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The Cybersecurity Talent Gap: A More Diverse Workforce Is Needed for the Safety of Canadians

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Laurie Pezzente

Senior Vice President – Global Cyber Security & Chief Security Officer, Royal Bank of Canada

The cybersecurity landscape is growing at an exponential rate. To keep up with the pace of change, Canada needs a diverse and robust workforce of cybersecurity professionals.


Pop culture would have you believe that cyberwarfare involves a single hacker, inevitably male, in a dark room tapping furiously on a keyboard, while a counterpart in a corporate office simultaneously taps away in defence. The reality couldn’t be more different. 

Digital threats are distributed, often asynchronous, and can be launched by anyone, anywhere, at any time. The only effective answer to a diverse, robust, and growing army of digital bad actors with advanced tools is a diverse, robust, and growing army of good actors with better ones. “As the world becomes digitized, the cybersecurity landscape will continue to evolve,” says Laurie Pezzente, Senior Vice President of Global Cyber Security and Chief Security Officer at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). “This means our approaches to protecting Canadians today are different than they were five years ago and will be vastly different ten years from now. To be future-ready, we need skilled and diverse cybersecurity talent, and we need it now.”

It’s easier to become a hacker than a cybersecurity professional — and that’s a problem

As it stands today, there’s a significant talent gap between those seeking to compromise data and those available to protect it. Cyber risk is growing at a faster rate than the talent pipeline in the industry. According to a 2018 report by Deloitte and the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, organizations in Canada will be looking to fill roughly 8,000 such roles between 2016 and 2021. In a way, attracting and retaining talent is the most significant battleground in the war against cybercrime. Up until recently, academic programs have taken students too long to complete and were not attracting candidates from the whole population. For instance, research from Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that women will only represent 20 percent of cybersecurity professionals by the end of 2019.

To be future-ready, we need skilled and diverse cybersecurity talent, and we need it now.

Laurie Pezzente, Senior Vice President of Global Cyber Security at the Royal Bank of Canada

A future-first career path for every demographic

Fortunately, new initiatives like the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, among others supported by RBC, are working hard to expand the talent pool. Working in close collaboration with governments and industry partners, the Catalyst is preparing to launch fast-track, specialized training programs to address the high demand for skilled workers in the growing digital economy, targeting demographic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented. For students looking for an interesting career, or professionals looking to level-up their skill relevance, it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity. “Cyber is very dynamic,” says Pezzente. “If you like change and solving interesting problems, it’s definitely the place to be.”

One thing is certain: cyber criminals will keep recruiting and innovating. So, as long as the internet exists, the need for new talent and perspective in the realm of cybersecurity will continue to grow as well. If we’re going to stay in the race, we need organizations like RBC to keep opening gates, and we need young Canadians of all stripes to walk through them.  

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