NYC and Blackstone Partner – Next Level Converge Tour
Founding board member and CISO at Blackstone Group, Adam Fletcher, took on the challenge of supporting the Alliance’s first ever Converge Tour event in New York City. Our partners at Microsoft hosted the event at their Technology Center in Times Square, and students were wowed as they walked through the incredible facility. The student audience was comprised of 100 juniors and seniors from Brooklyn Tech High School, many of whom are majoring in software engineering.
Adam welcomed the students and discussed not only his passion for this exciting industry, but also his excitement for what the next generation will do to advance it. Alliance Executive Director, Sidney Plaza and Adam then kicked off the program with an overview of the global impact of cybersecurity, and the opportunities this rapidly growing industry represents for these students.
The program guided students through the basic principles of cybersecurity, digital citizenship and ethical use of technology. Alongside Adam were various members of his Blackstone team as well as security leaders from KPMG, Microsoft, Palo Alto, and IBM who volunteered as mentors for the day. This diverse group of volunteers showed the students the range of skills set, thought, roles and responsibilities in the cybersecurity industry.
Each new market brings new challenges, in both building the local community, and in understanding the logistical workings of new cities. New York City, one of the true wonders of America, challenged our team once again to get creative. When only 10 out of our 50 laptops showed up on time, we had to improvise on how best to structure the Capture The Flag activity.
The Capture the Flag activity is meant to not only test students’ cybersecurity knowledge, but also their collaboration and problem solving skills. Throughout the game, students tackle challenges relating to basic cybersecurity knowledge, encryption, cryptography, stenography, geolocation and ethical use of technology and compete against each other to take over the world.
Our typical program would break students into teams of 2-3, however, with the limited computers available, team sizes at this event were between 8-10. The teachers and staff from Brooklyn Tech should be commended on the focus and energy their students exhibited over the 1.5 hour game. Our volunteer security leaders answered questions and helped guide students through the challenges, and provided them with an opportunity to share their expertise and broaden the students knowledge of cybersecurity.
Our day was concluded with a special panel discussion, highlighting the many different roles in the cybersecurity industry. Adam Fletcher spoke to students about leading a complex team of practitioners, each with their own specialization.
Stacy Champagne (Insider Threat Program Lead for Blackstone), John Davis (CSO – Federal for Palo Alto Networks), and John Fromholtz (Blackstone Group) joined Adam on the panel and talked with the students about their current roles, career pathways, and what they feel makes a someone marketable in the cybersecurity space.
When asked what he is most excited about for the future of cybersecurity, John Davis, retired Major General with the US Army and current Chief Security Officer for Palo Alto Networks, said “You!” He went on to express how excited he is for what the next generation will do not only for the cybersecurity industry, but for all industries. He encouraged students to work hard towards their dreams and challenge themselves.
Students then had the opportunity to ask the panel questions ranging from technology, recruiting, development and more. This was a special event, and the first of many in New York City.
We’d like to thank our local partners for this event Blackstone, and for our Global Converge Tour Sposnors, Microsoft and Palo Alto Networks. These incredible workshops and our student outreach programs wouldn’t be possible without their support.
Thank you again to Adam Fletcher, his Blackstone team, and all of our volunteers for their time and commitment to our mission of closing the talent gap.