Afternoon Cyber Tea with Ann Johnson 4.11.23
Ep 73 | 4.11.23

Introducing Cyversity Western Washington


Ann Johnson: [Music] Welcome to "Afternoon Cyber Tea," where we talk with some of the biggest influencers in the industry about what is shaping the cyber landscape. And what is top of mind for the C suite and other key security decision makers. I'm Ann Johnson. Today we are airing a very special episode of "Afternoon Cyber Tea" to celebrate the launch of Cyversity Western Washington, and we're going to talk about that a bit later. I am thrilled to be joined today by two amazing industry thought leaders to chat about Cyversity, and more broadly talent, diversity, and representation in cybersecurity. First, Tim Youngblood is the Senior Vice President, Chief Security Officer, and Product Security Officer for T Mobile US, where he drives the strategic cybersecurity direction for the company and leads the cybersecurity organization. Tim also represents T Mobile in several leading forums including the FCC Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, the US Telecom International Communication CSO Council. And prior to T Mobile, Tim was the Chief Security Officer for several Fortune 100 Companies such as McDonald's, Kimberly Clark, and Dell. Tim also partners with venture capital firms to help fuel cybersecurity innovation across the industry. Welcome to "Afternoon Cyber Tea," Tim.

Tim Youngblood: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Ann Johnson: Now I want to introduce Malcolm Waters, who is currently the CEO and Principal at Innovation Technology, a technology and services company founded in 2016 in Olympia, Washington. Malcolm has a lot of business ventures, having launched multiple companies, including a small chain of restaurants in beautiful Park City, Utah. Prior to founding Ovation, Malcolm spent time at Nextel Communications, Mytel Corporation, Pepsi Cola, AOL, and Market Star. Malcolm is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the YMCA of Olympia, and Behavioral Health Resources of Olympia. He is also a member of the Olympia Roundtable. Welcome to "Afternoon Cyber Tea," Malcolm.

Malcolm Waters: Thank you for having me.

Ann Johnson: So on the show, we typically ask guests how they got their start in cyber, or why they've stayed in the industry throughout their careers. And I always get some nuggets of gold, because everyone's perspectives and experiences are so unique. So Tim and Malcolm, tell me how you got started. And why do you wake up every single day and decide cyber is still the place for you? Tim, let's start with you.

Tim Youngblood: Yeah, Ann, thank you. It's interesting, because I didn't necessarily look for cyber, but cyber found me. And I got started really at a very early age, working with computers. I had a friend that had a computer and invited me over. And from there, it was a match made in heaven. At that point in time, I was, you know, a young child in a single family home. We couldn't afford a computer. But my friend allowed me to use his until, you know, his mother got tired of seeing me and kick me out. And [laughter] so from there I went looking for where else could I get computer access, and started going to department stores and eventually, like, Radio Shacks, and I just taught myself how to code and develop from there. And there was a movie that came out during that time called "War Games," and if you guys that are old enough to remember that, was all about a hacker that had gotten access into a government system. And I was just, you know, completely impressed by what you're able to do with a computer and the power you would have, and also the dangers around it. And ever since then, I was pursuing a technology career, and got into, you know, the cyber world to formal auditing, work for KPMG for some time, and learn sort of the standard skills you need to be a good cyber practitioner, and I've been on that road ever since.

Ann Johnson: That's fantastic. And I'm old enough that I did see "War Games," and it was one of those really impactful movies. And that I hear a lot of people say it was something that at least started their curiosity about cyber, if nothing else, right?

Tim Youngblood: Yeah. And I think it inspired a whole generation, they just don't know that.

Ann Johnson: Exactly.

[ Laughter ]

Ann Johnson: Malcolm, I would love to hear about your journey.

[ Laughter ]

Malcolm Waters: My journey is unique in regards to getting into cyber. Like you, Tim, many years ago is actually I can think one of my aunts who was working with a company that were dealing with computers. This is way back, mid '80s, who sort of gave me a directive, and said, "Hey, I think this is the future, and you need to come over here and learn this." She was a manager there, and so I followed that direction and really fell in love with working with computers and learning about the nuances of it. I shortly after I had the opportunity to join America Online, AOL, just had a fantastic career with AOL. Started off in Jacksonville, Florida, they end up transferring me to Utah. Did that work there for probably about six or seven years. And through that process just continue to work with different companies in the IT space. When I actually launched with this company here in Washington state, it was actually in 2011, I had a couple partners at the time, 2016 is when I branched out on my own. My entry into cybersecurity was really more of a force push by my customer base. We were considered at the time a system integration company. We were putting in systems and doing a lot of hardware. And the ideal of protecting those endpoints or protecting hardware was just a natural migration. And so that's something that we adopted in back in 2020, and have been going strong ever since.

Ann Johnson: That's fantastic. And I love to hear that it was a customer push, right? That the customer said, we're recognizing this need, not just for, you know, infrastructure, but they need to secure that infrastructure as they deploy it and work with consulting companies like yours. So that's fantastic to hear it's being driven that way.

Malcolm Waters: I agree. I agree.

Ann Johnson: So before we dig into the discussion about Cyversity, I want to talk about the bigger picture. There's this cybersecurity talent shortage we hear about regularly. And as leaders and operators in the industry, I'm sure you see firsthand and understand how it impacts not only you, but your peers, your customers, your partners. So Malcolm, what's your perspective on some of the factors contributing to this talent gap we have today? And why is the shortage become so acute in the past few years?

Malcolm Waters: You know, that's a very good question. And I deal with a lot of that in regards to our firm, often I get involved with colleges during internships, some of the local high schools internships. You know, I think a big part of that is just access. Tim sort of alluded to it early on in his intro about having access to the technology. And for whatever reason, in regards to diverse communities, cyber and computer technology, and computer science isn't always at the forethought of a lot of our young people. And that's something that we really hope to change with what we're doing with our organization, and what we're trying to create here with the organization that brought us all together.

Tim Youngblood: Yeah, let me add to that too, because I- in the US there are at least 500,000 cybersecurity jobs that go unfulfilled. And, you know, women and minorities are vastly under represented there. And in our industry the stats are staggering, when you think about them. Only, like, 9 percent of cybersecurity experts are black, only about 4 percent are Hispanic. There's only 24 percent of cybersecurity jobs held by women. And so that gap is significant. And we need to have backgrounds that people can learn and grow and acknowledge this career is there for them. And I think those are some of the challenges we have, this kind of promoting cybersecurity to new audiences, having the ability to kind of assess, you know, the skills and talent of people who may aspire to be in this industry. And then, you know, getting people the knowledge to fill kind of specific roles that we need. Those are just three key kind of challenges I think we have to overcome.

Ann Johnson: Yeah. And I do wonder for you, Tim, if this is causing your peers or even you to make business or technical tradeoffs, because of the talent shortage. Are you having to change how you think about things?

Tim Youngblood: Yeah, definitely, in our space. I mean, T Mobile is a high tech company. You know, we move very fast over the guardrail. And I mean, our biggest limiting factor in most cases are resources, and, you know, having the right sort of technical skill at the right time. And the fact that there's a fight for talent for the resources that are out there. And so it's forced us, and I think many people in our industry to look for ways to supplement the resources we have, through automation, identifying areas where, you know, we can just build security into the products that we have, and actually make everybody around us, you know, more security capable. And so, I mean, it's a must have in today's challenges that we've got is that, you know, we've got to pull more people into this any way that we can.

Ann Johnson: Yeah, so let me ask this question of you, just as a follow up, right? You mentioned that there is a very, very small number of black and Hispanic professionals in cyber. There's a smaller number of women in cyber. You know, given that it would seem that with the talent shortage, it should be easy to recruit folks, we still have barriers to bringing people of color or women into cyber. Why do you think that is?

Tim Youngblood: Yeah. I think all of those challenges I mentioned, you know, there's kind of the lack of the connection into the communities there, right? There's not really great programs to feed people into the- to the industry, like, this needed. And even in the university level, there's still, you know, a very small number of universities that have a specialty of cybersecurity as an offer. So it's unfortunate, because, you know, we're not doing a great job of solving the problem. Now, you know, what's happening, I think you have a lot of big companies, like us, T Mobile, who have certain programs trying to build this out. We started at what's called an Explorer Program, where we go down to the high school level, and we try to identify talent, right? And row, that talent, you know, from the time they're in high school, and give them summer internships, get them trained up on some of the basic parts of cybersecurity. And then as they go into college, get them into the Apprentice Program so that they have, you know, a long-term work rotation into the cyber team. And then eventually, when they graduate, there's a job waiting for them.

Ann Johnson: You know, before we move in to talking about Cyversity, which has a full mission and charter around this topic. Malcolm, did you have any thoughts about other things we could be doing today, to open up the industry to folks that are underrepresented?

Malcolm Waters: Yeah. I think that, and I agree with Tim wholeheartedly about going down to the high school level, and maybe even going down further than that. I think that giving minority communities access to technology and technology training at an early age will help increase the career paths for a lot of these kids. I think what happens is, you know, a lot of our kids, for whatever reason, don't see this as a space that maybe they can thrive in. And part of that reason, I think it's because they just don't have any visibility into it. So I agree with Tim is, and we do the same thing. We work with our local high school, work with our local colleges. But we'd love to, as we look at working with Cyversity, create opportunities and programs that go even early on to, you know, adopt to some of the technology and career paths. We talk about this all the time. This is a very lucrative space to be in. And it's a lifelong career opportunity. And we really need to figure out how to get that messages out at an early point so that as kids are beginning to shape their ideals about their career paths, this really becomes one of them. I have been purposeful about this mission and about getting more minorities involved into the tech space. Because, you know, I look back at my career, and I've had a fantastic career and a great run. But I often remember, and I used to complain to my wife about it all the time, is a lot of those times in those rooms and executive rooms and executive decisions, I'm the only black person in the room. I'm the only person of color in the room. And I used to always wonder, where are we? I know that we're going to school and I know that we're graduating college, but why aren't we using technology as a career choice? So I think the early on we were able to influence young people into looking at the ideals and looking at IT or technology as a career path, the better chances we'll have to shape the future for the space.

Tim Youngblood: Yeah. And Malcolm, I just want to key in on one thing you said, because I think it's a huge challenge, particularly in, you know, the large enterprise area that we have to do a better job of retaining talent to sort of perpetuate the diversity and inclusion as needed. And when they see people that look like them, you know, being in leadership roles, they get inspired by that, right? And we have to be able to give those opportunities for the folks that are here now so that we can build the folks for tomorrow.

Malcolm Waters: I agree 100 percent. And a lot of it- it's so funny, because a lot of the times when I are talking with the group or talking with kids, I always ask them to, you know, pull out the smartphones, because everyone has one, right? And I always say, you know, I always ask one question. You ever thought to yourself how does that work? And, you know, you can see some of the kids that hear that question, and they sort of move past it. But I love to see that one kid that really that light bulb goes off and that's really the magic and the beauty of, you know, what we do.

Ann Johnson: Yeah. And I would say, people have heard me say our teams seem to be as diverse as the problems we're trying to solve, because you really get this group think if you don't bring in people with diverse backgrounds. And I was looking at, I think you'll both appreciate this. I was looking last year, and I don't remember where this picture was published, but there was a picture published by Harvard Law School of their black students. And I was thinking to myself, and it was last year, you know, this is 2022, and this picture to me is just amazing because of the percentage, right? But then I was thinking the years 2022, we should be well beyond the point where we're have to get super excited that we're finally making progress, because what happened, right? This should just be a given. And it's frustrating. You know, I've been in tech, like, both of you a very long time. And whilst we make progress, we seem to go, you know, one step forward, and two steps back. So when I think about that, then, an organization that I believe is doing this amazing job of driving improvement is Cyversity. And Cyversity, for those of you who don't know it, is a national nonprofit that aims to improve the representation of women and minorities in cyber. And today, just today, folks, Tim, Malcolm, and I are launching the new chapter for leaders and practitioners in western Washington. I'm going to give you a little plug. We're hosting a small launch party on Microsoft's campus this afternoon, so if you happen to be listening first thing in the morning on April 11th, and you'd like to join us, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. LinkedIn is probably the best. But Tim and Malcolm, before I opine on how much I love Cyversity, I would love to hear for both of you on why you decided to get involved with Cyversity? Why this effort in western Washington? And what are your goals for the new group? Malcolm, let's start with you.

Malcolm Waters: So, you know, this has been a really fun project and opportunity. I had not heard of Cyversity before until last year, when I had the opportunity to attend the RSA Cyber Conference in San Francisco. I was fortunate enough to get introduced to Cyversity, met MK, met Larry Whiteside, and, here's the thing. So I'm at this, you know, cyber event, having a good time, learning a lot of new information. And I get invited to this opportunity to meet some of the Cyversity folks. And I walk into this room, and, you know, there's 30, 40, 50 minorities in this group. And I hadn't seen that before. So I was immediately excited about what, you know, who is Cyversity, and what are they doing? It is so fantastic to see all these young people of color here. So after the event was over, I got a chance to meet Larry, I got a chance to meet MK. And sort of just in passing, you know, we were- I was asking about the Cyversity in Washington state. And they mentioned that there wasn't one. And so when I sort of said in joking, you know, "You should start one." And, you know, I listened to that and sort of didn't really put too much into it. But as I begin to think about it, and think about the need for it, I did reach back out to Cyversity and say, "Hey, what would that look like?" And I also reached out to some of the other CSOs that was involved in Cyversity to ask them, you know, what was I getting myself into? And that's when- and your name came up? And obviously, you have a great reputation in the market and in the industry. And I said, "Well, if Ann's willing to do it, I think in." And then you brought Tim in, and so, you know, here we are. So I'm so excited for this opportunity. And I think we're gonna do fantastic things in this market and across the country.

Ann Johnson: I agree with you. And thank you for joining the charter. Tim, what about you?

Tim Youngblood: Yes. Ann, I was actually surprised when you reached out to me about this opportunity. I had heard of Cyversity before through some of my peers. I knew there was a presence on the East Coast and the Midwest. I just assumed there was, you know, a chapter in Seattle, a big tech community, you know, like it is. And it was really shocked when you told me, like, there's not one in Seattle. It's like, okay. I'm with you. Let's- how do we get this started? And, to me, it's kind of important that we just- we leverage the power of our leaders in this region, right, to make an impact. And this is, you know, an organization that is structured to do that. And it's been doing that for years in other areas, and now's the time for it to happen in Seattle. You know, although I know just as individual companies we have our programs. I talked about our Explorer Program at T Mobile. We also have a career tracks program where we're taking people that are down at the retail and our care centers and giving them opportunities to work in different executive level areas. And cybersecurity is one of the most popular areas, and it's a indicator that, hey, there's an appetite for that here in this region, and we need to start to feed it somewhere. There needs to be kind of an avenue to do that. And I think Cyversity is definitely that avenue.

Ann Johnson: Yeah. And, you know, and thank you, Tim, for considering tha [inaudible 00:19:59]. I know how extraordinarily busy both of you are. So, you know, as we're doing this podcast, I'll put the plug out also that we're looking to round out the board with other folks. So if you're interested in that, also, please reach out. But, you know, when I talk to aspiring cyber practitioners, and even people who are in the industry, right. I hear consistently, a few us folks are looking for networking opportunities, they're looking for mentoring, and I want to comment on mentoring in a minute, and they're looking at skill building. Before I get to my question, the one thing I will say about mentoring is there's a meme in the industry that women and underrepresented minorities are over mentored and under sponsored. So, you know, what we're looking for here also is sponsorship connections that, you know, do you know somebody? Are you comfortable sponsoring? But when you think about the Cyversity, being a member and starting an org, Malcolm, and the growth opportunities, how do you think that shows up for people? And how do you think people can leverage it?

Malcolm Waters: So I think that, again, it goes back to the information, getting the information out, getting the young people the opportunity to understand that this industry is here, and how great it can be for them in their careers. But you're absolutely right. I do meet a lot of young folks. And they have a very strong interest in technology and in cyber, but they don't have a pathway. And that's really the key is figuring out more than just the education, but actually, you talked about sponsorship is actually creating the opportunity. I hired a young man that did an internship with me recently that graduated from one of the community colleges. And he had been in the market for almost a year trying to get into the cyberspace. Very smart, bright, young man, and I was really blown away that no one had actually hired him at this point. And so we, of course, brought him on. And I think there's so many more nuggets out there that we have to find and bring into the fold.

Tim Youngblood: Yeah, absolutely. I would say, to those points, access and opportunity are key, right? And just thinking about my own, you know, sort of story, you know, me getting access to computer was a huge part in me understanding that this was a career path for me. I also think about, you know, my good friend, Bobby Ford, who's the CSO of HPE. He's got a program. He started there. The mission is really to fill the whole cybersecurity skills gap. And basically, he's looking for people who, you know, maybe they were waiters, maybe they were bus drivers, maybe they were something else. But how do you them an opportunity to get into cybersecurity? And he also has established this program that requires no college experience to get in, right. And he is feeding people, educating and training them and then giving them considerations for careers, and it's a reboot for them. And that is all about opportunity. And we can do that same thing, you know, Cyversity level and start at an even younger stage.

Ann Johnson: Yeah. And I think that younger stage is going to be really important. And I love all the different efforts in the cyber community to actually get to students when they're younger. Tim, I'm gonna put you on the spot for one second. You have a lot of peer CSOs in, you know, the Pacific Northwest and in western Washington, can I get you to give a call out of why they should get involved in the Cyversity chapter and how important it is and what it can mean to them?

Tim Youngblood: Sure, Ann. And I know a few people, not a lot, a few. [Laughter] But, you know, it's clear to me that one of our responsibilities as leaders and leaders in the community as well, we have a responsibility to grow and nurture, you know, the environments around us. And, you know, as a cybersecurity professional to those CSOs that are out there, this is your opportunity to contribute and to give back and to do it in a meaningful way. And I think, you know, there are plenty of things you can do sort of within your company, but this is, you know, all of us coming together and using and leveraging all of our sort of talents to do this, you know, in a much bigger way. And I can't think of a better effort to put your energy and time towards.

Ann Johnson: Malcolm, any thoughts about, you know, you have peers too, right? You have peers that own businesses, that are, you know, executives and leaders in companies, how would you encourage them to get involved?

Malcolm Waters: Well, you know, that's something I'm already all over. I mean, so I can't wait for the launch of Cyversity and to share that with my network. And I know, wholeheartedly, there will be a great deal of interest, and we certainly will do our part in soliciting their involvement, their help, and just also giving them access to what some of our city can potentially provide for their organizations and their agencies. We do A lot of work in local state agencies, we work with a lot of CSOs, the CTO, CIOs, and so we certainly are looking forward to getting this word out when we get our launch off the ground.

Ann Johnson: Well, I want to thank you both for chatting with me today. And I'm excited about our event later today. And I know we need to sign off so we cannot just get prepared for the event, but also because we're running long, but that's okay. Before we send our listeners away, we always try to give them some optimism for the future. So, Malcolm, why are you optimistic about the future of cybersecurity?

Malcolm Waters: Well, if you look at the industry itself, cyber is never gonna go away. It's been with us for a very long time, and it will continue to become more of a need, and Tim alluded to earlier, more of a danger for all of our organizations. And so I think that this is a space, this has just huge growth potential to get more talent involved. And I think this could be really a very lucrative opportunity for some young folks that are interested in technology, and want to move into the cyber space. And I'm certainly here to help meet that charge.

Ann Johnson: Thank you so much. And, Tim, what are you optimistic about?

Tim Youngblood: Well, I think cybersecurity is a career that is here to stay without a doubt. And if you're a person that enjoys a challenge, this is definitely the career field for you to get into. Because it is challenging, and it never is the same. There's [laughter] always, you know, something new evolving on the horizon. And always something new to learn. It is probably to me one of the most important skill sets that a person can have. Nowadays, as, you know, our entire social ecosystem is centered around technology, the security around that makes it just that much more critical. And as we move in the next five to 10 years into the quantum computing space, it's going to get even more important so we need more people. We need, you know, more diverse talent, more diverse thought. In order to do that we have to start today. It's the same thing they said, If you want a tree in your backyard, the best time to get that tree planted is today.

Ann Johnson: I love that. I really do. I'm gonna keep using that analogy. [Laughter] I want to thank you both for taking the time to join me today. For our listeners, if you want to get involved in Cyversity, and that is C-Y-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y. And you're local to us on Washington already? Where else by the way, reach out. If you're located outside of Western Washington, you can find your local Cyversity chapter contact [music] information or inquire about starting your own chapter at And if you're local to Western Washington, reach out to me or reach out to Tim or reach out to Malcolm. I also always want to thank our audience for listening, and join us next time on "Afternoon Cyber Tea."