An issue I can relate to – the lack of women in cybersecurity. While women represented 25% of computing professionals in 2015, they only represented 10% of the information security professions.
Cisco gives us time to volunteer to make a difference in the world where we have a personal stake. I put my hours to use to change this statistic, and went back to summer camp!
A GenCyber summer camp, that is. A joint venture between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), this camp tries to address the tremendous shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the United States by creating interest at the K-12 level. The specific camp I attended was a collaboration between California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) and the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council.
I’ve been involved with K-12 STEM education events for 10 years and as a researcher for Cisco’s Security and Trust organization no cause was a better fit for my time.
Make no mistake, the 5-day event that hosted 250 middle school girls on the CSUSB campus was no ordinary summer camp. These girls learned to fly drones and program an Atari Breakout-like game on a Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer they got to take home after camp ended.
They created skits that demonstrated good cyber hygiene principles (such as “update software regularly” and “be cautious with free Wi-Fi”) using their imagination and a box of random props.
I recruited four of my Cisco colleagues from the Austin, TX site to donate their time as well, and two went above and beyond by spending 60+ hours preparing and leading a web security workshop.
I spent the entire week as a blue group co-leader, trying to impart my technical knowledge on the 50 girls assigned to us. I was amazed how fast the campers picked up concepts typically learned at the high school or collegiate level such as TCP/IP, navigating the Linux command line, and forensic analysis of USB thumb drives.
As this was the first time working with such a large group of pre-teens, I took many notes as my co-leads (a combination of Girl Scout Troop Leaders, licensed K-12 teachers, and counselors) stressed invaluable life skills such as teamwork, empathy, self-esteem, and taking responsibility.
By the end of the camp, I’m not sure who learned more, myself or the 250 brilliant girls who left ready to take on the world.
I do know I was grateful to go home with a box of Thin Mints and my first Girl Scout Patch in over 20 years.
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