Callie Dean is Creating the Cybersecurity Leaders of Tomorrow
Callie Dean’s job is to help build the cyber workforce of the future. If that sounds lofty, it is. But what she learned shortly after taking her position at the Cyber Innovations Center is something that Girl Scouts understands—creating the leaders of tomorrow means training the children of today.
Dean lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Cyber Innovations is based. The company’s larger mission is focusing on cyber workforce development in the region, handling recruiting for cybersecurity and IT companies in the area, and helping local universities create programming that will lead to a workforce that can feed into those companies.
“There’s a gap in the workforce in cybersecurity,” she says. “But you can’t start at the university level—the education needs to start in K-12 so that people know the basics.”
In addition to working with universities and local businesses, Dean—who is a proud Girl Scout alum—also helps develop the curricula for Girl Scout badges in cybersecurity and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as part of her company’s partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA. The programs include a variety of activities, including cryptology, cyber investigation, and trace route mapping. Dean has fond memories of selling cookies and camping, but she’s thrilled that Girl Scout programs today have a focus on STEM as well.
Dean’s background was in the arts, but she often thinks, “If only I had known” about the kind of job security that these computer skills can provide today. The worldwide STEM skills gap is projected to be 3.5 million jobs by 2021; a tenth of that is in the U.S. alone. Add to this the fact that only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce worldwide is women, and it’s easy to see that being a woman in this field can really set you up for a career that’s in demand. The biggest growth in this industry has been in the last decade, so it’s unsurprising that only a small number of women over the age of 30 have STEM skills.
Dean sees her job as public awareness as much as formal education. She believes that encouraging young people to learn these skills as children, and then major in computer science-related degrees later, starts with showing their parents that these careers are as valuable as, say, academics, law, and medicine.
“Cybersecurity addresses technology in an interesting way,” Dean says. “It’s easy to see how, with these skills, you could protect the nation. And there are a lot of ways that this has a personal connection for people.” Dean explains that many adults just don’t know that much about the nuances of the field. “You generally have to explain what it is, and we’re trying to demystify it for children as they’re growing up so that people—especially women—have cybersecurity on the tip of their tongue as a viable profession when they reach that stage in life.”