The path to cyber careers
Two women earn Raytheon grants to pursue cybersecurity degrees
Aileen Ma can tell you: Persistence pays off.
Three of her friends pestered Ma for days, asking her to join them as their fourth teammate in a cybersecurity competition. She balked.
“I didn’t think I’d be any help, and I was scared,” said Ma, 18, from Boulder, Colorado. “But they showed me how to use the programs, and then I became passionate about it. That competition really cemented cybersecurity as a career path for me.”
Ma will enter the freshman class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she plans to study computer science. She and Sophia Hu, 18, an incoming freshman at Princeton University, will be getting a little help from Raytheon and the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.
The students are receiving the Raytheon Women’s Cybersecurity Scholarship, which is administered by the center. Ma and Hu will both receive $8,000 toward tuition, fees and books, and possible internships with the company. Upon graduation, they’ll also receive aid from the center to receive the (ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification, or certification in another cyber discipline.
“Getting your CISSP in cybersecurity is like taking the bar exam for attorneys,” said Center Director Patrick Craven.
Ma and Hu were among 120 applicants for the scholarship. This is the third year Raytheon has offered the women’s cybersecurity scholarship. In 2016, the center received just 31 applications, and last year, it received 57.
“(the growth in applicant numbers) shows the great need out there,” Craven said. “And there’s also a great need for more cybersecurity professionals."
There will be a shortage of 1.8 million cyber professionals worldwide in the next five years, according to center research.
"And then you see that only 11 percent of the cyber workforce is women, and that’s a great growth opportunity," Craven said. "That’s why we think this Raytheon scholarship is so important.”
Catherine McLean, a former Raytheon Women's Cybersecurity Scholarship recipient, said the award allowed her to focus on her classes and school work. It also earned her three successful internships at the company.
"The internships were so beneficial, because each one was different, exposing me to the many different roles in the cybersecurity field, and it led to a full-time position," said McLean, now a Raytheon cybersecurity engineer.
Ma is interested in conducting research into cryptography. She’s already done some studies in RSA encryption.
“There’s some critical and vital data that’s protected by encryption that I find the subject fascinating,” she said.
Hu, a graduate of East Brunswick High School, New Jersey, is also a cryptography fan, but she’s leaning toward studying cyber defense policy.
“I really got interested in cybersecurity after attending an event sponsored by the NSA,” Hu said. “It’s challenging, interesting and becoming more important in our daily lives.”
Both students said the scholarship will give them more time to devote to their studies, and was a source of pride for themselves and family.
“I find it very encouraging,” Ma said. “Even if I’m not feeling confident, I have a major company that believes in me, and people telling to keep going, keep pursuing what you’re passionate about it.”
Raytheon invests in the scholarship program to help create a path to cyber careers for women, eliminate the talent shortage, gain strength through diversity and make our country and the world more secure.
"It's important for companies, like Raytheon, to continue to invest in and partner with organizations like (ISC)²," McLean said, "because the security industry needs diverse talent if it's going to solve the industry’s most difficult problems."