Moving from physical security to cybersecurity was natural for Nicolas Jordan.
“There’s a lot of parallels between doing physical security and doing cybersecurity,” he told Hypepotamus. “With physical security, I take care [to return] you to a space of feeling safe and secure. With cybersecurity, a lot of people aren’t aware of how unsafe they are. Now, I’m behind the scenes and can keep a level of comfort, safety, and security…and I don’t have to put my body on the line anymore and I can keep even more people protected.”
Jordan is one of the newest InfoSec junior analysts at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the financial exchange giant headquartered in Atlanta. His road to ICE and his career pivot started at City of Refuge, an organization providing health and wellness, housing, vocational training and youth development in Atlanta’s Southwest neighborhoods.
The organization works with underrepresented, underemployed (relative to their potential in technology) or unemployed individuals to help them prepare for new careers.
It was a bit of a serendipitous journey for Jordan, who had recently moved to Atlanta from upstate New York and took a job as a security guard for City of Refuge. He was asked for directions to the cybersecurity training area and that piqued his interest in the program.
A few weeks – and a few placement tests — later, Jordan was on a ninth-month journey towards becoming a cybersecurity professional.
Building A Cybersecurity Workforce
Atlanta is a cybersecurity and fraud detection hub, having produced startups like OneTrust, Ironscales, DefenseStorm, and Pindrop.
The State of Georgia estimates that the cybersecurity arena generates $5 billion in annual revenue and includes well over 100 different companies founded or headquartered across the state.
To keep up with talent needs, new cyber-focused programs have popped up across the state. Augusta University is home to the Georgia Cyber Center and its campus designed to educate cybersecurity professionals working in state agencies. The campus has a School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, a newly created PhD program, and a Master of Science in Computer Science. Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, and UGA have all expanded their cybersecurity offerings recently for undergraduate, graduate, and online students.
Other programs, like City of Refuge’s certification program, are designed to open up new professional opportunities within the cybersecurity space to even more Georgians.
Behind The City of Refuge Program
Jordan is one of two graduates of the recent City of Refuge cybersecurity cohort to be hired at ICE. Others have gone on to work at places like Cox Enterprises, Delta, EY, NCR, and Capgemini.
Steve Pugh, Chief Information Security Officer at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), says partnering with City of Refuge helps ICE “find really great talent” across Atlanta and ultimately bring in more people within a competitive cybersecurity job market.
“We look for passion, energy, and the capacity to learn and continue learning. Cybersecurity is one of those fields that’s perpetually changing every day, and the threat landscape looks a little different every day. If you’re not able to stay up with the times, you quickly become outdated,” Pugh told Hypepotamus.
Ron Cofield, City of Refuge’s Employment leaders, told Hypepotamus that the key to City of Refuge’s program success is that it brings in industry leaders to give students a real-life and real-time look at the cybersecurity profession as a whole.
To build up new tech talent in Atlanta, City of Refuge has two separate certificate tracks – a four-month full stack web development program and a nine-month cybersecurity professional certification.
The goal is to work with 280 people between coding and cybersecurity tracks over the course of four years.
A Pivot Into Cyber
Jordan officially started his cybersecurity career within ICE this May. While he is new to the profession, we asked him what advice he might have for others considering joining the cybersecurity industry here in Atlanta.
He said that while imposter syndrome is something that is common for those new to cyber, he said “[employers] will pick up on your work ethic…and they have lots of training programs. You don’t have to think about comparing yourself to what all these other professionals know. You have to worry about: Are you capable of going through this program? Can you dedicate yourself to this program? Can you commit yourself to it?”