Answer to Escalating IT Security Staffing Shortage Might be Found with Millennials

They’re happening with increasing frequency. Brazen internet fraud and stealth phishing schemes threaten corporate data security every single day—and the situation is only going to get worse. These headline-making breaches are prompting companies to create entirely new departments to manage their information security.

But despite the urgency, staffing these new positions has proved to be a challenge for many businesses because of the shortage of trained IT security practitioners. It has become more than merely a technological issue; it’s become an enterprise issue.

“Until recently, there’s never been a big demand for data security resources among mainstream businesses. Now nearly every company is concerned about managing, protecting and maintaining data confidentiality for its customers and employees. They are looking to fill their teams with security analysts, incident managers and related roles which, until a few years ago, either didn’t exist or were hidden way down the org chart at the technology help desk,” confirms Anjie Cayot, President & Managing Director of Client Solutions for Keyot.

Cayot digs further into the dilemma facing today’s corporations. “Because there is a lack of trained IT & data security resources, companies are robbing talent from each other. In addition to trying to build a team from very few resources, the greater challenge is for companies to build a succession plan so that the people who fill these positions have opportunities to move into leadership roles. How do companies elevate these positions so that they are considered sought-after career choices?”

Why Millennials are Up to the Task

Cayot, whose company has been helping corporations staff for business and IT positions since 2008, is demonstrating that millennials make the ideal candidates for these data security positions. “Several years ago, we created a boot camp training and on-the-job mentoring program, called Crew212, to build the next generation of technology leaders. It is now used by numerous fortune-ranked clients across many industries, including finance, banking, mortgage, printing, healthcare, agriculture, and more.

It was through Crew212’s work with a leading global money transfer and payment service company that Keyot proved millennials are key to satisfying the growing demand for IT/data security specialists.

“We’d already been working with the client to supply Crew212 project management and business analysis practitioners,” Cayot recalls. “When they asked if we could develop some security practitioners who could ultimately move up through their organization, we knew we were on the cusp of something important.”  To find the right team, Cayot turned to Cindy Rockwell, Keyot’s CIO and head of the Crew212 program.

Keyot selected six young people, each with zero to five years of work experience. “We looked for candidates with customer-service experience, problem solving ability and analytical aptitudes. We then put them through a customized Crew212 boot camp centered around the client’s business and security concerns. There was a heavy focus, for example, on incident management, network architecture and financial transaction security. They learned tools, techniques, best practices and became ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) certified. We also mentored them on vital skills like methods of problem solving and analysis as well as predictive analytics.”

The recruits then started a nearly year-long journey at the client. Paired with senior security professionals and prepared to handle basic data security tasks, the recruits were instrumental in freeing up management to focus on other critical areas of the business.

Cayot initially met with all six on a weekly basis, scaling back her involvement as the recruits grew stronger in their roles. “Over the course of the year, five of the six grew into individual contributors, each taking on a role in Incident Management, Security Operations, Release Management, Knowledge Management and Risk Management departments,” she reports. One individual left the program.

The client was so impressed with the results that it gave Keyot its 2016 IT Innovation Award, presented to the partner who has gone above and beyond to deliver an innovative solution.

The client’s CIO had this to say of the program: “Keyot’s willingness to work with [us] to identify unique and innovative solutions to meet [our] needs sets Keyot apart. In this case, Keyot created and delivered a solution for the newly minted Command Center and our Information Security team with its Crew 212 program…the energy and drive these resources have provided to [us] is a testament to the hard work that Anjie and her team put in to developing these resources.”

Millennials Have the Capabilities

After years of working with millennials, Cayot has her own theories as to why they are so well-suited for IT & data security positions. “The millennial generation is so technically aware that they are able to adapt quickly. Those who participated in the [client] program converted to full-time roles and are getting fantastic reviews. They are taking jobs held by people many years their senior, so that those people are free to move up in the organization. This program is enabling companies to invest in their IT security teams with junior levels of talent.”

She compares her own Gen-X generation to these more recent college graduates. “Millennials have a greater comfort level with technology than we did at their age. They expect it to work. They don’t fear the unknown. This is such a powerful generation if managed correctly. It’s time to get millennials into roles where they can break down siloes and approach problems from a 21st century perspective.”

She advises companies in need of IT security specialists to shift their focus from looking for experience to looking for capabilities. “If you can find a few people with experience and surround them with a larger group of capable people, you will grow a staff faster and retain them longer than if you tried to bring in a team of super performers who will inevitably move on to different jobs,” she states confidently.

Act Now Because These Technology Demands are Only Going to Increase

There will always be new threats to data security. The best defense is to be prepared with a well-trained, motivated and engaged staff. “With 46 percent of the workforce being in the millennial generation and projected to be 75 percent by 2025, we have such a great opportunity right now to grab those analytical, problem-solving minds, immerse them in this situation and teach them the hard skills around it,” stresses Cayot. “It’s a creative way to build a skilled staff in a space where there’s none available.”

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