IBM Veteran Training: Service Members Shine in Cyber Crisis Management Training

Training is paramount to enabling military veterans to transition successfully to civilian life, which is why many industries have implemented programs that provide veterans with the skills needed to prosper in new civilian careers. As the cybersecurity industry is challenged with a growing skills gap, IBM Citizenship, in partnership with Corporate America Supports You (CASY), is proudly helping veterans jump-start their civilian careers by offering cybersecurity training through the Veterans Accelerator program.

Veteran Training Fuels the Future of Cybersecurity

To provide veterans with the skills they need to succeed in the growing field of cybersecurity, IBM Citizenship hosted a week-long training program in July 2018 that taught veterans to use cybersecurity software. CASY also offered job support and placement assistance to veterans enrolled in the program.

The program was hosted at the IBM office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to the IBM X-Force Command Center cyber range simulator. This cyber range allows participants to respond to cyberattack simulations based on real-world events.

The training focused on teaching veterans to detect cybersecurity threats using IBM QRadar software. The live cyberattack simulation gave participants critically important hands-on experience to prepare them for the real world of cybersecurity, in which threats need to be identified and responded to as quickly as possible.

Training at the cyber range in Cambridge was a unique opportunity because of the simulated environment, said Stacey Cummings, program manager at CASY.

Seasoned Veterans and the IBM X-Force Command Center

In 2018, CASY has worked with IBM to bring training in i2 Analyst’s Notebook software and QRadar to more than 50 veterans around the U.S. The i2 Analyst’s Notebook is widely used across the public and private sectors to track fraud, human trafficking and other criminal activity.

“Participants successfully conducted a complex incident response to a sophisticated cyberattack,” said Benjamin Poernomo, executive security advisor at IBM Security.

“Because of the training and experience received at the event, they were able to perform just as well as seasoned security professionals,” Poernomo said. “Participants demonstrated technical proficiency in cyber investigations as well as ‘whole of organization’ response best practices. They were also exposed to the latest and greatest best practices from across the industry.”

While participants initially seemed tentative about — perhaps even awed by — the cyber range itself, they quickly acclimated with the support of Brigadier General Mark Merlino of the Massachusetts National Guard. “They were able to quickly move beyond their lack of experience with QRadar and take charge once they were thrust into the crisis situation,” Merlino said.

“This is my first time training on QRadar, and it’s been a personable and unique experience both in terms of the type of training and also interactions with the instructors and the supporters of the program,” said Jason Wilfong, a veteran who traveled from Seattle, Washington, to participate in the training.

“That has been one of the most valuable takeaways: I learned about the industry and made connections that will further my career,” said Wilfong. “I am very thankful to everyone with IBM and Corporate America Supports You for providing this training opportunity.”

IBM X-Force Command Center Training

(Source: IBM Security)

The Future of Cybersecurity

On the second day of the week-long training program, Ratunda “Rose” Carmel, lead talent acquisition partner at IBM Security, provided a lunchtime presentation for the veterans on opportunities in security. She also helped the veterans with their resumes, putting a focus on describing their military experience in a way that translates into employment opportunities in cybersecurity.

Moving forward, IBM and CASY will deliver individual resume consultations with each veteran, as well as phone screening interviews. The acquisition team is also actively exploring opportunities to advance the veterans by connecting them with hiring managers.

“We’re pleased to offer this training to veterans in Cambridge and help them in their journey to pursue careers in cybersecurity,” said Martin Laird, program manager at IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs.

As veterans transition from the military to the civilian workforce, cybersecurity offers them the chance to transition from national security defenders to defenders of sensitive personal, financial and corporate information — an appealing career to many, particularly because there is an urgent need for more of these experts.

Read the IBM Executive report: Addressing the Skills Gap with a New Collar Approach

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Zurkus is an influential writer covering a range of security topics with a focus on mitigating risks to businesses. Her work has been published in a variety of industry publications, most notably in CSO Online, where she also penned her own blog, Security Newb. She currently writes about cybersecurity for Medium and has contributed to CyberDB, Cybersecurity Ventures, K12 Tech Decisions, CIO Magazine, and The Parallax. In addition, she is a ghost writer and author of a memoir.