Trend Forward Academy: Talent for the Future

Keegan Simzer
Nov 2, 2020 · 4 min read

How Trend Forward Academy is bridging the gap between talent and opportunity.

Picture from one of the graduation ceremonies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of virtual working, banking, shopping, and B2B practices globally. Meeting the cybersecurity challenges attending this rapid shift has placed tremendous demand on an industry already facing significant skills gaps. Gartner estimated a global shortage of some 2-million cybersecurity professionals at the end of 2019 and was tracking a 65% rise in info-sec job openings in the US alone in the first few months of the current pandemic.

The global skills gap does not reflect a lack of engineering or information and communication technology (ICT) graduates. Rather, graduates face a dearth of opportunity to acquire the initial level of hands-on info-sec experience that the industry seeks. Raw talent repeatedly comes up against a job market insisting on ‘plug-and-play’ industry pros.

As the non-profit arm of Trend Forward Capital, Trend Forward Academy (TFA) has been investing internationally in progressive recruitment and training initiatives aimed at bridging this impasse. In Egypt, where a wealth of young engineering and business talent faces underemployment coupled with a scarcity of quality post-graduate training, TFA has been delivering two flagship talent incubation programs since 2016.

First, the Certificate Program in IT Security (CPITS) offers engineering graduates an intensive 8-week introduction to cybersecurity fundamentals and Trend Micro’s industry-leading enterprise solutions. Following certification, TFA works to place graduates in a variety of roles in the industry, allowing them to launch careers, either with Trend Micro itself or with trusted partner companies. As of 2020, 100 young Egyptians, 3 Jordanians, and 10 Saudis had graduated from the CPITS program and entered the industry. 58 of these CPITS grads are now playing a key role in driving Trend Micro’s fast-growing MENA business.

“CPITS has given me a great opportunity. It’s allowed me to fill a knowledge gap regarding cybersecurity, helped me to understand the business needs of this industry, the best ways to improve myself and my skills, and shown me how to enjoy the journey!”

- Mohamed Khaled

Sales Engineer, MENA Cloud Team, Trend Micro

CPITS graduate, Egypt, 2016

“The program helped put me on the right track directly after graduation: getting well-trained by top experts in cybersecurity, and then getting really good experience in specialist security and cloud technologies. At the same time, I’ve benefitted from chances to learn more about myself in the context of business.”

- Shereen Lotfy

Sales Operations Specialist, North Africa, Trend Micro

CPITS graduate, Egypt, 2017

Second, TFA’s General Markets (GM) program offers an analogous incubation pathway for young Egyptian business, marketing, and communications graduates. The GM program provides fresh talent with hands-on training in customer care, sales, and marketing. Of the 19 graduates to pass through the Egypt GM program so far, 10 have been hired full-time by Trend Micro, while TFA supported the remaining 9 to find career opportunities elsewhere in the tech industries.

Picture of the graduates from one of the graduation ceremonies.

“The GM program was so beneficial! It had a great impact on me, increasing my knowledge about cybersecurity, which was a new topic for me. I had a general understanding regarding I.T. but had never thought that I’d be able to take a professional step into the field. Overall, the program helped me discover things about myself and to expand my capabilities.”

- Salma Muhammed

Marketing Specialist, North Africa & Levant, Trend Micro

GM graduate, Egypt, 2018

By bridging the gap between raw talent and industry know-how, TFA’s talent incubation programs in Egypt offer one model for confronting the cybersecurity skills gap in a developing market. Given an initial investment of faith and training, young talent is soon able to contribute value and energy to an industry that is rich in opportunities for further professional development. TFA’s Egypt program graduates now work globally, from Singapore to Ottawa, developing career paths across the cybersecurity industry — in sales, threat research, marketing, technical support, cloud security, sales operations, program management, and more.

In summer 2020, graduates of our CPITS and GM program designed and delivered an 8-week remote cybersecurity internship for Egyptian engineering undergraduates. The program offered a thorough introduction to the field for the next generation of talent in the region. It also illustrated the kind of innovative knowledge-transfer and network-building required to better link our industry with the resources that will determine its future as we continue to address the cybersecurity skills gap.

A special thank you to Amy Ma and the Trend Forward Academy team for their help with this article.

Interested in learning more? Check out Trend Micro’s CPITS Program website for more details and the latest updates. You can also contact us at goahead@trendforward.com for more information.

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