Cybersecurity Talent Management

By Alicia Backous

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Cybersecurity garnered much attention in 2020, owing in large part to the global pandemic with lockdowns that tested our abilities to work, vote, and generally operate in remote environments. These shifts were compounded as organizations continued to defend against bad actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in our overly taxed public and private systems. Now, even as the effects of the pandemic begin to recede, the staffing challenges associated with safeguarding our cyber infrastructure are multiplying.

One such challenge is reinforcing cyber talent with much needed and in-demand cyber skills. Recent events, including the Solarwinds and Microsoft Exchange threats, highlight the need for the Federal Government to be better prepared and resourced to identifymitigate, and respond to threats —especially on short notice. Meanwhile, cyber-skilled workers are increasingly valuable resources with a range of employment opportunities in both the private and public sectors. It is therefore imperative that CISA retain and leverage its current workforce while adding to its capacity to surge to handle emerging opportunities and challenges. For example, the $650 million infusion designed to help Federal cyber programs in the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021 highlights the importance placed on this mission and the need to resource it appropriately.

Monetary incentives are an important tool for both recruitment and retention purposes as high demand for their skills means that cyber-skilled workers can demand top dollar for their services. However, competitive compensation alone is insufficient. Employees want challenging assignments, opportunities for professional development and growth, supportive management, and a workplace culture where they feel acknowledged and valued. CISA can tackle multiple issues simultaneously, for example, exploring opportunities for a data-driven workforce assessment and promoting skill development and re-skilling that give employees cross-functional training while preparing the workforce ahead of time to respond to surges needs. Building in these types of initiatives and making positive cultural changes now will help ensure that they incorporate as CISA scales up, setting up the cyber workforce of the future and ensuring mission success. 

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