Finding – and keeping – the cybersecurity talent required for today’s digital economy is a serious challenge. And it’s getting worse. Here at Cisco, we’re perpetually hearing from employers and hiring managers about their struggles with the growing cybersecurity skills gap. How bad is it? Well, the RSA Conference and ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity: Implications for 2015 report found that more than half of the global professionals surveyed said that fewer than 25 percent of cybersecurity applicants were qualified to perform the tasks necessary for the job.

Any entity with an online presence is faced with a two-fold problem: Cyber criminals are rapidly proliferating and their tactics are evolving, but businesses don’t have the skilled individuals they need to anticipate vulnerabilities and lock down security. To make matters worse, technology changes rapidly, often leaving IT professionals without the advanced skills necessary to protect their companies. Imagine what those vulnerabilities can do to undermine not only businesses, but also municipalities, military installations, government agencies, and other entities.

This conundrum weighs heavily on chief information security officers and other IT executives. But isn’t it time to stop thinking of cybersecurity as just an IT issue? In fact, it’s an issue that directly affects every part of the enterprise. Every organization today needs trained security operations professionals who can monitor, identify, isolate, and proactively mitigate threats in real time. But finding the qualified talent for such a critical role can quickly become a full-time job itself.

Cybersecurity Is a Business Issue

We hear about these growing concerns from our customers all the time. And news stories tell us about the growing number of data breaches almost every day, leaving companies and their customers at the mercy of criminals. Often, it can seem like these criminals are winning the cybersecurity war.

But we have a way to outsmart them. Cisco is introducing a new Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program and enhancing its security certification portfolio. Cisco will invest  $10 million over a two-year period, to establish a scholarship program with the specific goal of increasing the cybersecurity talent pool. Through the program, Cisco will offer training, mentoring, and certification aligned with the Security Operations Center Analyst role.

Additionally, Cisco will be working with a comprehensive variety of organizations to leverage this scholarship as a platform to spur career interest and jump-start their employees’ careers in cybersecurity. This includes diversity organizations, veterans’ groups, and early-in-career audiences.

Updates to the Certification Portfolio: Good for Business, Good for Employees

Coupled with the scholarship launch is the introduction of the new Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Cyber Ops certification. It assesses individuals on the skills needed to assist with monitoring IT security systems, detecting cyber-attacks, gathering and analyzing evidence, correlating information, and coordinating responses to cyber incidents.

Through this program, learners entering the tech field will acquire a skill set that’s in extraordinarily high demand from companies in every industry. This is a boon to both individual learners as well as organizations.

Additionally, we’re introducing a revision to our existing Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Security certification. The updates address the new skills and education IT professionals at the expert level require to successfully address emerging and evolving technologies. For example, the updated curriculum includes assessments on the latest security technologies, including Advanced Threat Protection, Advanced Malware Protection, Next-Generation IPS, Virtualization, Automation, and Information Exchange. It also includes a new assessment approach to help ensure that candidates demonstrate knowledge and skills with Network Programmability, Cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT).

For their part, companies can hire from this fresh talent pool while also electing to reskill existing IT employees, conferring significantly enhanced value on workers who already know a company’s culture, infrastructure, and IT landscape.

Looking Ahead

Online users are generating massive quantities of data at a staggering pace, and an exponential number of connected devices are being added every day. We’re dealing with more complexity as well. In fact, in the IoT, devices are automatically creating 277 times more data than individuals are creating. Where we used to talk in terms of megabytes and gigabytes, the industry is now managing petabytes and zettabytes – orders of magnitude greater than anything we’ve managed before. And it’s still growing!

As we think about this new world and the continuous creation of interwoven systems, we are realizing that a new level of trust is required.

We must trust the systems that manage and process the data, the people and partners who access the data, and the systems, controls, fundamental technologies, and processes that protect the data. It’s increasingly clear that the entire online industry must do its part to train workers, helping them acquire the critical skills necessary to secure the Internet of Things.

By launching this new scholarship program, Cisco is playing a significant leadership role, helping the industry meet the current and future challenges of network security. In fact, Cisco is offering a practical and valuable solution to address the global shortage of highly-trained IT security experts.

For additional insights about the Global Cybersecurity Scholarship, check out the video below, where David Goeckeler — Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s Networking and Security Business Group — and Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Services discuss the scholarship.



For more information about the scholarship program, go to:

For more information about Cisco’s security certifications, go to:



Tejas R Vashi

Senior Director, Product Strategy & Marketing

Learning@Cisco, Cisco Services