This month, in honor of Black History Month, we spotlight Christopher Reynolds, a graduate from the Symantec C3 program. Today everything from medical devices to cars and wallets creates a cyber security risk and the need for cyber security talent is mounting. There are hundreds of thousands of cyber security positions that remain vacant around the world, however, companies still struggle to find qualified talent. Additionally, research shows a large percentage of these positions could be filled by individuals without a college degree—creating a tremendous opportunity to train candidates for these roles.
Symantec Cyber Career Connection (Symantec C3) partner NPower recently launched their campaign “The Future of Tech Has a Name” to launch 15,000 digital careers by 2022. We are excited to feature a new three-part series, “The Future of Cybersecurity Has a Name”, highlighting individual stories from our program that reflect a changing, diverse and qualified future pipeline of cyber security professionals.
Christopher Reynolds has been tinkering with computers for as long as he can remember. Christopher’s mother was in college as she raised him and needed to work on a Macintosh in the days before icons existed. At a young age, Christopher figured out the command-line interface to allow his mother to do her schoolwork; from there he was hooked.
His military career led him to a counter intelligence course where he learned how to protect numerous types of security – physical, digital, and personnel data, gleaning that information is a big part of how battles are won. His final role in the U.S. army was as a special agent in a top-secret facility, using different techniques to secure information and prevent hacks.
He became a single father and left the military, full of new skills and interests. He knew he wanted to continue to work in cyber security, but after job searching found that his military background didn’t transfer well into the corporate world. He enrolled in an MBA program focused on Computer Information Systems, and heard about certificate programs at The Stride Center, a Symantec C3 partner that prepares students for successful careers in tech. He knew he needed to take care of his young son, finish his MBA, and find work that he valued soon, and felt the Stride Center could provide the assistance and expertise to help him launch his civilian career.
“As an African American male with tattoos from my neck down and dreadlocks, when I walk into an interview, I have to have more than the candidate that looks like the hiring manager. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, people want to connect with people who are like them and those that look or speak differently can face bias. I didn’t have any formal IT education or work experience on my resume, but felt with certifications from the Stride Center and the Symantec C3 program, I would be equipped to get an IT job.”
Christopher took advantage of the program’s supportive instructors, engaging coursework, and employment services, enrolling in the Symantec C3 program after completing an A+ course. He made connections with fellow students, which eventually led him to an interview with Endsight, a managed service provider located in nearby Berkeley.
Endsight was impressed with his personality, passion, drive, and knowledge and hired him even though there wasn’t a particular job posted. “The Symantec C3 program at the Stride Center helped me become a jack of all trades and I learned things that I didn’t learn in my MBA program. With certificates in hand, a resume built, and interview preparation assistance, I knew I was ready to land this job.”
Christopher is part of Endsight’s help desk team, working with clients on challenges from “I can’t connect to my email” to “My server is on fire”. Each day is different and he gets to touch many different types of technology and applications. He works hard, loves his job, admires the company he works for, and is able to provide his son with a good life.
Growing up, Christopher experienced firsthand the effects of systemic racism and socio-economic bias. He kept trying and kept working towards his goals even when it was difficult. He now encourages others that face similar challenges to get into technology, even if the statistics don’t look promising. In its most recent 2015 report, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that only 2.2% of tech professionals in Silicon Valley were black.
“IT is a foreign language and a lot of people are afraid to jump in. The face of IT is changing. It is no longer for white males that wear pocket protectors; it’s for all of us. African Americans that are interested in technology need to be a part of this community. Get the right education and resources to support you, and knock on the door until it opens. I’m already inside and I’ll be waiting to hold that door open for you.”
Christopher also now serves on the Stride Center’s Alumni Council where he works to continue to transform the IT workforce. “We all know the diversity numbers in tech aren’t good. Do they mean people of color don’t have the right technical skills? That we aren’t smart enough for tech jobs? Are potential candidates uncomfortable when they don’t see anyone that looks like them at an interview? Is it that the workforce isn’t ready us? I don’t have the answers, but the Symantec C3 program and Stride Center are addressing these questions head on. Both are working hard to bring black men and women into technical jobs, while building a culture and community were everyone is welcome.”
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