In Search of Six Million Crime Stoppers

The shortage of cybersecurity experts continues to grow. Can companies find creative ways to fill these critical roles?




Lots of roles are in demand thanks to the decent global economy, but no one is in greater demand than the people who can prevent online crime.

The world will need around 6 million cybersecurity roles by the end of the year, according to recent estimates. And, as it stands, as many as 1.5 million of those roles could go unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified people to take the jobs.

That major shortfall is forcing leaders to get creative to find people. Indeed, some firms are looking at music majors, video-game enthusiasts, and others who might be inclined, with the right incentives, to take on roles in cybersecurity. Even trained librarians might have a place in the cybersecurity world. “Librarians are very detail oriented,” says Jamey Cummings, who with Aileen Alexander coleads Korn Ferry’s Global Cybersecurity practice.

Cummings says that functional cybersecurity leaders are becoming increasingly open to a wider variety of professional and education backgrounds. Though anyone entering cybersecurity will need the ability to “learn technology, job candidates don’t have to have backgrounds as ‘technologists,” as long as they have the desire and ability to learn, he adds.

The role of cybersecurity is also changing—particularly at the executive level. Experts say leaders have to be more than just talented techies and analytically minded problem solvers. In a hypercompetitive hiring environment, they will have to become evangelists, true marketers of their company. The executives will need a game plan to hire and retain workers who will have many choices among a wide variety of companies that are expanding their cybersecurity staffs.

“A company better have a strategy in place, otherwise these workers will be able to shop around and, using an app, find their next job that afternoon,” says William Mayville Jr., a retired US Army lieutenant general who recently became a senior adviser to Korn Ferry’s Cybersecurity practice. Mayville is well schooled in cybersecurity issues, having served as deputy commander at US Cyber Command, the Department of Defense agency that among its many functions defends DOD information networks.

As for corporations, Mayville says, “it’s the obligation of cybersecurity managers to develop their workforce, and they have an obligation as leaders to keep their team together.”

Meanwhile, steps are being taken to close the talent gap. Tech-oriented schools such as the Rochester Institute of Technology and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute recently launched degree programs aimed at meeting the demand for cybersecurity talent. While today’s students can’t fill the immediate talent shortage, it doesn’t hurt that young people are waking up to opportunities in the field, Alexander says. “A lot of people are looking to get into cybersecurity because it’s a fast-growth market.”