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HanaByte Hearts: Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Atlanta

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HanaByte Hearts, Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Atlanta, BGCMA, HanaByte

When I first learned about corporate outreach, I was with my previous company and I thought it was simply an exciting way to spend time with my coworkers outside of the mundane day to day operation. Corporate outreach seemed like damage control tactics to store up for a rainy day or simply a way to boost the company image on social media. I’d never stopped to evaluate the work being done for more than the company’s own gain, because that seemed to be the logical reason why a company would pay for employees to not do work for a day and give back to other companies. This changed when I started working at HanaByte and was asked to create a volunteer program for my new company. As a small startup based in Atlanta, I thought it was incredible that they were putting emphasis on starting a volunteer program with fewer than 10 employees and I jumped at the prospect. Immediately, I dove into research about what it meant to be conscious and give back as a company, learning about the aforementioned benefits, but also about how important it is to the art of cultivating a company culture. 

In fact, when the volunteer program was cut from my previous company, that was also a marked change in the internal culture as well. The reason I was excited about the program was because of the opportunity to give back, stack accomplishments to be proud of and to build new relationships and experiences with my co-workers. I hadn’t taken those pieces of the puzzle into consideration when correlating the decline of culture at my previous job and now that I was given the authority to take charge, I wanted to do my part to create a program that was all about those significant heart aspects of volunteering. This is where HanaByte Hearts was born: a program made for collaboration and giving back to our community. Our program is about more than simply doing good for others, but instead, focussed on how we can do good things for others as a team. 

Looking to the future(s) of the Industry

The entire company joins our outreach meetings held once a month to discuss the things that we’re passionate about accomplishing through the year. The meetings discuss HanaByte Hearts, conventions that we can speak at, upcoming meetups, online talks and of course, various other ways that we can extend our hand out to the world. As we spoke about what impact we wanted to make in our second ever event, the clear winner was the resounding call to try to find a way to get together with the youth in our community. We were eager to see if we might have the opportunity to inspire their interest in our ever-growing field of cybersecurity. Most of our team found their way to cybersecurity after they’d already started down a different career path. It’s something that we hold in high regard because we get to welcome people who choose cybersecurity because they’re passionate about it, and not just opening our arms to those who are on this path because they set course for security during university, or just happened to fall into the industry organically.

During this agreement for our next challenge, our team put a strong emphasis on being able to present the cybersecurity field to prospective college students and high school students who might not have previously considered the field.  For someone in highschool who is good at debate, a teacher might suggest becoming an attorney. For a student who’s passionate about writing, a teacher might be able to point them to journalism. But what attributes make up someone who’s best suited for the cybersecurity industry? According to our consultants, it’s a range of talents that might easily fly under the radar if you’re not being presented with the options that lead to our community. 

The cybersecurity industry is more than just the obvious interests in security and coding. There is room for engineers, analysts, teachers, project managers, ethical hackers, sales representatives and so much more within cybersecurity, but without having that option put firmly on the table, how do we give our industry the right support for the future? This is why HanaByte chose a youth supporting program as our event for our second quarter. At HanaByte, we firmly believe that the future of cybersecurity starts with people and it’s part of our job as security experts to reach out, find, nurture and support the experts of tomorrow. 

Speaking of Cybersecurity…

The first name that came to mind when we thought of how to reach out to the next generation was Boys & Girls Club. Having had positive experiences with their programs before, our team requested that we look into an opportunity to reach out for a collaboration. Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Atlanta (BGCMA) responded immediately and we were able to get the ball rolling in a matter of days by coordinating with their career day program. Dr. Anna Jones, the director of college and career readiness for BGCMA, personally extended her welcome and enthusiasm to have HanaByte join in and coordinated every detail seamlessly. She provided the guidelines and gave an explanation of what we needed to bring with us and promised that they would set up on their side so it would be as painless as possible for all participating companies. 

On the day of the event, our team was given a long table with multiple chairs where we were able to set up our station with pamphlets to hand out and display our company prominently so anyone interested could easily find us. Then, the BGCMA team orchestrated a musical chair style event where club members had the opportunity to sit down with all of the companies present and speak to the industry leaders about opportunities for the future. Groups as small as 5 members were able to come by and have one on one time asking questions about what we do and how they can get involved. Some students were already on track to pursue a career in security and had more advanced questions about engineering studies at university, and others were less interested in going into our field, but very interested in the cybersecurity safety tips we had to offer for their consumption in a virtual world. While we wanted to lead talent to our field, we also respected that this might not be the career path for everyone, so HanaByte was ready with information on securing activity on cell phones, online apps, the importance of reading privacy policies and what kind of personal information is accessible while on public wifi. We made sure to have this backup plan in place because being a security leader is always at the forefront of our action in all aspects of HanaByte’s operations.

Our team consisted of our Co-founder and senior consultant, Michael Greenlaw, senior consultant, Patrick Davis, staff consultant, Jenny Tang, and Culture ambassador, Logan Dabbs. The members were especially interested when we asked them about what they excelled at or loved doing at school to help identify if they might be a fit for our industry. They were excited to learn that being interested in research, being good at memorizing information, working well independently, and interests in taking things apart and putting them back together might all be signs that there might be a job waiting for them in this security industry. We provided information on free courses online that our consultants use, ones that are available on youtube that could help explain concepts about the industry from our professional partners like AWS and Google. Finally, we offered easy steps that they can take to look further into cybersecurity as a professional or personal path of exploration. 

Learning from Teaching

The experience was a success because we were able to reach out to over 70 students during the few hours we were hosted by BGCMA. Their clean and welcoming facility served as the backdrop for conversation, for learning and for reflection by our consultants. After leaving the event, our consultants ended up talking for almost an hour about their own paths to the industry, things that they wished they knew earlier, and most importantly, how excited they were to be able to share what they do professionally to the members of the club. Seeing the high school students already so hungry for security information and so interested in how they can be more careful online was so refreshing and rewarding. Having the opportunity to let the members know that if they do pursue cybersecurity, they may be eligible for our mentoring program someday helped build confidence for our consultants, pushing their interest in staying alert with the newest updates and changes in the industry, to be the best example possible. 

After the event, Dr. Jones was so kind and thankful, even sending over prospective cybersecurity specialists to us so that we could correspond with and answer any further questions about certifications, classes and opportunities in our industry. We cannot express enough gratitude to Dr. Jones and her entire team at BGCMA for hosting such a wonderful and important event and we’re excited for the next event we can collaborate on together to help secure our future together as a team!

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