Cyber Competitions Cast Future Defense Generations

SAIC recruits top young talent for engaging careers

In just two years from now, we will need 3.5 million additional cyber professionals to help defend the nation against hackers and bad actors. This forecast, by Cybersecurity Ventures, shows how critical it is to find cybersecurity talent as U.S. government agencies and businesses modernize and secure their evolving IT systems. SAIC recognizes the investment in security is a necessity.

An SAIC core mission is engaging next-generation IT talent. In the cyber field, we sponsor organized student challenges, where motivated and energetic top talent go head-to-head in realistic network defense exercises.

“We want the SAIC name to be in front of students who will be graduating and entering the workforce,” said Andy Boldin, cyber solutions delivery chief. “Students at these extracurricular competitions are passionate about cyber and not there because of course requirements.”

In the last two months alone, SAIC supported four competitions through sponsorships. Three of them were part of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC):

  • The Mid-Atlantic Regional (MACCDC) at Johns Hopkins University, the Southeast Regional (SECCDC) at Kennesaw State University, and the National Championship (NCCDC) at the Rosen Centre in Orlando

We also sponsored the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition (PCDC), at Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina, held by Naval Information Warfare Center.

Andy Boldin and crew
From left, Xiomara Bassett, Byron Beasley, and Andy Boldin from SAIC's cyber practice participate in the MACCDC.

Early resolve

In addition to being a financial benefactor of such events, we serve as a coach and mentor. “We give students career advice on what to put on their resumes and certifications to pursue, to help them gain a leg up on the job market,” Boldin said.

Our engagement helps students get to know SAIC as a leading technology integrator for the government that engineers, builds, manages, and protects many of the nation’s most important IT networks. For them, hardening networks and doing ethical hacking to assess systems represent cool and compelling work.

They learn that SAIC offers a wide variety of roles and responsibilities, as we serve customers that include U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), Federal Reserve Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NASA, and Marine Forces Cyber Command (MARFORCYBER). We want to attract and groom top talent who participate in the competitions to become leaders and have long careers with us.

In his interactions with the collegiate competitors, Boldin finds their soft skills as impressive as their network defense abilities.

“Our job is not just continuing to cultivate their technical skills but also training them to engage others,” Boldin said. “We see it in their eye contact and their body language, which shows passion in what they’re doing.”

Showing them how it’s done

The PCDC was a three-day event in April that included an all-day challenge for professional teams to thwart hackers’ attempts to penetrate a network. After the first two days of competitions among local colleges, universities, and high schools, a six-member team from SAIC’s cyber practice, which included Boldin, won the competition, unseating the company that had won it three consecutive years.

“We participated just to have fun and learn,” Boldin said. “Two of our team members were legacy Engility employees that joined our team after the acquisition,” he continued, “and we did an inventory on network systems and hardened and secured the network.”

SAIC championship team at PCDC
PCDC team (l. to r.): Andy Boldin, Joe Proleika, Jason Hardman, Aidan Neighbor, Matt Peaslee, Michael Colby, and Micheal Farmer

Demonstrating SAIC’s cyber expertise and leadership, the team was the only one that found and fixed a software flaw that the attacking team had exploited on the other defending teams’ systems. It was a great way to show the student teams the practical application of cybersecurity tactics, techniques, and procedures in a real-world attack scenario—and how some of the best in the industry do it.

SAIC’s cyber outreach doesn’t stop at student competitions, of course. Next month, we continue our momentum as a sponsor of the Cyber/Electronic Warfare Convergence Conference in Charleston. And in late August, we will be at TechNet Augusta in Georgia, followed by the Air, Space, and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Maryland, in September.

All of these opportunities enable SAIC to recruit top cyber talent. This has led to the creation of a college cohort program at SAIC, where we will hire top-tier candidates and provide technical and fast-track leadership training. The program will offer rotational assignments among myriad cyber roles before potential placement into full-time positions on customer programs.

PCDC championship trophy