Not Another Blog on the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage …
[Ben Wuest is Chief Architect at Sonrai Security.]
Our world is full of complex, ill-defined problems that do not have playbooks or step-by-step remediation manuals. We work in environments where our ability to work as teams, accept our differences and communicate clearly and efficiently are paramount to success. Woven in this fabric are technological advancements moving at the speed of light, which we have to adapt to. Key to this are well-developed education systems that promote balance: integrating non-STEM skill sets into the equation with team-based learning.
The New Brunswick workforce is expanding rapidly in technology-based areas. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields and we constantly hear about the shortage of skilled workers. Cybersecurity has numerous specializations and the technical competencies and skill sets vary tremendously. These include (but are not limited to):
We must not forget the balance between dedicated skill sets and broader problem-solving knowledge. The latter is driven by a well-balanced education system that enables students to communicate well, explore, and tackle unknown problems; in my experience, these are the traits of natural entrepreneurs. The most innovative and successful people I know are people who are:
- Strong communicators & active listeners;
- Ready to tackle problems;
- Not afraid of failure; and
- Willing to question the norm.
It is important for us to pay attention to how the global workforce is changing around us and resist the attempt to apply traditional “assembly line” thinking. For example, Google has reported that STEM skills finish last, behind all the soft skills, from a study based on almost 20 years of employee data.
“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” 
Our investment in K-12 education needs to be horizontally rich. Simply focusing on technology skills is a short-sighted play. This theme is being recognized in other fields as well. Hockey studies are now showing that better long-term hockey players are developed from kids who play less hockey and focus more on a variety of sports.
“Hockey may be a year-round job for NHL players, but it shouldn’t be for kids. It actually hurts their development in two ways: it decreases their overall athleticism, and it increases the likelihood of typical hockey injuries like torn labrum’s, hip impingements and groin problems.” 
The point of emphasis is balance. Developing a workforce with a curriculum that has good core components focused on non-STEM skills will provide our economy with a greater chance of success in this evolving world. Competencies will change, technology and controls will constantly evolve. Our ability to communicate, work with others, express ideas, think through problems and have empathy is more important to staying relevant and adapting to new STEM skills as they develop.
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CyberNB is a Special Operating Agency of Opportunities NB.