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Interview: Kimberly Sharpe, SecOps Institute Student

At the start of this year, Infosecurity received an email from a training provider startup business named the SecOps Cyber Institute which offers “leadership, well-being and exclusive human intelligence (HUMINT) tracks” taught by certified experts and specialists in intelligence, counter terrorism, counter surveillance and cybersecurity.

While training is not new, it is something that remains massively important in an industry with a shortage of skilled people, and so the human intelligence aspect of the company's offering to produce “a more well-rounded graduate” makes it stand out from the crowd. 

By completing course tracks, students will receive certifications including Comptia’s Security+, CISSP, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Certified Network Defense Architect (CNDA).In

Infosecurity met the company back in March during RSA Conference in San Francisco, and CMO Matt Pitchford said that the first class had been run and there were four more planned for May with the training provider looking to expand its presence into other cities from its native Indianapolis.  

Pitchford said that it is finding a situation where “so many people need to be trained,” which involved both new people entering the industry, and those people whose certificates have expired and need to be re-trained.

Led by CEO Jeremy Miller, who has put a specific focus on re-training retired military personnel with a background in the services himself, said: “We prepare our students with the ability to problem solve, be self-starters, take calculated risks and refuse the norm. We even train the mind, body and the spirit with our exclusive Human Intelligence, or HUMIT, training classes.”

Miller added that from the first class, he found that employers want employees to be trained “as it keeps them happy and they feel wanted,” and it also helps them advance their career.

Pitchford explained that some participants paid for the training themselves, and one moved from a career in cyber insurance to do the training. “We are not spending our time marketing to the masses,” Pitchford said, and that the human intelligence factor was a draw as teachers with backgrounds in the FBI and military “give a different perspective on cybersecurity” and how it fits into the bigger picture.

One person who has gone through the training is Kimberly Sharpe, who studied for the Security+ course. She told Infosecurity that coming from a background in graphic design, web security was new to her. “I’ve worked with the SecOps Cyber Institute and the work/study agreement is good and it is pretty affordable,” she said. 

So how did she come across the idea of a career in cybersecurity? In her personal experience of online gaming she had built tools for games, and upon learning more of the career prospects she found it “genuinely interesting and especially as we are more involved with IoT” as this showed how connected devices contained vulnerabilities and had a wider impact.

Sharpe said that the closest thing she had done to computer science was a degree in animation and creating 3D models for movies and games, but she did build scripts to make things easier, and that was the “closest to dealing with program or coding.” She said: “I taught myself web design and opportunities to create websites locally, and picked it up and learned some Javascript.” 

Sharpe came across the course via Miller and another company he is involved with, and she said she was able to “walk out of the course and understand FTP protocol and man in the middle attacks” and after completing the preparation course and doing her own independent study, she was able to study and prepare to take the exam. 

So what does the future hold for her? Well, firstly she wanted to pass the exam, but then continue with some of the other courses including malware detection, cloud and threat analysis, and “get some situation experience as you can only so much learn from a book.”

She admitted that she was keen to become more familiar with the tools that are used in cybersecurity, and the various career paths. “I am not sure on my path and I need to decide what is best. A lot of situations come up and I need to figure out where to fit in, but it’s fun!”

One thing she was keen on from this particular training was the way it encouraged questions and labs to try out software, and the interactive nature “was fun and it’s not just sitting looking at books.”

SecOps Cyber Institute founder and CTO David Spivey, said that by offering comprehensive skills-focused programs, it is helping their students launch their cybersecurity career or even improve their current technology skill set.

“Our goal is to offer affordable and comprehensive classes to make the next generation of cyber-warriors more well-rounded and battle-tested to engage emerging cyber-threats.”

Maybe this focus on soft skills will work out as a counter to the more technical training that is commonly offered, and this should succeed if the aptitude is there from people to learn more.

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