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How Can We Satisfy the Hunger for Talent

Date of Publish: 4 December 2019


According to the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Singapore is set to face a potential talent shortage of 3,400 cybersecurity professionals by 2020. The IT Society finds out how we can tackle the issue and introduce more diversity into the industry from Tay Bee Kheng, Managing Director of Customer Experience Renewals for Asia-Pacific, Japan and China at Cisco. Prior to taking on this role in August, Bee Kheng was the Managing Director for Cisco Singapore and Brunei for three years.

Q: Why does cybersecurity matter?

BK: Singapore is making a push towards becoming a Smart Nation. The three key pillars that support the Smart Nation goals are: Digital Economy, Digital Government and Digital Society. The first is about adopting and embracing digitalisation across the economy. The second focuses on using data, connectivity and computing decisively Singapore is making a push towards becoming a Smart Nation. The three key pillars that support the Smart Nation goals are: Digital Economy, Digital Government and Digital Society. The first is about adopting and embracing digitalisation across the economy. The second focuses on using data, connectivity and computing decisively

However, cybersecurity has to be the foundation on which these are built. New digital initiatives can only be sustainable and successful if they are secure and people have confidence in them being secure, not least because we are living in a hyper-connected world, where hackers have new opportunities every day to attack businesses, governments and consumers alike. Luckily for us, Singapore recognises this, and the government has taken various measures to ensure our digital efforts have cybersecurity embedded in them right from the start.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?

BK: One of the biggest challenges for the industry is the shortage of talent, which is a trend across the globe. Various estimates put the worldwide talent shortage in the sector between 2.5 million to 3 million security professionals in the next couple of years. Challenges exist in both capacity and capabilities. Certain skill sets such as systems architecture design, behavioural analytics, and digital forensics are in short supply. There is also inadequate expertise in cybersecurity support sectors, such as cyber insurance.

One of the biggest challenges for the industry is the shortage of talent, which is a trend across the globe. Various estimates put the worldwide talent shortage in the sector between 2.5 million to 3 million security professionals in the next couple of years. Challenges exist in both capacity and capabilities. Certain skill sets such as systems architecture design, behavioural analytics, and digital forensics are in short supply. There is also inadequate expertise in cybersecurity support sectors, such as cyber insurance.

Q: How then can we overcome this barrier?

BK: I think all key stakeholders, government, educational institutions and the corporate sector need to work together to address the issue. In Singapore, the government has launched various initiatives, such as the SG Cyber Youth and Smart Nation Scholarship, to help promote and increase awareness of cybersecurity as a career option. Educational institutions are also starting to offer more cybersecurity courses as part of their curriculum.

In my opinion, the corporate sector has a huge role to play on this front, not least because of the technical expertise they have in the sector. At Cisco, we are working with 17 Institutes of Higher Learning through our Networking Academy to train students across the country. Since its inception, the Networking Academy has trained more than 60,000 students in the country, including almost 1,500 students who have taken cybersecurity courses, to date.

Q: Do you think these measures are sufficient to drive a healthy tech talent landscape in Singapore?

BK: I do believe these measures will help. But I also think it is important that we sustain these efforts in the long run. Technology is changing and advancing at an unprecedented pace. This means that skill sets required five years from now, including in cybersecurity, could be very different from what is needed today. We need to ensure that we not only equip the future workforce with the relevant skills but also continue to retain and upskill the current pool of workers in the sector. This will be critical to ensure we have a strong talent pool with energy and innovative ideas to drive Singaporeís tech industry and Smart Nation vision forward in a secure manner.

Q: Much has been said about increasing the diversity of the tech industrys talent pool. What is your take on it?

BK: A diverse talent pool makes for better innovation and creativity, both of which are crucial to growing our tech industry. However, despite available opportunities, few women are joining the industry. For instance, at the recent session of the Youth Cyber Exploration Programme (YCEP) organised by CSA and in collaboration with all five polytechnics, only a handful of girls participated. It is critical that we make an effort to make cybersecurity more attractive to girls and women. One of the ways companies can do that is by being flexible with work arrangements. At Cisco, we empower employees to work any time, from anywhere and using any device. It is not surprising that our senior leadership team consists of many women. At the same time, instead of worrying about juggling family and work, women must have faith that they can do it and just try. Only then can they truly find out what they are able to achieve.

It is not just about gender diversity and inclusion. We should also adopt an open and learning mindset where hiring diverse talent is concerned. At Cisco, one of our colleagues from HR in Singapore decided to pursue a career in cybersecurity. He took the necessary courses, gained relevant knowledge and is now working full time with the cybersecurity team.

Q: What would you say to encourage youths interested in joining the cybersecurity industry?

BK: My advice is simple: Do not give up. I have found that the more time and effort you put in, the higher the possibility that opportunities will come knocking. Besides, there is never a dull moment in the industry. So, if you do not want a boring and monotonous career, you should consider joining the cybersecurity industry. In Singapores drive towards fulfilling its Smart Nation vision, there are plenty of career prospects for cybersecurity professionals. The future is bright and paved with exciting career opportunities.

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