Trend Micro says learning technical skills is just one part of becoming a cyber expert. Here’s how its skills program is training the next generation


The cybersecurity industry is hot—and there’s no sign its growth is going to cool down anytime soon. 

The size of the workforce is about 5.5 million strong, predicts cybersecurity certification nonprofit, ISC2. But, in order to have a digital world that is sufficiently protected, the industry needs to nearly double, with ISC2 noting in its 2023 workforce study that 4 million cybersecurity experts are needed globally. 

But with the rise of AI, the threat landscape within the cyber realm is more intense than ever. In fact, 75% of cybersecurity professionals say the current threat landscape is the most challenging it has been in the past five years.

Top cybersecurity company Trend Micro predicts that 2024 will be a “hotbed for new challenges in cybersecurity” with the continued development and use of AI, ML, cloud, and Web3 technologies.

So, becoming a cyber expert is more paramount than ever—but it’s more than just knowing the technical skills, says Steve Neville, director of strategic growth at Trend Micro. It’s about showing an eagerness to learn—something that is especially important in a field that is constantly evolving.

Trend Micro is in part trying to alleviate the growing skills gap—as well as increase diversity in the field—through its Next-Gen Cyber Defenders program, a free 10-week, mostly in-person skills training experience. 

“Security is not a single faceted thing. It is a multi-faceted, multi-layered thing. And we need people coming out of this program to understand that so they can then go apply it in meaningful ways,” Neville tells Fortune

Preparing for the workforce

The Next-Gen Cyber Defenders program provides students with the technical knowhow to properly secure digital systems—including learning about cloud, network, and Linux. Participants become acquainted with how to identify, isolate, and resolve cyber treats.

Students also interact with both Trend Micro solutions as well as software from industry leaders, like Amazon and Microsoft.

By the end of the program, students not only leave with the certification acknowledging their cyber defender completion, but also—as part of the coursework—industry-recognized product and cloud-computing certifications. For example, students may also leave the program with an AWS Certification.

But what’s even better, by the end of the program, some students may be able to immediately start their career.

“For us, the carrot at the end is that you might get a job,” Neville says.

More than half the people who have completed the program landed a job at Trend Micro. Others may end up at one of the 30,000 active partners who look to Trend Micro for cyber expertise. The program connects students with mentors and helps them through the entry-level job market.

The program operates in-person in the U.S. in Dallas as well as internationally in cities such as Ottawa, Mexico City, and Mumbai.

Anybody can learn cybersecurity

The program’s website notes that the most successful candidates will have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the last four years in an information and communication technology-related field or have relevant experience or training. Individuals are encouraged to have knowledge of networking concepts like server architecture, routing tables, and more—along with a required proficiency in basic Linux commands. Cybersecurity knowledge is not required, but key concept familiarity, the likes of ransomware, phishing, and firewalls, is encouraged.

While this may seem like a long laundry list of requirements and preferables, there are exceptions. Selena Dao is an example. 

She joined the program in 2020 with no prior background in IT. In fact, she was a practicing chemist and says she didn’t meet any of the program qualifications. But she was passionate. 

Today, she has a successful career in cyber as a sales engineer at Trend Micro

Neville says the best candidates for the Next-Gen Cyber Defenders programs are those who demonstrate a willingness to be collaborative and have enthusiasm for learning about the subject.

“This program really helped set a safe environment for us to learn to fail to ask questions, and just really learn from ground zero, right. And it’s rare to get that type of opportunity,” Dao tells Fortune

What sets the program apart, she says, is the emphasis on learning soft skills, such as identifying bias, listening to customer needs, as well as having empathy.

Plus, being able to hear directly from Trend Micro c-suite executives about the industry and their story helped her feel more confident.

“It reassured me to hear how they came about that, hey, I belong here. And I can take their advice and be able to excel in my position,” Dao adds.

One of her favorite experiences was a red team-blue team advanced threat defense course, where some students focus on hacker reconnaissance and the other side focus on defense and investigation.

Above all, she notes that cybersecurity does not have to be intimidating because it is impossible to know everything and you don’t have to be fully tech savvy to be successful. Plus, it’s a field where professionals can make a difference in the world by making it a safer digital space.

“As long as you have the passion to learn, you will get those technical skills, it does not matter,” Dao says. “As long as you can find the answer, you’re willing to ask for help and collaborate with others, then you can be successful at your job, that is something that I still do today.”

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