Here's how security pros can showcase value to future employers: a field of friendly strife to measure their aptitude against competitors.

Jessica Gulick, US Cyber Games Commissioner

June 7, 2021

4 Min Read

It's simply not enough to create a diverse pipeline of cybersecurity professionals. For the US to battle future cyber-threat actors and complex attacks, we must attract, train, and retain sharp cyber professionals who can innovate, collaborate, and operate with keen instincts, situational awareness, and practiced techniques. Cyber as a sport is critical to developing these skills and why we're recruiting cyber athletes, coaches, and sponsors to build the first-ever US Cyber Team.

Imagine a world where cyber professionals equated their skills and competencies in terms of MITRE ATT&CK and the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework.

When it comes to the cybersecurity workforce, we all struggle with recruiting "good talent." This description is ironically ambiguous in an industry founded on data analysis and anomalies. Many companies roll the dice on hiring based on interviews and resumes with little actual measurement of skill and capability.

The rapid rate of digital change and agility needed to survive in today's marketplace is not yet addressable by technology. Our cybersecurity teams provide an active human defense layer to discern criticality from noise, determine whether our shields will hold, or response action is needed, and decide what action to take and how fast.

In addition to having the necessary skills and knowledge expected for their work role (NICE Framework), "talented" cybersecurity professionals are also knowledgeable about, if not experienced with, common tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of cyberattackers (MITRE ATT&CK). Traditionally, this unique blend comes from hard-earned experience and apprenticeship of at least five years.


Cyber games and tournaments help reduce these years considerably by simulating the experience of an attack, revealing how indicators of attacks manifest on a network live, and helping us learn through collaboration what responses work and don't work. Cyber games provide a fun and safe place to hack and hone critical skills.

Imagine an iterative crucible of competition molding a pipeline of security teams and creating a battery of challenges to demonstrate cyber skills. Cyber athletes now have the means to prove their value to future employers in a quantifiable way: a field of friendly strife to measure their aptitude against other competitors. First-person shooter games hone the skills of future combatants. Cyber sports create a collaborative method to attract and inspire the next generation of cyber professionals.

Competition Builds Success
Every day our industry faces the test of whether we have what it takes. And what about tomorrow?

We must, as Theodore Roosevelt states, dare greatly to face this generational challenge. It's time to recognize our best in cybersecurity tradecraft. What better way to do this as Americans than with sports? The e-sports market is booming:

● Mordor Intelligence reports that the e-sports market is expecting a 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2026, fueled by the pandemic.

● The video gaming industry is changing rapidly with immense tournaments engaging millions of fans and attracting sponsors and investments from international brands, as stated in the latest industry report from GrandViewResearch.

● According to Newzoo, in 2020 the global games market generated $177.8 billion, and 2021's global streaming gaming revenues are projected to increase 73.6%.

The environment is ideal for leveraging the growing interest and participation in e-sports to increase interest in cybersecurity careers. E-sports drive team play and spectator fans more so than traditional cyber tournaments, which help to amplify their value, energy, and impact. By mixing gaming aptitude and skills with cybersecurity, our community can accelerate training and skills development to help grow a "cyber-ready" workforce to defend against attacks.

That's why we are building the first-ever US Cyber Team to compete at the International CyberSecurity Challenge (ICSC). It's time to build a sustained cybersecurity gaming approach to refresh our talent pool and secure the longevity of senior cyber professionals.

Elite Cyber Athletes Compete to Join US Cyber Team
Announced In April, the US Cyber Games is a months-long hunt for 20 elite American cyber pros, ages 18 to 26, who will earn their place on the first-ever US Cyber Team and represent the US at the International Cyber Competition in Greece. To earn one of these coveted spots, athletes will advance through several competition tiers. We need fans, coaches, players, and cybersecurity backers.

Cyber games aren't just entertaining events, they're fueling the growth of a diverse and well-qualified community of cybersecurity talent. Katzcy (PlayCyber), in collaboration with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on US Cyber Games is making this happen. Help us send the first US Cyber Team to compete on the world stage at the International Cyber Security Challenge by becoming a coach (click here), sponsor (click here), and fan who spreads the word (click here).

About the Author(s)

Jessica Gulick

US Cyber Games Commissioner

Jessica Gulick is Commissioner of the US Cyber Games, a multi-phased cybersecurity program recruiting the US Cyber Team; CEO of Katzcy, a woman-owned growth strategy and marketing firm; and, founder of PlayCyber, a new business line promoting cyber games and tournaments. An MBA, CISSP and PMP, Gulick is a 20-year veteran in the cybersecurity industry with proven experience in starting businesses, leading cross-functional cyber teams, co-authoring NIST Special Publications, capturing commercial and government business and running epic cybersecurity games and tournaments. She is passionate about cybersecurity as an esport where players, fans, and companies can collaborate, and strongly advocates for diversity in the workforce. She is also the president of the board at the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu and a member of the Bay Path University Cybersecurity Education Advisory Council.

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