“I had jet-black hair when I started in cybersecurity,” Stanton Gatewood joked at the 2017 annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. And while it’s true that he’s spent more than 30 years in the field, and the past two with the state, Georgia’s chief information security officer is focused on the future.
Gatewood is of course working to protect his state from the attacks that lurk around every corner in our connected world. While they are good at recovery, he said, at the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) they’re trying to improve situational awareness, spotting incoming attacks before they happen. “There is no such thing as 100 percent security,” Gatewood said. “We have to take that posture.”
The solution? Building the next-generation cyberworkforce, and that’s a major driver behind the Hull McKnight Cyber and Innovation Lab, which broke ground in Augusta last year. Gatewood currently teaches an online Workforce Academy that will move to the lab when it’s complete, as part of an effort to get that next generation into the field. One of the hurdles he points to is that “not everybody’s interested in cybersecurity as far as making it their future or their career.”
While the first class at the Workforce Academy targeted training information security officers, in 2018 they’re opening it up to mid-career professionals looking for a change, and also seeing interest from students coming out of the K-12 system. One of Gatewood’s goals is that he’ll be able to introduce them to career pathways and show them “what it takes to get from cybersecurity entry-level specialist all the way through to CISO.”
Like many in his position, Gatewood is quick to credit many of his accomplishments to working with supportive state leadership. They know “what right looks like, and they’re fully behind it with policies and processes and technology and awareness and people,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful time to be in the career field.”
Gatewood’s enthusiasm for his work is contagious, and pairing it with the support of his colleagues seems like the right recipe to make cybersecurity attractive. Because for Gatewood, it’s just cool.
Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 10 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.