Students interested in cybersecurity speak to Interim State Chief Risk Officer Rob Main
Friday, August 27, 2021

NCDIT Fosters Cybersecurity Interest Among Local High School Students

Cybersecurity is a growing issue in North Carolina. Threats are rising, but the work force to help defend against them is not.
Aug 27, 2021

Bad nation states using cyber as a weapon. The N.C. Department of Information Technology's plans for quantum computing to combat threats to the state’s IT infrastructure. And the far-reaching impact of ransomware attacks.
They were all topics on the table in early August when students from Cary’s Panther Creek High School met with Secretary Jim Weaver and Interim State Chief Risk Officer Rob Main.
Senior Emily Chen had initiated the meeting after being named a National Cyber Scholar with Honors by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation – a distinction earned after ranking among the top 30 of more than 30,000 U.S. high school students in the 48-hour CyberStart America competition introducing teens to careers in cybersecurity.
“Prior to this program, I honestly had no idea I could pursue a career in cybersecurity,” Chen said. “I've gained skills that made me realize it's something I really enjoy doing.”

Along with her three classmates, Chen wanted to know more about how she could marry her new-found passion for cybersecurity with public service.
She contacted Main, who arranged a visit to NCDIT's main office in Raleigh to meet with staff in the department's Enterprise Security and Risk Management Office.
And to talk with the secretary.
“This is what we need – our youth taking interest in the state and how things are going,” Weaver told the students. “It’s fantastic, and I applaud all of you for being here and for taking an interest and for wanting to help.”
Cybersecurity is a growing concern in North Carolina and the United States. Threats are on the rise, but the work force to help defend against them is not. That creates a risk for the state.
"This deficit could be filled by local talent, but for that to happen, it is important to expose young people early to potential careers as well as educational resources that can help put them on a cybersecurity and IT career paths,” Main said.
That’s where programs like CyberStart America – formerly Girls Go CyberStart – come in.
NCDIT has been a sponsor since its inception, encouraging North Carolina teens to discover their interest in cybersecurity and develop their talents and skills. This year, 1,165 students from 173 schools across the state participated.
Eighteen, including Chen, received scholarships.
Her involvement with CyberStart America has now developed into an ongoing relationship with Main and his team.
She and her classmates are planning a return visit next month. They, as well as the other National Cyber Scholars, will also receive invitations to the department’s annual N.C. Cybersecurity Awareness Symposium in October. 
“I've always been interested in computers, but I didn't like the idea of just sitting in front of my laptop and slapping away at my keyboard just to code applications,” she said. “I want to apply my skills to real-word scenarios I've seen in the news in my state. Cybersecurity is now what I likely want to pursue.”

Photo caption: Emily Chen, left, Kiran Guru, Lalitha Nanaswini and Rishik Pavani are greeted by Interim State Chief Risk Officer Rob Main on their visit to NCDIT's main office on Aug. 3, 2021.

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