Filling the gap: How Virginia is working to meet demands of cyber boom

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — When Erwin Karincic graduates from Virginia Commonwealth University, he has a big goal.

“My dream job would be to be a cyber security expert in the world,” he said.

The sophomore computer engineering student carrying a 4.0 GPA is on the right track.

“I was always interested in some part of technology,” said Karincic. “From a very young age.”

But it was the string of hacks, threats and breaches on major corporations — affecting hundreds of millions of people — that really piqued his interest.

“I was just like, what can we do to help them?” he said.

Data breaches are becoming more common in our tech-focused world. We expect cyber security experts to keep our information safe.

Virginia is home to more cyber security companies per capita than any other state. But there are also tens of thousands of high-paying job openings in the field, with too few people to fill them.

“There’s an explosion in the market,” said Roger Kriegshauser.

Kriegshauser is CEO of Darkblade Technologies and Director/Program Manager at Darkblade Systems.

“Virginians just in essence are innovative. I think it has a lot to do with our proximity to Washington, D.C., and obviously the federal government is a huge economic engine for that,” he said.

So popular, Gov. Terry McAuliffe often talks about how the workforce can’t meet the demand. He said there are 36,000 Virginia cyber jobs open today with an average starting pay of $88,000, citing Burning Glass Technologies.

So why are so many of these jobs left vacant?

Kriegshauser said they’re tough to fill.

“If we could find the qualified people, we could literally double in size as a company if we found what we like to call purple unicorns,” he said.

He defines purple unicorns as candidates with the perfect blend of academics, certifications, clearances and practical skills.

“It’s beyond challenging,” said Kriegshauser.

The commonwealth is working to train young to help meet the growing need early. Virginia just became the first state to introduce cyber security in kindergarten.

An increase in hackathons, boot camps and internships centered on technology and innovation aim to tie book smarts with practical application.

“That is going to be the lifeblood of the next generation,” said Kriegshauser.

But it’s not just young people who can benefit from the boom.

If you’re looking for a career change, this one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“The access to education, whether it’s the brick and mortar, whether it’s online, whether it’s some certification set of courses, you can absolutely retool yourself and learn something new,” said Kriegshauser.

To view the Cyber Virginia website, click HERE.

Click HERE to see some openings in the state.


Q&A with VCU student Erwin Karincic

What’s your advice to another young person interested in cyber security?
“I would say pick a technology and start learning that technology and just become and expert for that technology. Then, start looking at what people are doing wrong and try to see how you can improve it and whether or not you can sort of collaborate with the community. Even at a young age, help other people and then when you get a job you’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, I helped all of these people fix this software at this age.'”

Why is there a boom in cyber security?
“Because it’s so rapid, people don’t have time or energy to sort of get it right from the beginning. And because of that problem, all of cyber has become just fixing all of those things that were not fixed when they should have been fixed.”

What does the future of cyber security look like?
“We need to start getting it right from the beginning. So developers of software and electrical engineers doing the hardware have to work directly with cyber security professionals and sort of educate themselves and get it right from the beginning. Code secure software from the ground up and not it be an afterthought. Because as soon as that’s all an afterthought, there will be additional bugs that will not be able to get fixed unless it’s done right from the beginning.”


Q&A with Roger Kriegshauser of Darkblade Technologies & Darkblade Systems

What are you looking for in candidates?
“The potential for a young man or woman who wants a career in information technology or cyber is boundless in Virginia. We look for young men and women who are innovative at heart — people who love a challenge, who are not afraid to think outside the box, who are not primadonnas, but are qualified.”

What do you find that’s missing from the talent pool?
“They’re getting educated, they’re getting certifications and then they roll out to the workforce and they come to a guy like me or my partners and say, ‘Hey. I want a job.’ And we go, ‘What can you do?’ Because they haven’t really done anything. They’ve just been in school and they have their little projects and stuff, but it’s not practical. Part of that is the injection like the governor has encouraged of practical internships, practical projects where they gain not just education and academic stuff but life skills and actual practical application of IT, cyber, all that.”

How can parents help their children in this?
“I would encourage them to have their children think outside the box early and to innovate and think, “How could I solve this problem?”


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