“Exposing Gaps: Cybersecurity Workforce and Education”: Rahmira Rufus, CEO at AWT Solutions (Video + Transcript)

June 7, 2023

Rahmira Rufus (CEO at AWT Solutions) discusses demand for cybersecurity talent in the workforce, the increased lack of effective remediation for cyber crime because of this personnel shortage, and the affect on cyber education.


Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Angie Chang: With us today, we have Rahmira Rufus. She is a next-generation enterprise security architect, a university professor, academic and industry scientist. Welcome, Rahmira.

Rahmira Rufus: Thank you. Thank you very much, Angie. Hello everyone. Very honored to be here to share with all of the insights, all of the wonderful things that’s happening at ELEVATE this session. Like Angie said, my name is Dr. Rahmira Rufus. I’ve run a gamut of things that I’ve done in the cyberspace – lot of technical work with the elements that she spoke about, contracting areas, purely and academic. This element focuses more on a lot of the outreach work that I like to do that I’m not really able to dive into within, you know, places of employment and things of that nature. That’s what I’m gonna talk to you about today. I thought this would be a really good topic to bring up at a Career Fair, as folks are trying to find their way and navigate through the employment process, excuse me, workforce and academia and that whole gambit, that pipeline.

Rahmira Rufus: I’m gonna dive right in. Like I said, the title is Exposing Gaps in Cybersecurity Workforce and Education. I like to say that this particular work or slide deck is stemming from some work that had a different direction. This is more of a tangent of that work. I’ll start by addressing why are we even doing this analysis? Originally we wanted to find out what was happening within the cybersecurity paradigm as far as that pipeline for supply and demand. The workforce for the talent and things of that nature. What we discovered is that this is not a unique problem. This actually occurs in other industries. One in particular biomedical things of that nature, where you have very specialized kind of criteria for resourcing talent and staffing needs.

Screenshot at .. PM

Rahmira Rufus: What we discovered here that’s the reason why we’re doing a gap analysis. A gap analysis is a very simplistic term. We’re trying to see what are those kind of hindrances, are those kind of blockers for where a particular environment or situation is at an actual level of performance? How do you get to a desired level? How that relates here through this series that I use when I work with my clients, how that relates here is that we’re trying to see what is this huge disparity against folks trying to either jump into the cyber field, maneuver within their career path, or transition to higher levels, or, even in some ways, try to make an entire pivot in another direction. What we discovered in this work was that there are some elements that are not being taken into consideration that makes the process a little more convoluted than it needs to be. That’s pretty much what we’re addressed. If there’s anything someone needs me to go back, just let me know. but other than that, I’m gonna dive right into it.

Rahmira Rufus: What we started was, we looked at a generalized problem,. What’s happening within the cybersecurity workforce and basically feeling that void of the workforce, of the talent that’s out there and the talent that’s more importantly needed. We started at a global scale, and the diagram to the left, the far left, is what we collected as data, globally. Every single place on the planet is not represented, but we try to get a proper representation of the skillset and those particular numbers that we would thought were relevant for the sample population that we were looking at.

Rahmira Rufus: We saw a disparity when in the US and wanted to focus there. Now, I do want to say the data that was collected for this very huge gap that shows for China, <laugh> and India, there is some emphasis there. However, that’s not a part of the scope of this talk, but that is something that as time progresses, we would like to see if we could journey into that gap.

Rahmira Rufus: We have some assumptions, but, you know, since we’re scientists, we’re not allowed to do that. We actually have to follow a process. Right now we’re in pretty early qualitative work with that study. If I dive over to the area that we’re looking at, we then wanted to focus in the United States. In my next slide, I want to show where we started seeing some disparities. I’m taking those two slides over the far right and they’re on the far right on this slide. We had looked at basically a percentage in a kind of you empirical actual value for each one of the data points for the job openings up against, compared against the employed workforce, right? The diagram on the right looks like it kind of flows in a normal fashion.

Rahmira Rufus: The problem is that the diagram in the middle, we saw little disparity around 2021, moving into this year. It didn’t quite match, it wasn’t like a huge disparity, but that triangle with that slant at the bottom, that that variation was really, really off. We said, okay, look, let’s dive into more granular elements. And we started looking at for state, and once again, every state ends represented here, but this is a sample population that we think would be a best representation. We noticed was by state that matched or was similar, kind of congruent to the, the diagram on the far right, but we were still concerned about that percentage. Why did we get a percentage that did not look like the two diagrams that basically are on the far left and the far li right of the middle one?

Rahmira Rufus: That’s where we started diving into what we considered to be this problem. And the reason why this is important for this particular forum is because in the next few slides, you’re gonna start to see some of the reasons why when folks are looking to streamline and understand exactly what they want to do in cyber, it’s a little more complex than than you actually thought from us just taking that tally that you saw on the previous slide, a very general approach to trying to solve or answer this question.

Rahmira Rufus: What we discovered was that approach was a little off because we didn’t look at the true nature or components that were involved with the supply and this demand. Now if we jump to this slide, we’re talking about a simple supply and demand problem, right? We then associated demand with the knowledge, the education that’s requested, as you see in the chart in the top, and then we looked at entry-level jobs and then against paired up against their requested education. If you notice in each one of these charts, it seems like folks in the bachelor’s degree area, they’re winning, right? For these particular cyber skills. Then, you have some luck in the kind of the sub, those are pretty much a lot of the associate degrees, junior college, but also a lot of the certifications and licensing that people engage in when they either have done a lot of higher education / learning, or they could be adult learners, it could be all kinds of different reasons, but they don’t necessarily go through a traditional degree program.

Rahmira Rufus: Then you see the graduate level of folks having that kind of smaller percentage of kind of matching a little bit of the sub bas. Now, what is funny, thank you. What is kind of funny here is that in actuality, because you know, I’m a teacher / professor as well in my background, I notice that’s not true to what’s happening here. Students, uh, adult learners, uh, folks in the field trying to figure out where they are, where their next step is gonna be, what’s their next direction, they’re not having the success that’s being represented in these charts. What we had then decided, okay, since we’re talking about supply and demand, well now let’s look at the supply side. Now let’s look at the workforce. What we had discovered was that this was a much more complicated problem than we thought, than someone just saying, Hey, I would like to get into the cyber field and I’m just gonna protect, I’m just gonna pick this particular area and I should be fine.

Rahmira Rufus: I’m just gonna grow here in years. Now an example that I will give, and not to shed any kind of negative light or anything on this particular field, but if we look at fields like psychology, most folks know this is something that’s been told by everybody in that field. Psychology, psychiatry. If you are not pursuing the master’s or PhD level, you’re gonna have a difficult time finding the type of placement that you thought you would being that breakthrough psychologist or psychiatrist. That’s something that’s a normal situation in that field. From what I’ve told, it’s been worked on over the years, but that’s usually something that’s been accepted in this space. That’s not necessarily the case. There are absolutely so many options and so many variations of what you can do, not only in cyber, but if you go down into its larger focus, like a computer science or pure network admin, or you name it, this becomes a little convoluted.

Rahmira Rufus: Now, I’m being very, very nice with this slide. Thank you. I’m being very, very nice with this slide because the next slide I’ll show is actually a very large data set that we had to work through so that I could bring you such a pretty visual right here as far as just some of the things that you have to take into consideration when you’re trying to think about what’s going to be your cybersecurity career path journey.

Rahmira Rufus: One thing really quick, I want to note if folks are paying attention right here to this graph over here, notice how low security intelligence is, I can give you a little hint of that. Remember, this is a trend, a growing field. Right now, the reason why this number is so small, that is actually being developed as a track.

Rahmira Rufus: All of the data analysis, all of the business intelligence, all of the different elements out there are now being able to be fueled and tunneled into a path that’s going to be security intelligence. Just letting you all know, look for that on horizon. However, these other tracks, they had experienced the same thing previously. That is another added complexity to this field, as things change, as things morph, as we’re talking about the next generation of computing, how do you know where to go, where you’re at, what you need to be? was able to break down some of this in some of these charts, but, I think everyone can kinda understand what’s going on here. Right here, you’re talking about, we’re, we’re usually using like as the little bit of a control, right?

Rahmira Rufus: The job opening, say, nationwide. Then you have to look at the entry-level jobs versus the knowledge that you would need. Then also you’d have to look at the skills and knowledge that would be required for particular sets. And then on top of that, what type of certifications and licensing would I need to perfectly be where I wanna be or where it is I’m trying to go see just that quick. On the next slide, as I said, this is just to give you an example. We have so many repositories that we pulled this information from, and I was only able to get 25 in these tiny little visuals on this screen. That is not something we want you to do. What does this mean to all of you? All right, here’s a little in the second slide you saw that I was gonna talk about dilemma, and then I’m gonna jump into the, what I think is a quick solution.

Rahmira Rufus: Here’s a method that you could help you without having to go through all of that granularity that we discovered in this process. One, be proactive, right here is a diagram of a chart, right? That’s all of the data that you see before, and I’m going to have this recorded, basically provided for you in the next two slides is from platforms like cyber seek.org, ISC squared, the, their platform, their education focus of the nice framework, things of that nature. You can go and get all of this data, get all of this information, and you can get metrics about these particular fields, right? Right here is a combined chart, a visual where you should go out there instead of waiting to go to an employer or waiting to figure out what’s out there or talk to your professor or whatever, kind of overindulgent process that you normally do.

Rahmira Rufus: You go out and be proactive and find out what these, what these particular roles and these skillsets are, and start diagramming them and them in a skillset similar to this slide. Now, to break it down even more, and I said to DIY – do it yourself – break them down into different skill sets that you find to be requested skills. And like I said, and these particular prac platforms, you can go to the go there to find this information. Right here, this is basically a broken down version of the slide you just saw. And you can pick particular skills and find out where you measure right now, right? And what is it that you’re gonna need to either increase that proficiency or, you know, whatever it is that you’re trying to kind of get at, right?

Rahmira Rufus: Be realistic with yourself, okay? Because this is about improving you and making yourself a much more viable product as you move forward. Use elements like that to set yourself up for success. Some real quick wins, as I said – I can tell you about – is do your own analysis. Like I said throughout this slide, you don’t have to dive deep like we did with the tangent that we found as a new area of research for the disparity in the path between the cybersecurity workforce and its talent and resourcing, but at least try to leverage different areas, like I said, cyberseek.org, these different platforms.

Rahmira Rufus: On top of that, when you actually capture all of these roles, develop proficiencies with analytic service or, data, data analysis… You can leverage different visualizations, power bi, you know, build your chops in those areas or create diagrams or metrics like these. I will let us say, since this is a Career Fair, these types of visualizations go very, very well in front of potential employers. Department heads, You know, folks that are trying to move up within an organization and even for folks that have their own endeavors, you know, clients like to be able to see the skillset and, proficiency of your talent, of your personnel, and being able to provide these types of metrics really, really set the right type of parameters for what you want to show as one, being proactive and kind of owning your area.

Rahmira Rufus: Some of the other things do self-assessments and skills inventory, slightly like the one that I just showed you in the previous two slides. Try to keep a skills inventory. If these things ever come up, you can tell people, “Hey, I’m at a level three or six at this particular coding element” (or this particular project management software, whatever it is). Gauge where you are and know where you’re headed, right? Or where you’re trying to go. Put your skills to the test battle, test your elements, okay. And things of that nature. I’m sorry, Angie, are you gonna say something?

Angie Chang: I was gonna say thank you so much for this talk. We’re at time, but we will say that you are on LinkedIn and people can connect with you there. Thank you so much, Rahmira.

Rahmira Rufus: Thank you. I hope everyone enjoy my talk and enjoy the career fair. Best of luck and be the best You.

Angie Chang: Thank you.

Rahmira Rufus: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Share this