Information System Security Association (ISSA) is a global professional association for those in the cybersecurity industry, but a local chapter is focusing more on prospects than professionals.
The Central Maryland Chapter of ISSA, operating out of Howard County, hosts a broad range of activities to promote the cybersecurity profession, including monthly educational and networking meetings, Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) study groups and an annual daylong cybersecurity conference.
The chapter’s leadership is comprised of several longtime industry experts, but the organization’s primary objective is to build the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
“The core goal of the organization is to help promote the [cybersecurity] industry, but also help usher in some of the younger talent,” said William Smith Jr., chapter president and insider threat analyst at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “Just looking at our chapter here, most of the board members are very seasoned senior leaders, but we’re not going to be around forever.”
This chapter has existed for over 30 years. Leaders rebranded four years ago from the “Baltimore chapter” to the broader geographic title in order to increase its sphere of influence.
The chapter relies on cybersecurity professionals and vendors to lead instruction for educational meetings, while sponsors provide the space for most events. The monthly meetings not only provide education for members, but allow them to build connections with potential partners.
“We have an educational topic, then we provide time for people to network and get to know others in the field that they may want to work with,” said Phil Rogofsky, STEM coordinator for the chapter.
CISSP study groups, hosted twice a year, offer a 14-week training program that feature several industry experts offering instruction on topics in the cybersecurity industry such as risk management, network security and security operations. The program concludes with an exam based on the “CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide” book by authors Shon Harris and Fernando Maymi.
Though students might already be swamped with exams, they have an incentive to join, as well.
The chapter coordinated with UMBC and Carroll Community College to set up student chapters, giving students full access to ISSA membership resources at a lower rate than general members.
The organization also works with several Howard County public schools, encouraging students to attend the events. It is looking to extend its outreach to more community colleges as well.
“The chapter is very supportive of STEM efforts, particularly those that try to promote kids into the cybersecurity field,” Rogofsky said. “If they’re willing to invest the time to get the necessary education, training and networking, then the opportunities are going to be out there for them.”
Smith Jr. said that although the cybersecurity industry is a laborious field, it provides professionals with security and new tasks to tackle each day.
“This is a very secure and dynamic field,” Smith Jr said. “This is a great way to have a career. It’s a challenging job. You’re not going to sit around and do the same thing over and over again, and it’s fun. It’s working with puzzles and trying to find technical solutions using your brain.”
In late February, the chapter will host its annual, daylong cybersecurity conference at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in Columbia.
This event will include several workshops and discussions about cybersecurity issues, providing an opportunity for prospective cybersecurity professionals to peek into their potential future in cybersecurity, as well as chapter involvement.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring in younger talent because that’s the future of our organization and also the industry,” Smith Jr. said. “A lot of our attention is focused on bringing in the younger crowd, but also keeping them interested so that they want to continue to interact and support the organization.”
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