Filling the cyber talent gap
Raytheon scholarship program encourages women to pursue cybersecurity careers
Valecia Maclin has wanted to be an engineer since she was in middle school. Study and hard work got her there: Today, she is a cybersecurity program director at Raytheon.
And while women are less inclined toward and informed about careers in cybersecurity than men, according to a 2014 survey, that didn't faze Maclin.
"I never thought that my gender or race would impede my career or growth," she said. "WIll there be challenges? Sure, sometimes."
That's the message Maclin wants to share—that women can be successful in science, technology, engineering and math careers.
Raytheon has a similar message: The best ideas come from diverse teams of people from different backgrounds and perspectives. The company partnered with the (ISC)2 Foundation on a new scholarship program designed to encourage college women to pursue cybersecurity degrees. The program is valued at $90,000 over three years.
Raytheon announced the scholarship on Feb. 25 to commemorate Girl Day, a movement sponsored by DiscoverE to teach girls how creative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world. That fits with Raytheon's mission of helping to close the gender gap in engineering.
It helps to reach budding engineers when they're young. In the 8th grade, Maclin’s teacher assigned her to write a paper on "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up." Maclin planned on writing about her ambitions to become a doctor; then she had to dissect a frog. But after her father, an aerospace mechanical engineer, took her to work, Maclin's term paper topic and career plans changed. She was hooked on engineering.
"He showed me designs that he had drawn on paper, and then showed me the finished product," Maclin said. "I was inspired by how he was able to make something on a piece of paper come to life, and he was doing it for a noble cause—to protect our men and women in uniform. Also, it didn't hurt that he had a really big, nice office."
Maclin has risen through the ranks thanks to a combination of technical, financial, people and leadership skills.
"Math is a great equalizer, because it's not subjective. There's a right answer and a wrong answer," she said. "It's problem-solving and coming up with solutions."
But number-crunching isn't all engineers do. Which, Maclin said, busts another myth: "I think there's a misconception that engineers sit in dark rooms and don't get much sunlight. But there's nothing further from the truth. We're still a people business. I love building relationships and working with people."