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CCN Focus: Kyle Jones of Sinclair Community College – Part Two

Last week, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) Convergence College Network (CCN) featured Kyle Jones, chair and assistant professor of Computer Information Services at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio in our CCN feature story. Kyle shared so much information during his interview that we have chosen to make it a two-part feature. This week, we would like to share “Part Two” of Kyle’s interview which introduces his views on what makes a teacher successful, his advice to graduating seniors and how he sees the future of the IT landscape.

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why? My favorite class to teach is Security+. It’s our 2640 class, and I’ve always really enjoyed it because it covers all of these aspects of cybersecurity but not so deep that I lose all the students. I love lock picking. I’ve always done a lot of lock picking competitions. I always competed in DEFCON to do lock picking. I bring that into the class because there’s a whole section on physical security. And what it does, it throws a wrench in the way that the student is perceiving the class. As a student will come in and say, “Okay, I’m going to learn how to protect this. I’m going to learn how to do this.” And then I will come in and say, “Okay, who think they can come in and break this safe?” And they’re like, “Well, what does that have to do with this class?” And I’m like, “Well, take for instance this is the same type of safe you might see in companies that might put the master key into every facility. If you can get through that safe, that means you can walk into any room in the facility.” There are all these physical aspects of security that people forget; and they just think it’s going to be textbook and lab, but it can actually be an additional thing that gets students excited. I also play a lot of videos of hackers doing real hacks in real time. And it blows students away on how easy some things are. A lot of it is social engineering, where they are tricking the person to do something for them and the hackers not doing anything other than getting the person to do it for them. I can see the wheels turn in the students, and it’s fun. Students are laughing because this person is, like, doing everything the hacker is asking them to do. And the hacker is saying, “Yep, now I have full access to their company, and I wasn’t even sitting down at a computer.” That other person on the other end of the phone, may have manipulated every inch of your brain because that’s how they study people’s behavior. That’s why it’s call it social engineering because they know the trigger. It’s a lot of fun because then you can start hearing students say, “Well, if I was in a network, how could I help people understand that this could happen to them? How can I put preventions in the network?” I love teaching it, because students may not have thought about this before because they were in hardware classes, and they were in software classes. And now they’re in a class that’s like, “Okay, let’s put all that together, and see how you would protect yourself if you were the person taking that phone call. Or if you were the person setting up that network or configuring that firewall.” I like it because it’s more of a reflection back on the things you’ve learned. You’re putting all the puzzle pieces together. You may have been bored learning how a network was configured, but now you need to put that into practice for a reason.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? I think the best thing about being a teacher is helping the student and, of course, that’s our overall goal. Helping the student to achieve. We’re in downtown Dayton, a lot of our student groups are downtown so a lot of underserved youth. A very diverse group are in downtown Dayton. And then, I came from the farmlands. I came from the underserved youth of the farm. Whatever we put together, being able to help students learn and achieve in downtown Dayton, we can also do in our regional centers that are out in the rural areas. I feel like we’re helping students all the way around. We have a lot of students still in high school. I would say we have anywhere from 70 to 100 students that graduated high school and college actually at the same time. I love helping students learn in those diverse areas. And actually, that’s one of the sad things about being a chairman. The more things that I do as chair takes me farther and farther away from actually teaching classes. I only teach one class, but when I was hired, I taught seven. It’s been kind of sad because I love doing it so much but then, doing all this administration stuff has pulled me away.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce?
Due to the environment and everything going on, I think the biggest advice is IT is ever changing so I hope you really enjoy it because keeping up with it will probably be your primary goal after you graduate. Don’t just take the things that you’ve learned and say “Okay, I’ve graduated, I don’t need to think about that anymore.” Keep up with technology because if you don’t, your employer may say, “You’re not keeping up with these changes. You learned Server 2016, but next month Microsoft is rollout 2019.” You need to make sure that you’re keeping up with those ever-changing technologies. And then, make sure you focus on those certifications. Every day when I sit down and talk to a company, especially in the networking cybersecurity fields they always mention an industry certification. There hasn’t been a meeting yet that they haven’t mentioned a form of industry certification. I believe all of us – everybody in this network – teach classes that are aligned to that industry certification. Make sure you go take the exam after your class. I think a lot of students get nervous and don’t go and take they’re industry certification exam because they’re concerned about failing it. You will not believe how many hundreds of students that haven’t taken it, and a year later, they come back and say, “Hey, every job I’ve applied for said I had to have something or working toward something. Do you have any advice about something I could study to pass the cert?” And I’m like, “Yes, the class that you took a year ago.” Make sure you pass or attempt those industry certifications, because in our area, we’re so close and integrated with the military around here that the Department of Defense standards say that you have to have one of those certs in order to work for a contractor or for the government. On the software side of things, I would say make sure you have a GitHub repository with all of your homework and projects in it to take to companies to show that you have a portfolio of projects. They’re going to ask for that and you don’t want to go back home and have to put it together.

IT is always changing – how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT? One of the things that I like to do is heavily rely on podcasts. If IT is a passion, it won’t feel like work. Always having that ear out for whatever that change is and having an interest in it, I think, one, would drive your career in IT. If you hear of a new product that came out or a new thing that companies are doing like cloud or Docker or services or Kubernetes, and you’re like, “I don’t know what it is, and I don’t care.” Well, you’re going to have a problem working in technology. There are thousands of different feeds that you can subscribe. You’re going to have to find a niche of things that you like and enjoy and then keep in that niche. Mine is cybersecurity and security things. But if I loved cloud, I would want to keep up with what developments are happening on cloud. Since there is so much going on, you have to limit your interest in what you want to go into.

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next five years? I think the changes that we’re going to see over the next five years is the work from home aspects. We’re seeing a lot of companies in the Dayton area save more money on not having real estate. No longer needing the offices, letting you work at home. We’re seeing the same work level so it’s not like work dropped off or productivity dropped off, so I think companies are going to embrace that more. I think Silicon Valley is going to have a big exodus of people that can do that. I think people are going to start leaving the Silicon Valley area to create startups and new companies in other areas other than Silicon Valley. I love the beaches of Florida; why can’t I work from home being the beaches of Florida developing the same thing that I could have done over there? The world seems to be getting flatter. The idea of working with international companies is so easy now, working in developing and working on different products all over the world. I’m seeing our students working with more international companies and working with more international people. No longer do you have a team in a state; you may have six teams across the globe. The more I see that happening, the more I see things with cryptocurrency changing. Cryptocurrency markets will probably go up and down which will change what the environment looks like in the next five years. And then, I mentioned earlier about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). The government recently said that you have to pass the maturity model if you work with the Federal Government as a contractor; your company have to pass new auditing standards. All of these new auditing standards are what’s going to be the difference between people getting federal contracts or not. There are over 300 or 400,000 companies in the United States that will have to pass the CMMC in the next five years. There’s going to be a huge change in the way people do contracting; and it’s all cybersecurity focus. It doesn’t matter what the company does. The company can make a widget or a part and will still have to meet that cybersecurity audit. That will be a large change for our students working for the military or a military contractor because either they will have to make sure their supplier meets the CMMC or that they work for a company that’s abiding by the CMMC practices. I’ve taught that class, “Train the Trainer” class ran though the National Cybersecurity Training & Education (NCyTE) center, several times for the National Science Foundation and our students would be the ones responsible for that audit. It’s the server people, the network people, the phone people, those are the only people that would be audited. I think there is going to be more policies, more learning about how these systems can all work together.

What’s your favorite recent student success story? We had a student that was in a scholarship program at Sinclair get a federal job working for the FDIC doing cybersecurity audits. He lived here in the Dayton area and moved to Illinois working directly for the FDIC doing cybersecurity work. He went through our cybersecurity program and was selected by the federal government to work in cyber.  

Is there anything else we should know but didn’t ask about? I wonder how much education is going to change due to Covid-19; I am wondering what the classrooms of the future are going to look like; and these are some things we’re talking about at Sinclair by having every modality that you can have in one classroom. Have the faculty in the classroom, the students can be online if they want to. They can be in the competency-based if they want to; they can be in whatever and it all be ran out of one room. A nicely designed room that have screens and cameras. I think we’re all going to be faced with that. Our enrollment has gone down just a little bit, but we still have a lot of students; and I think a lot of other schools do especially in technology. Now when we open our doors and students attend face-to-face will the enrollment go up? Will it stay the same? Will we have a lot more students going into technology because there’s job security right now? Because a lot of people lost their job over Covid-19, but they saw in the IT sector everybody held their job. I think students are going to start coming to IT; and are we ready to service those students that are ready for a job change? Do we have the right classes? Do we have the right programs? I’m even thinking conferences, how are our conferences going to look in the future now that we’ve been so integrated with Zoom? Our school hated Zoom. We were such a face-to-face college. Everything was face-to-face. We’ve had to change all of that. In the future are we going to have options to attend conferences to where it’s virtual and physical at the same time so you can jump into the session on Zoom or walk into the session? Do we see a whole new future in delivery and how we interact with students? I don’t know, and I think that’s what a lot of the schools are going to be looking at. What do you think the future of your class is going to look like?

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