Mike Spisak is best known within IBM Security as a distinguished engineer, master inventor and the creator of Havyn, a voice-enabled digital assistant for cybersecurity analysts that uses Watson technology
But Mike’s many professional achievements are not the subject of today’s podcast. Instead, he is joined by Heather Ricciuto, academic outreach leader at IBM Security, to talk about their shared passion for promoting cybersecurity education, secrets for engaging new talent and how to “hack” the skills and diversity gaps that exist within the cybersecurity field.
A Shared Commitment STEM and Cybersecurity Education
Heather and Mike are both deeply dedicated to getting youth involved with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as cybersecurity.
In addition to regularly tackling cybersecurity projects at home with his own children (which is how Project Havyn came about in the first place), Mike works with the IBM Academy of Technology to help “advance the understanding of key technologies.” The academy’s Think events engage middle- and high-school kids on topics like cloud computing, blockchain and AI.
Another of Mike’s passions is Cyberday for Girls, which is an IBM program designed to help middle-school girls experience the impact of cybersecurity through live demos and compelling sessions. With women still severely underrepresented in information security, this type of cybersecurity education is key.
As Mike aptly puts it, it’s time to “hack” the diversity problem in the security industry. As well as fostering increased innovation by bringing more viewpoints and experiences into the field, companies with greater gender diversity also benefit in business terms — with upwards of 30 percent greater financial performance.
Mentoring — and How to Pay It Forward
Mentoring new hires is yet another of Mike’s priorities. Given the ever-widening skills gap, he sees great value in more experienced IT pros mentoring younger staff and passing their knowledge down the line.
He phrases it simply: “Mentoring is free and that means it’s priceless.” He only asks that those he mentors pay this advantage forward by taking on their own proteges.
Heather concludes the conversation with the same question you’re likely wondering at this point: How in the world does Mike find the time for so many initiatives and projects? For him, it’s about “living by the calendar” — keeping track of what he’s doing every day and then determining what’s necessary, what’s empowering and what needs to go. This strategy involves creating a vision, setting goals to achieve that vision and breaking these goals into tasks that take the top spots on his calendar.
Listen now to hear all of Mike’s inspiring insights on the value of cybersecurity education, and to meet more IBM Security team members who are working alongside Mike and Heather to make the world more cyber secure, follow our ongoing “Voices of Security” blog and podcast series.
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