Leveraging the Power of Community to Develop Future Cyber Talent

Executive Blog
Written by Joshua Dray, CISO, San Jacinto College

Joshua Dray


San Jacinto College

OCTOBER 3, 2023

While cloud security and preventing cyber attacks are top priorities across Evanta CISO communities, we also regularly hear from security executives that finding cyber talent is critical. However, the security space is changing so rapidly that it’s difficult for educators to keep up with the latest tools and processes needed to help cybersecurity workers succeed in their careers.

At the recent Houston CISO Executive Summit, CISO Joshua Dray of San Jacinto College led a Boardroom discussion on how businesses and colleges and universities can work together to build a pipeline of local cyber talent. They discussed cybersecurity education initiatives currently underway in Greater Houston and how CISOs can build a more sustainable talent pipeline. 

Here, Joshua, who is also a Governing Body Member of the Houston CISO Community, shares some key takeaways from the discussion.

Why is the topic of talent pipeline creation important right now in cybersecurity? 

A pipeline of talent from higher education to industry can bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience, creating a pathway for students interested in cybersecurity to find employment after graduation. 

As Houston is a conglomeration of multiple industries supporting various flavors of critical infrastructure, Houston is a prime target for cyber threat actors; thus, an efficient and effective pipeline of cybersecurity professionals is vital to its protection against threats in cyberspace. 

Tell us about your cybersecurity education initiative. 

In a partnership between the San Jacinto College Office of Cybersecurity and the Faculty of Business and Technology, the vision is to combine the knowledge learned through the curriculum at the college and the real-world experience of working in a Student-Augmented Security Operation Center to provide students an opportunity to apply their knowledge of cybersecurity, gain experience, and land their first role in cybersecurity. 

The Student Augmented - Security Operation Center will focus on areas such as network security, endpoint security, cloud security, vulnerability management, third-party risk assessments, and more, as the SA-SOC evolves and further use cases are added to be in line with industry needs.

What prompted you to develop this? And how did you decide to incorporate the community connection?

With the rapid evolution of technology and cybersecurity, the high number of job openings, and critical infrastructure in the Houston area, there must be more pipelines of cybersecurity professionals from all walks of life to enter the workforce and help secure their communities. The Evanta CISO community is an excellent source of knowledge and connections to help build these pipelines and provide opportunities to future cybersecurity professionals.

In your session at the Houston CISO Executive Summit, was there a key idea or big takeaway from the discussion? 

The biggest takeaway from my tabletop session at the CISO Executive Summit is the need to ensure students’ hands-on experience in training closely mirrors the current industry tactics, techniques, and procedures. Additionally, it is vital that students are continuously learning, and the curriculum is constantly evolving to stay as close to the “real world” as possible.

What is your call to action for your CISO peers – locally in Houston and globally – to get more involved in building a strong cybersecurity talent pipeline?

Budget is the most significant barrier to getting this student-augmented security operation center off the ground. Community colleges are not typically equipped with the resources to fund and fully develop a Security Operation Center. We need industry partnerships with higher education to bring the opportunity to life and set the stage for future cybersecurity professionals.

To join the discussion on cyber talent and learn more from your CISO peers, find your local Evanta CISO Community and apply today.