The demand for cyber talent in the United States exceeds the supply of cyber talent by almost 2:1, according to recent research. Amid that shortage of critical cybersecurity talent, being a workplace of choice is a competitive necessity—especially when you hold the largest single market share in Managed and Professional Security Services in the Americas and cyber is a key pillar of future growth.
“With the demand for cyber talent in the United States exceeding the supply, a robust cyber workforce culture is necessary to foster the workplace environment where cybersecurity professionals want to come, flourish, and stay,” said Patrick Gorman, Booz Allen Executive Vice President and leader of the firm’s cybersecurity business.
That culture was just recognized by the annual Inspiring Workplace Awards, with Booz Allen named a winner in the category of Inspiring Culture. Among 10 finalists in this category, Booz Allen was the Bronze Winner, joining the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Arity, a transportation analytics startup launched by Allstate, in the top three.
Listening, learning, and connecting
Booz Allen’s cyber workplace strategy began with a question: What resources make cyber professionals feel at home in a workplace so they can thrive? Based on input from a comprehensive employee survey, the firm:
- Expanded and enhanced its cybersecurity channel on Yammer, Booz Allen’s internal social media platform
- Connected employees to 2-3 briefings, tutorials, leadership chats, and fun events a month, all recorded and made available for in-demand viewing. Over the past three years, attendance has grown by over 200%
- Increased recognition of cyber employees through an Employee Spotlight and highlighted Booz Allen employees in recent cyber news media stories
“Our journey to create a differentiated cyber workforce culture started in 2018, when we stood up a firm-wide cyber engagement event series and created the Cyber Technical Excellence training program,” said Kelly Shannon, Booz Allen Senior Associate and the Cyber Business Operations lead overseeing the cyber workforce culture program. “We continued to evolve and expand these programs, augmenting them with new channels and opportunities for employees.”
In 2019, the firm launched BoozCon, its first-ever internal cyber conference and now an annual marquee event. The 2021 virtual conference attracted more than 1,500 attendees—up 60% from 2020’s attendance—from 27 states, Washington, D.C., the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Sixty-one cyber employees presented on topics from cyber defense operations to cyber engineering, architecture and cyber risk.
Bringing more people into a rewarding career path
Many cyber professionals learn about opportunities at Booz Allen through nationwide competitions. Teams from the firm have won or medaled in events including the DEFCON CMD+CNTL Cyber Range and S4 Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security Conference Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions.
Booz Allen supplements these talent-scouting efforts with a range of proactive tactics. One way is through hosting internal in-person and virtual competitions, such as Kaizen CTF and Hacker Trivia. Another is through community partnerships.
As one example, Booz Allen works with Hiring our Heroes to attract fresh cyber talent from the transitioning military, veteran, and military spouse communities. This includes providing information and resources on how to transition into a cybersecurity career and hearing from speakers about their personal experiences pivoting into this career field. Most recently, the firm stood up a brand new Mil/Tech fellowship program in Fayetteville, North Carolina offering hands-on training in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, analytics, data science, and software and cloud development for servicemembers transitioning out of Fort Bragg.
Cultivating talent from within
Booz Allen also develops cyber talent from within through an array of professional development and continuing education initiatives. These include:
- Firm-funded learning programs that enable approximately 650 employees each year to earn new cyber certifications
- Cyber range “live-fire” missions that simulate real world environments where cyber defenders go toe-to-toe with cyber offensive teams (penetration testers) to actively defend a network or system
- The Cyber Aptitude Assessment (CAA), developed by Booz Allen, and used internally at the firm, to assess an individual’s immutable cognitive and personality fit for a cybersecurity career and how they are likely to perform in the field.
Many activities are incorporated as part of Booz Allen’s Cyber Core Cohort program, which provides foundational and intermediate level training as part of the Cyber Technical Excellence program. The Cyber Core Cohort program includes cyber skills assessments, cyber wargame tabletop exercises, certification readiness, diagnostic and assessment, and a group capstone project, with program graduates serving as mentors. Women and BIPOC representation among Cohort program graduates was significantly higher than the current U.S. cybersecurity industry workforce representation of the same group.
“All of these initiatives are underpinned by Booz Allen’s existing workforce culture and Employee Value Proposition, which supports all employees in building relevant skills, receiving recognition for their contributions, and creating opportunities and choice,” Gorman said. “Today, our cyber workforce culture is thriving, and the programs established to support it are high achieving. This leads to best-in-class experiences for our employees – and mission critical results for our clients.”
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