Do we really need higher education to solve our perceived and actual security needs?

I remain an outspoken critic of the notion that we have an actual critical skills shortage. I accept that some folks have a tough time finding and retaining the talent they seek. Lost in the discussion is often what to do about it. I’m a proponent of education. My recent work in South Carolina, however, opened my eyes to the concept of a technical vocational track. Think STEM (though I prefer STEAM - that’s another post) that prepares our children for immediate, gratifying jobs that pay well. What role does higher education and advanced degrees play? What prompted this conversation is an email thread that started when John Boling shared his reactions to a call for people to get a Master’s degree in Cyber Security. He disagreed. John Boling (@CySocSci) is a security veteran who followed his own path to success. Currently working as a Senior Security Consultant, he started on the front lines supporting MS-DOS and Windows before completing degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the National Intelligence University. A conforming contradiction, he boldly blends business, technology, and social science to understand security threats. I’ve known John for over a decade. I continue to marvel at the consistency in which he sees things before others. He also routinely helps others make connections that benefit them. I trust his analysis and seek his opinion on a regular basis. His message caught my attention when it started with a simple summary: “There is only one, I repeat 1, reason to spend time in graduate school focused on security principals for technology: You have a passion for it!!!” His message was in response to a blog post suggesting the solution to our shortage was higher educated and advanced degrees. Our resulting discussion shares insights important for security leaders to consider. A lot is written lately about mindset as a key factor for success. You note the importance of mindset as a starting point for security. Why? Mindset is the critical success factor in many industries. Would you want a teacher that is just collecting a check to babysit, or one that inspires and encourages their students? While their passion may wax and wane over the years, deep down a successful teacher exists to teach. The medical industry is another one that shows the importance of mindset within specific roles. Consider all the jobs related to caring for patients. Many doctors would make horrible EMTs even with their knowledge, and many good quality EMTs do not have the desire to pursue a medical degree. These roles are symbiotic and feed different needs for the practitioners. This comparative game can be played for many roles within this industry. The security discipline requires a desire to solve problems while living in...

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