This fall I had the honor of hosting Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a Marine veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq, in a fireside chat about helping transitioning veterans get into the cybersecurity industry.
As part of my discussion with Congressman Gallagher at our inaugural Federal Ignite event, I talked about some of the programs that Palo Alto Networks uses to help transitioning veterans (and in some cases their family members) acquire the training they need to pursue a career in cybersecurity. We believe vets are well-suited to transition into cybersecurity because their service for our country instills within them leadership skills that make them uniquely qualified for this field.
Supporting our veterans internally
The first internal effort is our Technical Training and Certification program. We provide this technical training on our next-generation security platform through classroom and hands on instruction by veteran employees at no charge to transitioning veteran students. The training leads to an Accredited Configuration Engineer (ACE) certification. During our fiscal year 2017, we trained a total of 90 veterans through nine sessions that occurred in California, Texas and Virginia.
With over 100 veterans currently on staff, we are also proud of our internal mentorship program, which provides assistance and advice to our veterans, from our veterans. The program is supported by our CEO Mark McLaughlin and our Chief Security Officer Rick Howard, who are both U.S. Army veterans and West Point graduates.
Internally, we also offer support to team members’ volunteer programs, such as VetSpeak, an organization co-founded by Frank Grun, a U.S. Air Force veteran and member of our very own sales team. VetSpeak provides a platform to help “at risk” veterans find a virtual and physical place to express their emotions stemming from the stress of military life. As our Federal CSO, and a veteran myself, I have volunteered to champion this effort to pursue funding assistance for VetSpeak and support its mission. Palo Alto Networks has teamed up with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to create SMILE (Service Making Individuals’ Lives Easier), an initiative run by Palo Alto Networks employees that is focused on furthering the impact our company has in the community. We intend to leverage the SMILE program to provide funding assistance to VetSpeak once the organization achieves non-profit status.
Veteran programs through partnerships with other organizations
Our longest partnership with direct impact to veterans is with the organization VetsinTech, which supports current and returning veterans with re-integration services and provides networking and training for veterans looking to pursue a career in the tech industry . Through our partnership with VetsinTech, we participated in the Joining Forces initiative, which former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched in 2011 in order to support service members, veterans, and their families through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.
In May 2016, as part of Joining Forces, we made a pledge to train 400 veterans and transitioning servicemen and servicewomen by 2021. In 2016 and 2017, we had the tremendous privilege of receiving the “Education Award” from VetsinTech in recognition of our commitment to advancing educational opportunities for veterans and look forward to continuing this mission.
Our second partnership is with the Virginia Veterans Cyber Training Program. Along with AWS, Cisco, Fortinet and ISC2, we have also collaborated with the Commonwealth of Virginia to offer online and in-person cybersecurity training and certification courses in the Hampton Roads area and northern Virginia. Through this partnership, which leverages the veteran outreach programs at Onward to Opportunity (O2O) and Yyotta, veterans in the Virginia area are brought into these conferences both physically and online, and are then exposed to each participating company’s offering for training and certification. As I discussed with Congressman Gallagher, there is interest from both the private sector and government to expand this kind of partnership program to other states.
Our third partnership is probably our most mature effort is our Palo Alto Networks Cyber Academy Program, which creates partnerships with qualified colleges, universities, and technical institutes to provide next-generation security technology, courseware, certification, and training labs to be implemented as part of your academic cybersecurity curriculum. We’ve currently partnered with 275 colleges and universities (including 2-year colleges) in 39 countries around the world. More than half of these partnerships are in the U.S. and many of those have programs of specific interest to transitioning veterans in helping to build on their job skills and earn practical certifications that make them more competitive in the cybersecurity industry. The goal of this program is to make teaching our state of the art cybersecurity technology easy for instructors and relevant for students. We do it by providing faculty training, setting up lab environments, and providing equipment, courseware, certifications, and an instructor portal to link with our experts.
We’re also looking to expand these initiatives internationally, starting with Australia. We are looking to partner with the “Soldier On” organization to assist transitioning Australian veterans in Melbourne. Our Asia Pacific region leadership is engaged in this emerging opportunity to lend priority and resources, and our hope is to continue to expand these types of partnerships in other regions around the world.
Palo Alto Networks is committed to helping make the transition easier for veterans looking to pursue a second career in the cybersecurity industry. I look forward to continuing to support and expand this effort in 2018.