To learn more about the current climate for cybersecurity in New Jersey, Choose New Jersey talked to Dr. Kaylan Mondal (Associate Professor of Computer Science & Engineering and Founding Director of the Center for Cybersecurity Information Assurance at Fairleigh Dickinson University), Dan Kaminski (VP of Data & Technology for NJII), Dr. Deirdre Letson-Christofalo (VP of Human Capital for NJII), and Dr. Kurt Rohloff (Associate Professor of Computer Science, Co-Founder and Director of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Cybersecurity and Research Center and CTO and Co-Founder of Duality Technologies). Each was similarly aligned on trends within the industry and opportunities in New Jersey.
DLC: “Digital security and privacy is one of the biggest issues that anyone, whether they’re myself or an employee. ”My background is in education and training, not cybersecurity, but I could tell you that I just had to go through a cybersecurity training just as a regular employee. So regardless of the scale, I think it’s becoming mainstream educational components for anyone.”
New Jersey is hard at work at providing an increased supply of skilled workers in cybersecurity. Eight different universities now offer cybersecurity degrees at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Stevens Institute also offers a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a focus on Computer Security. The state government is encouraging young people to take part in cybersecurity competitions, and multiple high schools, including Morristown High School and West Orange High School, have debuted cybersecurity programs within the past year.
KM: “Government support and participation will continue to drive the growth in education and training in this field.” “IBM is already helping academia in training. Other tech giants like Google and Facebook are supporting education. More support from the tech giants in the form of internships, training the trainers, etc. will help immensely.”
NJIT’s Innovation Institute is also working closely with Hacker U for continued education, a major cybersecurity training resource established in Israel.
KR: “My experience [hiring and teaching] students is that a lot of the major organizations are looking for team players and people who can really communicate very well and articulate themselves and can think critically, which is something that you would get at I think more at a major research institute, particularly with professors who have some sort of professional experience. [NJIT offers] coursework that engenders critical thinking skills coupled with experimental learning and experiential type learning. So for example, knowing how network security works, how to defend a network, how to harden the network, how to break a network, kind of things like that goes into a good educational experience that I think generates both hands on and team player recruits that have potential for growth in a larger organization.”
While multiple New Jersey universities are offering cybersecurity degrees, each is going above and beyond to provide access to professionals and hands-on experience. At Fairleigh Dickinson, technical symposiums for networking and outreach are being held between industry, academia, and government. They’re also actively helping students win the Department of Defense’s Cyber Scholarship Program. Four students from FDU have already earned the award.
DK: “There is also one industry that is not, was never a major thing but becoming a major thing and it’s the education with technologies and there are a lot of privacy issues.”“[With exchanging online credits between universities] there are new standards and now we are talking about putting place committees about it. The last 18 months, in Wall Street, these [education companies] are getting the highest valuations and transactions… so cybersecurity always follows with the industry. Same thing with fintech. When fintech started 25 years ago, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo having something online, nobody thought about it and then slowly cybersecurity became a standard.”
New Jersey offers all the access to the finance industry in New York City at a more affordable price. Located just 10 minutes from New York City by train, it takes less time to travel from Jersey City to Wall Street than it does from Midtown Manhattan. Major telecom companies such as Verizon and Nokia Bell Labs also call New Jersey home, providing excellent opportunities for collaboration and research.
KM: “NJ has its own set of cybersecurity product development companies, local law enforcement agencies, and training facilities. But there is still more supply for private companies involved in cybersecurity to hire regarding NJ graduates.”
DLC: “I think the fact that the educational opportunities are here in New Jersey lends itself to the fact that New Jersey is very strong in this area. It’s just a matter of developing that human capital by taking the education and training opportunities that are available to them. And at NJII, you know by partnering with corporate individuals, we can scale. New Jersey is the most densely populated state. So the bodies are here and if the education is here, it’s just a matter of educating those people.”
As the cybersecurity industry continues to evolve, both NJIT and Fairleigh Dickinson University will play a major role in New Jersey’s ecosystem. Both have new facilities dedicated to the field, both are NSA Centers for Academic Excellence, and each are offering multiple degrees for students to thrive at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
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