Seminar: “Who is a Modern Cybersecurity Specialist?”

On 26 September 2023, the USAID Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure in Ukraine Activity, in partnership with Aspen Institute Kyiv, held a Seminar on “Who is a modern cybersecurity specialist?”. The objective of the Dialogue was to create a platform for discussing challenges in cybersecurity experts’ professional training and establishing cooperation between businesses and educational institutions to meet the market’s demand for specialists.

The Dialogue brought together representatives of leading technical universities that have established programs on cybersecurity/data security, representatives of private CS market actors that provide products and services in Ukraine, Representatives of business associations, and other stakeholders.

In his opening remarks, Denis Poltavets, Director of Program Development at the Aspen Institute Kyiv, expressed gratitude to the USAID Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure in Ukraine Activity for the opportunity to implement a program to foster cross-sectoral Dialogue to support the development of the cybersecurity market. He emphasized that the Dialogue would contribute to a better understanding of the directions for training cybersecurity professionals, which, in turn, would impact the growth of Ukraine’s cybersecurity ecosystem.

During the first session, “Meeting the Demand: Strategies for Bridging the Gap in Personnel Resources in the Cybersecurity Market,” speakers discussed the reasons for and potential solutions to the shortage of young cybersecurity experts. Vitalii Yakushev, CEO, 10Guards, Serhii Khariuk, Head of Offensive security, Divoro, Kyrylo Honcharuk, IT Projects Director, Ukrtelecom, Volodymyr Harashchenko, CISO, SOC Prime, talked about the current situation in the cybersecurity job market and the challenges of finding qualified professionals. They highlighted the following points:

  • There is a significant demand for cybersecurity professionals, and many companies need help attracting experts with the right skills and qualifications.
  • Practical experience and collaboration between universities and the private sector are becoming increasingly important. Some companies mentor students and engage with international communities to exchange knowledge and train potential employees.
  • Universities seldom provide the level of cybersecurity training needed due to outdated curricula, the motivation of teachers, and the demands of students.
  • The cybersecurity market requires a holistic approach and readiness to address complex challenges, so acquiring expertise takes time and investment.
  • Understanding risk management is becoming more critical for cybersecurity professionals.

During the session “From Theory to Practice: Exploring Effective Educational Programs in Cybersecurity,” the speakers discussed what skills educational institutions provide in training cybersecurity specialists. Trokhym Babych, Coordinator of the Cybersecurity Education Program at the Faculty of Informatics of the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Serhii Hnatiuk, PhD in Technical Sciences, Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology, National Aviation University, Valerii Tsiupa, CEO, International Cyber Academy, Oleksandr Adamov, Associate Professor of Computer Engineering Design Automation, Software Engineering Department, Blekinge Institute of Technology, spoke about effective programs that contribute to the training of qualified personnel and are implemented in educational institutions. The speakers also told which skills they pay the most attention to during the training of specialists:

  • Implementing changes in the education system is crucial to meet the needs of the modern cybersecurity market.
  • Students must work on their soft skills, such as flexibility, adaptability, teamwork, and presentation. However, the lack of in-person learning due to the pandemic is hindering the development of these skills.
  • Collaboration with foreign educational institutions helps improve educational programs for training qualified professionals.
  • Students can gain practical skills through partnerships with cybersecurity companies and internships.
  • Education should expand students’ horizons to enable them to make strategic decisions based on a broad perspective.
  • It’s essential to explain the practical value of education through real-world case studies.
  • Teachers should have financial motivation to be effective and innovative in their approaches.

During the session “Empowering the Next Generation: Examining Challenges and Charting Opportunities for Young Professionals in Cybersecurity,” the speakers discussed the relevance of the skills and knowledge taught in universities to the requirements of the cybersecurity market. Nataliia Tusina, Senior consultant, EY Ukraine, Yaroslav Derkachenko, IT and Cyber Auditor, Deloitte, Anastasiia Horozhanova, Cybersecurity Consultant, 10Guards, paid attention to internships of young professionals during their studies, which will contribute to the acquisition of practical experience:

  • Educational programs must adapt to the changing needs and demands of the cybersecurity market.
  • Soft skills for cybersecurity professionals, such as communication and presentation skills, are as essential as technical knowledge.
  • In addition to cybersecurity expertise, qualified professionals must be proficient in essential software, project management, adaptability, and flexibility.
  • Cybersecurity professionals should continuously reevaluate their skills and areas of improvement every 3.5 years.
  • Cybersecurity professionals should be versatile to meet the market’s challenges.

Oleksandr Smychnikov, Business Consulting Director, 10Guards LLC, moderated the Dialogue.

During 2022–2024, 10 stakeholders dialogues and 5 seminars will be held to discuss and find better solutions in the Сybersecurity field to build and improve Ukraine’s cyber resilience. 

The Cybersecurity Dialogue Program was made possible through support provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development under a grant provided by the USAID Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure in Ukraine Activity.