Garrett College Students Attend Second Cybersecurity Industry Expert Day



It is well-known that there is a huge, urgent, and growing unmet need for cybersecurity professionals in the United States—209,000 in a recent Bureau of Labor study. Cisco, the worldwide leader in information technology and networking puts the number at one million jobs world-wide. New students, as well as those already in the tech field, are flooding into cybersecurity education programs with the growing realization that expertise in information security can also mean a substantial bump in pay.  What is sometimes less understood is that cybersecurity is a concept that touches many disciplines and requires many diverse job skills. Students are increasingly asking “what will a job in cybersecurity look like for me?”

On Friday, April 28, 2017, Garrett College staff and faculty in the Cybersecurity and Network Administration programs invited cybersecurity professionals from several local organizations to address students’ questions about what to expect from their careers, and how to make the most of the opportunities out there. For the second “Cybersecurity Industry Expert Day” lunch and learn, students in these Garrett College IT Associate of Applied Sciences (A.A.S.) and Certificate programs heard professionals speak about employer expectations, job requirements, and ways to make themselves stand out as they compete in this rapidly evolving job market. This year, Trey Clark, CISSP, Associate Partner, Cyber & Biometrics at IBM’s Rocket Center facility and his colleague, Cecelia Schartiger, a Compliance Officer for IBM’s highly-secured cloud environment for U.S. government clients, provided some insight into their employer’s particular needs. High on the list of requirements, Clark noted, is the necessity that candidates have passed crucial certification exams. Achievement of these professional “certs” in various essential areas of cybersecurity proves that an individual has the knowledge and specialization to work with a variety of hardware, software and networks. Common certifications acknowledged by employers as critical include Security +, Network +, A +, and Linux +, all of which are covered in the Cybersecurity curriculum at Garrett College. The classes that prepare students for each of these certifications culminate in the certification exam as the final. Clark further stressed that IBM requires that individuals have passed the Security + exam for employment, as such certification indicates to employers that they are able to detect and mitigate the many types of cyber threats present in today’s technological environment.

IBM Compliance Officer Cecelia Schartiger enlightened students as to the many areas of cybersecurity creating new jobs in industry today, and the value of diverse educational and experiential background in successfully filling those positions. Schartiger explained that her own academic background and preparation includes an undergraduate teaching degree from Frostburg State University and subsequent teaching experience in the public school setting, as well as an understanding of cybersecurity concepts and technology from an online course at Allegany College of Maryland.

Nathaniel Watkins, Chief Information Officer at the Garrett County Department of Technology and Communication (DoTCom) and Garrett College alumnus, moved forward with that theme by encouraging students in the program to “do what you love.” Finding a way to parlay your passion for a particular discipline or topic into an expertise in the technology that impacts that field in today’s world can turn into a successful career in cybersecurity. He used as an example a student’s passion for automobiles intersecting with cybersecurity through learning the expertise required to secure the operating systems that run today’s vehicles. He also stressed the importance of thinking with an entrepreneurial mind and selling your technological strengths. He strongly agreed that certifications play an important role in moving forward in the field of information security.

Finally, Shawn Sisler, owner of Western MD Defense Systems, LLC, government defense contractor, addressed the process for obtaining various levels of US government security clearances, increasingly required for certain government and defense industry jobs. He defined security clearance or “eligibility for access” and described the difference between clearances and the levels of classified information based on their criticality to national interests. Especially illuminating to many students, he dispelled some of the myths associated with what is the actual criteria for obtaining a security clearance, stressing that accuracy and honesty are key in determining how far an individual will get in the process. He further noted that there is no determinative set of guidelines, and that each case is investigated and treated individually, but highlighted several red flags related to behavior and circumstance. A one-credit online course, Introduction to Security Clearances and Background Checks, covering the subject matter in greater depth will be offered during the summer session at Garrett College. Students had the opportunity to ask questions of each cybersecurity professional with respect to the topics presented, as well as to gain tips on interviewing and creating a striking resume.

Individuals interested in pursuing an education in cybersecurity at Garrett College or to register for the Intro to Security Clearances and Background Checks course for the summer session are encouraged to contact the Garrett College Office of Admissions office at 301-387-3044, or to email Jill Horner, TAACCCT grant coordinator for the Cybersecurity program, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .