Kids need to develop cyber skills and transition those skills into a rewarding career, says Christopher Valentino, strategy director of the Cyber Division for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. As a father of three, Valentino sees firsthand how kids use technology. Recently, he checked in with us to share what he’s seen so far—and expects moving forward.

"It’s really about STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. And getting kids excited about careers in STEM..."

Mediaplanet: When it is a good age to teach kids about cyber studies?

Christopher Valentino: Pre-kindergarten is the best way to start. The way kids are exposed to technology at such an early age, I think learning those lessons and exposing them to the rights and wrongs is good. As they learn to read and write, then they have cyber free will. They interact with the device much differently when they understand I put an input in and I get something out.

MP: In 2017, there will be a shortage of 2 million cyber security jobs worldwide. Why is there such a growing demand for cyber security careers?

CV: All the recent breaches and attacks—people are really aware. It becomes very personal when people take your information and redistribute it to nefarious people on the internet. Because of the awareness and the state of the problem, it’s generated demand beyond what the current system can supply.

MP: How can we get kids excited about careers in cyber security?

CV: It’s really about STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. And getting kids excited about careers in STEM or studying STEM disciplines like computer science, computer engineering or electrical engineering. One of the programs we have is called Cyber Patriot and it’s a middle school and high school cyber competition. It’s teaching these kids how to defend an infrastructure from attackers. We are also bringing this program to the UK, as the demand for Cyber professionals is worldwide.

MP: Can you explain the benefits of pursuing a career in cyber security?

CV: It’s personally rewarding. It’s very rich for innovation at all levels. There’s incredible flexibility. The skills are very portable. You become very marketable across a very broad range of business sectors. Whenever you’re in an economic situation where people want you, people need you, there’s certainly opportunity for good compensation.