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See Yourself in Cybersecurity: How an expert is encouraging all students and practitioners to explore the field (and our Catalog)


4 mins read

We know our users work across geographies, sectors, and complex challenges to achieve critical outcomes, so we’re kicking things off by highlighting Stan Mierzwa, a member of our community working in a vital cross-cutting field: cybersecurity.  

Working in digital development doesn’t mean you have to be an all-knowing technologist or have all the answers on your own: our Catalog of Digital Solutions was designed for use by all. Welcome to the first installment of our new series, where we are putting the spotlight on the people and projects making use of technology for good. Come find yourself and your solution in their stories. 

We know our users work across geographies, sectors, and complex challenges to achieve critical outcomes, so we’re kicking things off by highlighting a member of our community working in a vital cross-cutting field: cybersecurity.  

Stan Mierzwa is Director and Lecturer at Kean University’s Center for Cybersecurity and recently published a playbook focused on Cybersecurity for Digital Health projects.  

Read on to learn more about his work, how he was inspired to produce this playbook, and how music may be the missing ingredient to get your project off the ground. 

Tell us about the Center for Cybersecurity 

A huge priority of the Center is getting students introduced to cybersecurity. We want every student to have a base-level understanding and for that reason every student that enters our university is required to take cybersecurity awareness training. We also want to introduce them to the vast amount of job opportunities related to cybersecurity. We are always seeking opportunities to partner and collaborate across global public health, public administration and government, criminal justice, and other fields, to bring students into the wider communities of practice. 

The Center also focuses on advocacy and outreach. Staying situationally aware of key global incidents and trends in cybersecurity is critical to creating adaptable, resilient defense mechanisms and being better prepared for potential threats. We provide guidance and outreach to organizations to help them stay aware of new developments such as infrastructure vulnerabilities or malicious tools uncovered. 

How did you find your way to working in cybersecurity? 

I got started as a software programmer, like many people who graduate with engineering or computer science degrees. That eventually led me to working for a large global NGO called the Population Council. I spent 12 years there as the Director of IT and as part of my role, I met with researchers, leadership, and board members about information security issues. It wasn’t initially called cyber security during that time, but that’s when my interest was sparked. Having spent so many years in technology, I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge – which can be frightening. The more you know, the more you know about what can go wrong! 

Have you successfully discovered a new technology via the Catalog? 

Recently I came across the Maps feature, which, as an expert, I found incredibly useful. When thinking about addressing an issue, the first step should really be to survey the efforts already taking place. The Maps feature helps to identify those efforts globally. I can pick a country and quickly determine which organizations are there and what focus they are pursuing. 

We often speak about the importance of collaboration and not duplicating efforts in development, and the Catalog is a comprehensive tool addressing this challenge, making this knowledge accessible to everyone. 

What inspired you to write your playbook?  

Having spent many years in global public health, I found there was (and still is) a need to bring attention to cybersecurity in that sector. More recently, there have been many stories of health facilities, hospitals, and public institutions that were attacked with malware or ransomware. That alone was inspiration enough for us to put pen to paper. We published a paper to outline a framework that can be used by public health organizations globally to address cybersecurity issues without needing to be experts. The playbook takes our paper, which is 15 pages long and breaks it down further, making it even easier to follow. My hope is that it lowers the barriers for others to do their work in a safe and secure manner.  

What is one common misconception about cybersecurity? 

I mention this to students quite often when they come to my office interested in pursuing cybersecurity as a career: you don’t need to be a software coder to work in cybersecurity!  

The technical aspects of cybersecurity are certainly important to understand, and that knowledge will make you an even better cyber security professional. However, it isn’t the only way to work in this field. I refer people to something called the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework. It catalogs the different roles within cybersecurity and the skills that align to those roles. The roles are quite diverse and there is a need for a variety of abilities and backgrounds.  

What music gets you in the zone to work? 

It’s a great question! And actually, we just published a blog with the Cloud Security Alliance on aligning music to the different roles within cybersecurity. We picked some top elements of the field and selected music genres, artists, and songs that we thought aligned well. It was definitely a fun effort. We cover everything from heavy metal to jazz, from validating permissions to disaster recovery! 

There is a lot of research out there that suggests that music can help creative thinking. I believe it is valuable for us to spend more time reflecting on the “how” of work, especially in cybersecurity, which can often be very challenging in solving time-critical issues. The right music could help bring a solution to light! 

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