous amount, every dollar counts towards enriching the lives of students toward a brighter future for them and for our industry.