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By Dr. Mansur Hasib
Tue | Jun 9, 2015 | 2:40 PM PDT

Remarkable as it may seem, this scene will become more and more common as we all realize that the vast majority of cybersecurity problems are related to failures in leadership and governance. This is why my cybersecurity leadership classes have always been open to anyone from any background. If you speak, read, write and understand English, you will have no problem in my classes. As a matter of fact, without your mind cluttered up with wrong ideas, you will get the solid foundation you will need to be successful in leading cybersecurity strategy in any organization.

While attending several conferences recently, I had been explaining cybersecurity to many young students. Many had been wrongly told that without being a STEM major they cannot enter the cybersecurity field. One student who really wanted to enter the field lamented his Political Science studies in college. When I told him that my Bachelor's degree is in Economics and Politics and my Master's degree is in Political Science, and that cybersecurity is such a vast and interdisciplinary field that anyone can find their passion in some aspect of cybersecurity, he perked up his ears.

I explained that as an organizational leader, he would not be expected to write programs, hack into a computer or perform any scripting. While he would need to understand the technical aspects of cybersecurity at a business level, he would not be expected to perform any of the technical tasks himself. He would need to understand the holistic and interdisciplinary nature of cybersecurity. He would need to understand that without a balanced strategy of technology, policy and people, he or his organization could never be successful. In addition his organization would need to improve and innovate perennially. He would need to know who to hire and develop a strategy based around using the brains of all workers in the organization to move his organization forward. Understanding and engaging people and building high-performing teams would be his key to success.

I then introduced him to one of my graduate students who was working at one of the booths at the conference. She too had an undergraduate degree in Political Science. My student explained that she had some reservations before signing up. She shared the trepidation she had felt on her first day in class because of her lack of experience in the field. She also guessed she was the youngest member of the class. However, as the classes progressed she found out that she understood everything that was discussed in class. The readings and discussions had been fun and she had been an equal participant in the discussions with her classmates and instructor. She was even considering submitting her final research paper for publication to a cybersecurity magazine. She recognized how cybersecurity is the life blood of any organization and why leadership is important. And then came the best part: she emphatically remarked that she was enjoying herself so much that she felt inspired to pursue a doctoral degree in cybersecurity as soon as she completes her Master's degree!

I asked her what her career goals were and why she wanted to pursue a doctoral degree. With a big smile she explained that her personal goal was to develop a T personality—just as I had explained in class—and to be an ethical CEO someday. Interestingly, many of my students have their eyes set on that top position. They all understand that working for a CEO who does not understand cybersecurity leadership will be miserable. They will get blamed for all the problems and will have no empowerment to do the right thing. To make a difference they must become a CEO so they can do the right thing or work with a CEO who understands cybersecurity leadership.

We both explained to the young man what a T person is: someone with strong domain knowledge in one or two specialized areas (the stem of the T) but with a broad interdisciplinary perspective. So they can apply and adapt their specialized knowledge to solve a wide range of problems (the head of the T). People with T personalities can work in one industry and adapt quickly when they move to a completely different industry.

After the conversation, the young man was convinced that if he chooses to pursue his higher education in cybersecurity leadership he could become an excellent CEO someday. I smiled and shook his hand; he had just given me one of those priceless moments that we educators live for!