As the world’s largest cyber security company, Symantec is uniquely positioned to lead an effort to close the industry workforce gap with diverse, well-trained talent. Working with leading educational nonprofits, Symantec Cyber Career Connection (Symantec C3) combines classroom-based training with meaningful hands-on internship experience and job placement support. Graduates leave the program prepared to step into vacant entry-level cyber security jobs, succeed in their careers, change their own lives, and help make the world a better, safer place. In 2019, Symantec’s Tempe, AZ office hosted Symantec C3 student interns for the first time. Debra McLaughlin, who runs the Symantec C3 program, recently sat down with Mathias Hoelzli, Information Security Manager and intern host, to hear about his experience.
DM: Tell me a little about your role at Symantec and your day-to-day work as a Manager of Information Security?
MH:My team manages vulnerabilities across our consumer products and we scan all of our assets – servers, network devices, anything with an IP address – continuously to chase down vulnerabilities. Last year, we closed out 1.3 million vulnerability tickets.
DM: With 3.5 million unfilled cyber security positions expected by 2021 we need a pipeline of prepared workers ready to defend organizations, governments, and people from digital threats. Research shows that individuals without a college degree could fill a large percentage of these positions. How do you feel about Symantec’s commitment to filling the cyber security pipeline with non-traditional talent?
MH:It’s easy to see the talent gap in information security. As a Manager at Symantec, it’s hard to fill a need on my team without bringing on an expensive hire. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, a top tier cyber college that requires one full year of internships. I saw through my internships how much learning happens on the job. Right now, we have a chance to find candidates and groom them to be successful cyber security workers, while not saddling them with student loan debt. I’m a huge supporter of training non-traditional talent and bringing interns on at Symantec.
DM: Symantec C3, our flagship corporate responsibility initiative, provides a pathway for underrepresented and underresourced young adults and veterans to fill in-demand cyber security jobs. How did you get involved with Symantec C3?
Having started my career with three internships, I have been a huge advocate. I have been asking my leadership for interns for some time, so when I saw some clips showing our engagement with Year Up, I was happy to throw my support behind it. After our Year Up Arizona partner came on site and presented their program, I happily volunteered to help mentor an intern. I have since been back twice to Year Up’s Tempe location to volunteer as a guest panelist and networking volunteer. As a result, I have 50+ new LinkedIn connections, some who ask advice periodically.
DM: Tell me about hosting Gilberto – how has he supported your team?
MH:The first month or so we focused on learning. We started by having Gilberto read things like Vulnerability Management for Dummiesand watch videos on the basics of vulnerability management through a combination of LinkedIn Learning and Cybrary.it. Then we transitioned into teaching him how to use the scanners and tools our team uses. We moved on to having him shadow team members and currently he’s doing parts of the scanning process as well as creating and assigning tickets on his own. As we near the end of the internship, he almost completely runs our Bug Bounty program by himself.
DM: What have you been most surprised by?
MH:As you move further into your career, it’s easy to forget about the excitement you brought with you in the beginning. Gilberto’s positivity is emanating. He comes in to work with a smile on his face every day and is eager to learn. He is constantly taking books home with him and learning and practicing new tools after hours. His positivity and passion rubs off on everyone on the team.
He has also helped remind our team how important our work is – we help people every single day. Symantec C3 interns are being trained in not just an in-demand field (cyber security is growing three times faster than other IT jobs1), but also a meaningful one. These students will go on to protect millions of people against cyber threats; it’s an incredibly rewarding career.
DM: What have been the biggest challenges of hosting an intern?
MH:Gilberto has been a very easy intern to manage and we haven’t had any issues. I do think it’s important for other hosts to remember that we’re not just teaching our interns cyber security skills, we’re helping them learn about office culture – what time we get in and leave the office, what we wear each day, how we communicate with management, etc.
DM: What advice do you have for Symantec C3 students starting their internships?
MH:The best way to succeed is to understand the flow of what we’re doing and figure out what we’re going to do next. I always tell Gilberto that the easiest way to please a manager is to take something off their plate. As an example, if I ask him to run a report for me, he could simply give me a excel file with some data and meet the requirement. But if he understands the greater objective, he can take that excel file one step further and perform some analysis that I was going to do and give me that instead. Every day, Gilberto asks “What can I do next?” and that initiative helps him be successful. You have to make learning the technology, growing your skills, and pushing yourself further, something that you do every single day.
- 78% graduation rate
- 63% of graduates are under-represented minorities in technology, 27% are female, and 15% are veterans
- 80% employed in cyber security or pursuing additional degrees within six months of graduation
- More than 1,100 students have entered Symantec C3 training program to date.
3 easy ways for organizations and individuals to get involved with Symantec C3
1- Host an intern at your company
Symantec C3 training partners provide the technical certifications and training but nothing compares to real-world experience. You can help by providing internship opportunities in which program participants will grow their skills through practical application and on-the-job training.
2- Hire a graduate
Qualified, diverse candidates are graduating from the Symantec C3 program and ready to help fill high-demand, hard to fill cyber security roles. Graduates leave the program prepared to succeed in their careers and to help solve today's cyber security challenges.
3- Become a mentor
Our educational partners need mentors to help young adults navigate new experiences and shape their careers. Mentoring is an extremely flexible volunteering commitment that anyone can take part in – either in person or from your place of work, home, or both. All you need is your expertise, skills and most importantly dedication to share what you have learned.