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Welcome to Cyber U: Raytheon Joins with Colleges to Train the Next Generation of Net Ninjas

Raytheon is helping inspire the next generation cyber leaders by mentoring college students in cyber competitions.

The Hollywood version of a cybersecurity expert is a bespectacled programmer bent over a computer, banging out code.

But for the modern cyber defender, programming is only part of a toolkit that also includes sociology, psychology, law, public policy and an understanding of the world’s financial and information systems.

“If you only focus on bits and bytes, you don’t hit all aspects of the problem,” said Dr. Fred Chang, director of Southern Methodist University’s Darwin Deason Cyber Institute.

To meet the expanding need for well-rounded cyber defenders, Raytheon has launched dozens of efforts nationwide aimed at cultivating all types of talented university students. They include a new partnership with the Deason Institute, hacker competitions, job fairs and even a program aimed at helping students get government security clearances.

“This is about helping Raytheon get ahead of the curve,” said Kent Pride, director of engineering operations for the company’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “These students are putting the ‘science’ back into computer science and developing the specialized cybersecurity skills we need in our workforce.”

At the Deason Institute in Dallas, Raytheon is partnering with professors on a multidisciplinary approach to fighting cyber threats. The curriculum combines technology, social science and law.

“We can write all the code we want, but if that code does not impact people socially or conform to law, the goals won’t be met,” said Chris Ayala, a Ph.D. student at the institute.

The school will eventually develop software frameworks that Raytheon can enhance for use in protecting customer networks.

“The current field is very much one that favors the attackers,” Chang said. “Something bad happens and then you have to react. We have to work to get ahead of that problem.”

The program is part of a decade of collaboration with SMU. Fifty-nine Raytheon employees have graduated from the school’s Master of Security Engineering program since it began in 2005.

Many Raytheon employees also mentor students who compete in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), presented by Raytheon. The competition's 2014 national finals were held April 25-27 in San Antonio, Texas.

“This competition is a way to identify talent,” said Paul Krier, a Raytheon employee who helped mentor the SMU team. “You see students who are interested in cybersecurity and have dedicated themselves to learning about it.”

The national competition is just one of dozens of events the company sponsors for promising programmers.

Raytheon’s Centers of Innovation hosts smaller challenges at schools nationwide, including the University of Wisconsin, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Oregon. The company also offers dozens of internships a year.

Southern Methodist University's National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition team poses for a photo after 2014 regionals. The competition is part of Raytheon's nationwide effort to cultivate cyber talent in colleges.

“These interns aren’t just filling seats,” said Jay Porter, director of operations of Raytheon Centers of Innovation. “They have real work to do on programs, and they have the support our customers.”

Eighty percent of those interns stay on to become full-time engineers.

To make it easier to enter the cybersecurity field, Raytheon also participates in the National Security Scholars Program, which offers scholarships, assistance with the security clearance process and future employment.

By helping students begin the clearance process, the scholars program ensures they can work on real contracts, said Jenny Smith, Raytheon’s director for the effort.

The program has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships to more than 180 students.

Raytheon sees the competitions, recruiting and partnerships as an investment, Porter said: a way to ensure a pipeline of top talent and remain the world leader in cyber defense.

“We keep pushing on the hiring front because that’s how we will seed the future,” he said.

Published: 04/18/2014

Last Updated: 12/19/2014

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