Montreat College cybersecurity students recently gained practical experience by attending two conferences: DerbyCon in Louisville, Ky., and RETR3AT, which was hosted by Montreat College.

Two faculty members and 22 students from Montreat College attended DerbyCon, a cybersecurity conference which began in 2000. DerbyCon allows students to have fun and develop cyber skills while networking with those in the security community, providing crucial networking opportunities for cybersecurity students.

“At DerbyCon, I learned many valuable things, some being less quantifiable than others,” Montreat cybersecurity student Justin Lance stated. “We had the opportunity to attend this conference where everyone we meet is at the top of their game, and that influences us as students to push ourselves and become better at our craft.”

Students were given further opportunities to enhance their cyber defense knowledge at Montreat’s RETR3AT Cybersecurity Conference, held on October 21. RETR3AT is designed to “engage, educate, and raise awareness about cybersecurity in Western North Carolina and beyond.”

“RETR3AT brings visibility and credibility to the program and the college,” Dr. Jeff Teo said. “The speakers’ range of expertise is impressive and comes from various industries such as the government, faith-based organizations, law, finance/banking, health care, and retail. RETR3AT provides tier-one technical presentations and networking opportunities for attendees and students in the Western North Carolina area and its surrounding cities. Our speakers share the values espoused by the college, making it particularly important for our students to network with them for industry connections and mentoring opportunities.”

Through four main sessions and additional breakout sessions, RETR3AT emphasized the need to be first-responders to cybersecurity threats. Like firefighters, policemen, and EMS are needed to respond quickly to threats and injuries, cyber defenders are needed as first-responders.

“Our program blends technical knowledge with ethics and character formation in a liberal-arts tradition where critical thinking skills, teamwork, effective written and verbal communications are taught and emphasized,” said Teo. “We believe this offering will set our graduates apart in the marketplace to meet the growing shortage of cybersecurity professionals. According to a recent study, in the US alone, some 209,000 cybersecurity jobs are vacant, and the global cybersecurity workforce will have 2 million jobs unfilled by 2019.”

Thanks in part to opportunities like DerbyCon and RETR3AT, Montreat College’s Cybersecurity students are uniquely well prepared both technically and ethically to take on and meet the market’s cyber defense needs.