Last week while crowds were converging on Washington DC for the iconic Cherry Blossoms Festival, a group of about 285+ were also converging on DC for a cause that’s not as outwardly pretty nor temporary but holds tremendous beauty and promise of sustainability for those committed to elevating the national dialog on addressing the underrepresentation of minorities in cybersecurity.
The inaugural National Conference of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals turned out to be a resounding success featuring speakers, vendors and attendees from the public and private sectors and academia including representation from Facebook, NFL, Wells Fargo, ADP, Cisco Systems, Rapid7, Comcast, Intel Security, Verizon, Symantec, IBM Security, CapitalOne, DHS, IRS, E&Y, BAH among several others.
As a result of the generosity of sponsors, several donors and expectation shattering attendance, ICMCP raised enough monies to award:
- 10 Academic Scholarships
- 5 Certification Awards
- 1 Executive Development Award
The attendees received a special opening treat as a result of industry-giant Alberto Yépez, Venture Capitalist and Managing Director at Trident Capital Cybersecurity rearranged his travel schedule to deliver the opening luncheon keynote of Wednesday March 23rd. Alberto’s inspirational personal story as a first-generation American who migrated to the USA from Peru to chase his dream riveted the audience as did his “VC Funding 101” overview. His closing charge and call to action echoes the motto of the HITEC (Hispanic IT Executive Council) of which he’s the Chairman to “Pull Up as we Push Up” or as Maya Angelou would say, we have a responsibility to “Lift as we Rise.”
Wednesday’s afternoon sessions were ‘chocked full’ of great sessions filled with amazing speakers and divided in Leadership Track Sessions that day covered the perspectives of Security Executives and Recruiters on Ace’ing the Cyber Interview and Landing The BIG Cyber Job along with answering the question of Degree vs. Certification vs. Experience…which featured robust and substantive discussions by the panel of hiring executives. The final session dissected the synergies and sometime tensions between Cybersecurity and Privacy.
The Technical Track sessions offered diverse panels of industry, government and leaders from academia to discuss real-world solutions to Cyber Threat Detection & Response, Governance, Risk, and Compliance, World Class Security Operations Centers on low budget (with an emphasis on ICMCP’s “SOC for Academia” initiative), and explored the Business ROI for Penetration Testing.
The opening day concluded with a networking reception graciously hosted and sponsored by LogRhythm who was an early supporter of the conference.
Thursday March 24th was the first full day and kicked off with opening remarks by ICMCP’s Co-Founder / President, Devon Bryan and Strategic Advisory Board Chairman, Julian Waits. Their words could easily be summarized by the following statement, “WOW…as I look across the room, I am humbled and beyond grateful for YOUR attendance and contributions to making this a meaningful event. Yet, there remains so much more for us to do…”
In light of an exploding cyber threat landscape and the nexus with global homeland security, how fitting was it that we were blessed with riveting back-to-back keynotes first by Suzanne Spaulding, Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Debora Plunkett, Former Director, Information Assurance Directorate, National Security Agency. Ms. Spaulding began with a thoughtful presentation about DHS, NPPD, and their commitment to diversity across the agency and Ms. Plunkett finished with some practical advice interwoven with the life lessons she learned through her own NSA career journey.
Thursday’s general sessions included panels of some of industry’s thought leading panels of CEOs, CSOs, and CISOs. These all-star line-ups provided unique insights into their respective career journeys and some of the most challenging questions that we face today.
Thursday’s luncheon panel affectionately dubbed the “Women of Power” luncheon featured a truly all-star lineup of some of the cybersecurity industry’s leading female executives. Among the many call to actions issued at the conference, perhaps the most salient and most poignant was issued by Edna Conway, Chief Security Officer Global Value Chain, Cisco Systems Inc where charged the attendees with “Just ONE…imagine if every one of us in cyber today, reached out to Just ONE student to pull them along…”
The Thursday afternoon Leadership and Technical track sessions were also chocked full of goodies and featured though-provoking and engaging discussions about ‘Building Your Personal Brand’ as a cybersecurity practitioner while panelists deep dived on whether ‘Securing the Cloud’ was a ‘Myth or Reality,’ followed by insightful sessions on Cyber Threats Information Sharing which ran jointly with an candid and open “Ask the CISO” panel.
The final and perhaps most anticipated session of the second day was the Student Symposium where Facebook led an interactive Capture the Flag style “hackathon”. During the Student Symposium, students also had the opportunity to get their resumes reviewed by hiring professionals and receive invaluable insights on how to best position their achievements and their life experiences during interviews.
The transition to the evening’s events was highlighted by a networking reception sponsored by IBM. Shelley Westman, Vice President, Operations & Strategic Integration Initiatives at IBM gave a toast and shared IBM’s long commitment to diversity dating back to the 1800s when IBM hired its first black employee 10 years before NAACP was founded and shortly thereafter hired its first woman employee, 20 years before women had the right to vote. Shelley also cited the appointment of Ginni Rometty as CEO of IBM as among the firsts for the tech industry.
The closing Gala Awards Dinner could not have had a better bookending keynote than Myrna Soto, SVP & Global CISO, Comcast. Myrna kept the tempo and further fueled the passion with a riveting keynote and some very solid guidance for us all: “Success isn’t always vertical… Surround yourself with people who believe in you…”
The conference was concluded that evening with an Awards ceremony. The energy in the room was unbelievably high and represented the culmination of the start of everything ICMCP stands for as we were so fortunate enough to contribute to the journey of some very deserving individuals
This inaugural event exceeded our expectations and we look forward to building upon this momentum as we endeavor to “Bridge the Great Minority Cyber Divide”.
A few additional “Call to Action” items:
- Mark Your Calendars for next year’s event tentatively being planned for the third week of March 2017
- If you are as excited about the next event as we are, help us to make it even better by completing two brief surveys:
- If you are interested in helping ICMCP build that pipeline of diverse cyber security practitioners, please be sure to register at https://icmcp.org/register
On behalf of the ICMCP Community, THANK YOU for making this a memorable event and a special THANK YOU to our awesome speakers, generous sponsors, amazing event planners (CAPS LLC), great team of volunteers and our dedicated staff!
Co-Founder & President
International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP)