(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)
There are over 209,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. alone according to a Peninsula Press analysis from 2015, and demand is quickly growing. There just aren’t enough people trained to take the gigs.
Bill Shelton knows why, in a very personal, first-hand sense. Though Shelton has a master’s in information systems, it wasn’t until he took part in the Hack Reactor programming bootcamp in San Francisco that he actually landed a job. It was the hands-on, immersive, real-world training that made all the difference — the kind training bootcamps excel at.
After starting his job as senior engineer at F5 Networks Shelton made another discovery — there aren’t enough backend engineers who know about cybersecurity. This leaves the very code base on many online companies vulnerable to attack. This, he thought, is a problem proper bootcamp training can solve.
So Shelton called up his friend Rick Garcia (they’d had many conversations about starting a company over the years) and together they founded Empower Security Academy, a bootcamp to train backend devs fluent in cyber and cloud security.
The duo decided D.C. would be a good place to develop their young company, so they packed up and drove across the country, arriving, about three weeks ago, at the WeWork in Dupont. Shelton believes a lot of these unfilled backend security type jobs are based in and around D.C., and “we wanted to go after the biggest market,” he said.
Empower is a little bit different from your average General Assembly-style bootcamp. The four-month program focuses not on teaching everything you need to know about cybersecurity engineering, but on taking individuals with a decent skill set and bringing them to the next level. For this reason Empower requires that students do significant preparation before the program even begins.
“We’re not trying to be a mill,” Garcia said, adding that Empower plans to take only around 10 students in its first cohort. The duo is hoping that being selective in their admissions will help the company develop a strong brand in terms of the talent they produce and therefore it’ll be easy for their graduates to find jobs. This element is key — Shelton and Garcia plan to assess their curriculum and program based on the hiring statistics of their first cohort.
Another reason jobs are important — Empower’s bootcamp isn’t cheap. The full time, four-month program will cost $16,000, though there will be scholarships available for veterans, minorities and women. Shelton said he finds it sketchy that a lot of bootcamps don’t disclose hiring stats — he and Garcia hope to enable students to have a reasonable expectation of what their investment will yield.
The first cohort is scheduled to kick off on Oct. 15, though for the moment Shelton and Garcia have only one enrolled student. While the team is very new to #dctech, Shelton and Garcia are working hard to make the connections that will matter. They’re reaching out to tech companies that might become hiring partners, and holding free, informational meetups on general cybersecurity topics to attract potential students. And all this while also making sure that their curriculum is good to go for October, of course.-30-
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