Founding Executive Director, Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Ryerson University
Vice President of Research & Innovation, Ryerson University
In today’s online world, safety and security are digital concerns. Cybersecurity is a fast-moving field, and Canada can’t afford to fall behind.
Cybersecurity is security. Whether we’re talking about the security of an individual, a small business, a large corporation, or the Canadian government itself, our continued well-being and prosperity depend on the skills of the cybersecurity professionals we count on to protect us. Cybersecurity skills are no longer a niche area of expertise. They’ve become our fundamental social and economic safeguards in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. But how can the Canadian workforce keep apace of this constantly-evolving sector?
“Canada has a very strong background in cybersecurity,” says Steven Liss, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Ryerson University. “Historically, we’ve been one of the top four countries in the field. But, when we talked to the industry, we were also hearing that there was this tremendous gap in unfilled positions.”
That this dialogue was happening between Ryerson and industry partners in the first place is of critical importance. If we isolate cybersecurity research, development, and training, we invite disaster. When cybersecurity conversations that are occurring in the industry, in academia, in government, and in law enforcement happen in isolation, varied perspectives on the many facets of this issue develop at differing rates, and gaps form in the collective understanding.
Bringing all voices to the table
A central commons was needed to bring these perspectives together, allowing them to intermingle and flourish. Enter the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 2018, owned and operated by Ryerson University. “The Catalyst was developed to be a hub for collaboration between the academic sector, the public sector, and the private sector,” explains Charles Finlay, the Catalyst’s Founding Executive Director. “We bring these three pillars together to develop innovative programming of the highest quality focusing on skills training, support for Canadian cybersecurity companies, public education, and policy development.”
In this unique environment, students, researchers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and established industry professionals are building the platform that will bridge the cybersecurity skills gap and launch the next cohort of security innovators. In addition to more traditional education and skills building, programs range from the Catalyst Cyber Accelerator — which connects new businesses in the space with an elite group of talent from existing tech companies — to the Cyber Range, an immersive and collaborative cybersecurity training and testing platform.
Cybersecurity is about people
The interconnected environment of the Catalyst drives home a key truth about cybersecurity: it is inextricably human. “Cybersecurity is about critical thinking, but it’s also about teamwork,” says Liss. “We’re encouraging people to recognize that they’re not working in an isolated space. There’s certainly a big technical component, and cybersecurity is not for the faint of heart in that regard, but there’s also a need to be able to communicate and understand the implications and relevance of the technology in people’s lives. Cybersecurity is about people.”