Historically the intersections between operational resiliency for industry, ranging from small businesses to global enterprises, and the need for a reimagined and reinvigorated community have yet to be obvious. But over the last few years, those intersections have become increasingly pronounced. Here’s what we’ve learned:    

  • What can be delivered digitally must and will be delivered digitally. Healthcare, education, manufacturing machine performance, water and power grid efficiency metrics focused on sustainability and reliability goals, and video calls with loved ones on the road. All delivered digitally.
  • Data has been operationalized – in business, government, and home. We rely on it more than ever for accurate and impactful decision-making in near real-time. Is the machine performing as spec’d? Did the traffic camera catch the cause of the accident? Does grandma look healthy?   
  • This demands the need to protect data and the networks this new digital world relies upon – for personal, proprietary, or national security reasons.

Composite of images from the CyberPatriot eventHaving said this, the demand for skilled resources to support and defend our new way of life has never been in more demand. This brings me to last weekend and the real reason for this blog. A skilled workforce and a digitally competent society are necessary now, more than ever. An organization making a significant impact in preparing future generations to be prepared, flexible, and resilient in this new digital world is the Air & Space Forces Association’s CyberPatriot. 

About the program

CyberPatriot is The National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air & Space Forces Association to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future. The centerpiece of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, which puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Through a series of online competition rounds, teams are given a set of virtual operating systems and are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services. The top teams in the nation earn all-expenses-paid trips to the National Capital Region for the National Finals Competition, where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money. CyberPatriot has captured the enthusiasm of a sporting event and wrapped it around an impactful cyber education initiative.

Cisco’s role

Cisco has had the honor of supporting CyberPatriot almost since its inception. Comprised of a team of volunteers from across the company, including Networking Academy, Cisco provides the Cisco Networking Challenge, a demanding Cisco Networking Academy-focused challenge that is held throughout the competition year. At the National Finals, the Cisco team runs the competition backbone for National Finals, as well as orchestrates one of the key competition challenges via the Cisco Networking Challenge.

This past weekend CyberPatriot hosted its 15th National Finals competition. Over 5,200 teams from across the country registered to compete in this year’s competition in one of three categories: Open Division, All Service Division, or Middle School. After a six-month battle, the top teams in each category are flown to Washington DC for a hands-on competition. In addition to national-level bragging rights, Cisco provides all members on the top three high school level teams (Open and All Service) with a generous educational grant. The students are amazing. Brilliant and motivated. And the diversity seen across these teams sets the bar at a level I’ve seldom experienced in my 37 years in technology.     

CyberPatriot is helping build the pipeline necessary for the new digital world we all live in. 

“I first started doing CyberPatriot my junior year of high school. My senior year I became the coordinator for the school. After I decided I wanted to keep doing stuff with networking so I started studying it in college. I wanted to keep helping out with CyberPatriot so I started mentoring and now our team finally made it to nationals.”
— Chase Larocque, Former participant turned mentor

Cisco NetAcad Challenge Champions


Check out additional resources from CyberPatriot and Cisco:



Cindy DeCarlo

Director, Sales Business Development