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EPISODE #13 The Cybersecurity Opportunity with Larry Shaw and Tyson Johnson




Does the term “cybersecurity” bring to mind high-tech espionage? Or darkly obscure systems that mysteriously keep our internet safe?

While it may sound complicated or remote, cybersecurity is actually pretty straightforward. And it is all around us, including right here in New Brunswick, which has a promising and growing cluster or center of excellence happening that’s been building over the past several years.

That’s why I had to kick off our TechTalks cybersecurity mini-series with two local cyber leaders: Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton and Knowledge Park, and Tyson Johnson, CEO of CyberNB. My guests for Episode 13 explained in simple terms what cybersecurity is, why it is increasingly important, and how that need is driving great opportunity for our region.  

 We started our discussion on–what else?–COVID-19. As Tyson says, the pandemic has “put an exclamation point on how important resiliency and trust is in the digital economy.”

 So true. We are more aware than ever of how deeply we rely on digital technology to work, learn, and socialize. (Imagine how different a pre-internet pandemic would have been from the highly connected, yet still distanced, one we are living through).

 “I don't think you can name one organization, one individual, one job, one industry or location, one global footprint that cyber has not impacted,” Larry says.

 Cybersecurity is so common it’s easy to take it for granted. But all of those networks and technologies, from the WiFi in our homes to digital banking and big critical infrastructures like the power grid, work because of cybersecurity. We only notice cybersecurity when it fails and we see the fallout as a result.

“There's a lot of moving parts to make sure that resiliency and that continued security of devices and technologies is omnipresent and always available,” Tyson says. “And that's created this massive growth opportunity in cybersecurity.”

One recent prediction: there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021, compared to one million openings in 2014. And these are high-paying, interesting, complex, ever-changing and in-demand jobs.

Here in New Brunswick, there is a big push by CyberNB, Ignite and other organizations to become a national leader in this exploding industry.

We are a small province, but our comparative advantages that Tyson and Larry described are significant. Along with strong applied research institutions, we have critical infrastructures such as utilities and industry, big telcos, and vertically integrated energy companies. Add to that access to government leadership and our business community’s famously supportive culture, and it’s a pretty compelling package.

CyberNB and Ignite are racing to meet the demand by working with the government, industry, and academia.

With an eye on the widening jobs pipeline, CyberNB’s education programs start as early as elementary school to teach the next generation about digital citizenship, STEM skills and future job prospects.

They are a national leader in CyberTitan, a Canadian cybersecurity competition for middle and high schoolers. It proved so popular they created a feeder program, the CyberDefence League.

And that activity continues into post-secondary.

“Universities and colleges now understand what skills and competencies to build into their programs,” Tyson says, “so they're graduating students who can walk into tech jobs.”

TechImpact is doing our part to respond to the looming jobs shortfall. We just announced the Bell Research Intensive Cyber Knowledge Studies (BRICKS) program at the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity (CIC) at the University of New Brunswick with our partners Bell, UNB, and ACOA. BRICKS gives students a Masters of Applied Cybersecurity, scholarship funding, a four-month research internship and, ultimately, a full-time job offer.

Then there are the bricks-and-mortar pieces, such as the high-security Cyber Centre in Knowledge Park, Fredericton’s innovation district, which CyberNB will soon call home.

“We have to drink our own champagne here, as we're taking a significant footprint inside the building,” Tyson says. Along with offices, there will be centres for training and operations and the recently announced CyberHatch Incubator and Accelerator.

“When you put people in close proximity you get these magical collisions starting to happen,” Larry says.

It’s an understatement to say a LOT is happening in this busy space.

A huge thank you to Tyson and Larry for setting the stage for our cybersecurity mini-series and grounding us on the work their organizations are leading to build this cluster. Next up, we’ll meet some founders who are leading local cybersecurity companies, and we’ll be learning more about educational programs to build up these skills.

Meanwhile, check out our full conversation by clicking here to listen.

Here's a peek at some of the highlights from this episode:

  • >>[06:10]:  Tyson explains cybersecurity in simple terms.

  • >>[16:30]:  Larry on how partnerships help accelerate and incubate companies.

  • >>[24:03]: Tyson on the many partners and programs that will work out of the Cyber Centre.

  • >>[28:36]:  Larry describes the enormous job prospects in cyber.

  • >>[32:00]: Tyson predicts that in the future, we may not even use the term cybersecurity, as it will be so ubiquitous and embedded. 

  • >>[34:14]: Larry on why there’s more opportunity now than ever.


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