This weekend marks the end of CyberPatriot VI with the National Competition at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. It has been an amazing journey these last few months guiding and training these brilliant young minds at Troy High School. As my responsibilities and duties conclude for this season of CyberPatriot VI, I reflect upon the joys, the frustrations, the highs and the lows. And yet, I can not help but smile and experience joy at every moment. Honestly, I felt like I got the better end of the deal. I gained so much more and grew in so many ways that I think my mentees’ do not even realize.
I want to say it’s easy being a cybersecurity mentor, but it is almost like a full time job. Thankfully my fellow colleagues at Net Force has been gracious enough to allow me some leeway to make up some hours in the evening during mentorship sessions. Thank you to my colleagues for the flexibility and patience on my ever changing schedules.
I am extremely proud of each member of this year’s CyberPatriot VI team at Troy High School. I kept throwing more at them and they kept rising to the challenge.
I encourage everyone to consider mentoring a team or a few students next year. It is extremely rewarding emotionally, spiritually.
To next year’s mentors:
- Care for your mentees. Make that emotional investment. There is nothing more rewarding when they see you and their faces light up. Especially in victories, when they see you and they will come running to you and hugging you. You will in many ways become an older brother/sister figure in their lives.
- Be patient. Be compassionate. Be merciful. Be full of grace and forgiveness. Mentees will drive you crazy. Mentees will make mistakes. This is all part of the learning process. That is why they are here: to learn, to grow.
- Be accessible. Be available. Students hear the word mentor and they automatically put distance between themselves and you. Close the gap and engage them. Engage all of them. Even that shy mentee in the corner. Get to know who they are.
- Encourage your mentees. Build them up. It is easy to become discouraged. Each student has unlimited potential. We as mentors need to teach them how to harness that potential.
- Everything matters. The technical skills. The soft skills. The behavior. Who they become as an individual. Help them to become better men and women. Groom them to be polite, respectful, honorable young men and women. They will adopt your behavior, your good and bad habits. Chivalry is not dead. 😉
- It is okay to not know everything. I will be the first to say I don’t know everything or anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for resources, help, guidance and wisdom. I attribute much of my success with my group of mentees this year was not of my own knowledge or doing, but going out and asking questions, and seeing how my professors and other coaches/mentors approach things and actively listening to them. Everyone will share with you a small bit of information which will tell you what worked, and what didn’t work for them. Focus on your strengths. Identify your weaknesses. Let those who have strengths in your weaknesses help you.
- Most importantly: what you do matters. By being a part of their lives, you will shift their lives in ways you will never know or understand. Positively influence them. You will inspire them to achieve great things.
To my mentees/protégés/future colleagues/friends/brothers in cybersecurity:
- If you happen to win this week, awesome, but give it your all. Have no regrets. At the end of the competition, walk away with your heads held high knowing you did your best at that moment in time.
- Be confident in your skills. You know your stuff. You have been preparing this entire academic year. You are ready. Remember, this is a journey of a lifetime. This is only the beginning of something amazing. Not the end. Tomorrow is and will be another day. This is the time of your lives right now. You’re never going to forget it. It will be all over in a moment. No sad faces. No regrets. Just go out there tomorrow and have a blast. Live it. Carpé Momentum. (Seize the Moment). Have fun.
- I have complete confidence in each of your abilities, talents, skills, knowledge.
- I’m extremely proud of each and everyone of you. Each of you have grown so much and I can not stress that each of you are amazing individuals. You’ve won my admiration, my respect, and I look forward to the day each of you join the ranks in this industry full-time. Each of you have accomplished much this year, and to the senior class that is leaving high school, I hope all of you will return and mentor future CyberPatriot teams and individuals. I hope you also look at being part of the US Cyber Challenge as well
If you are in the National Harbor, MD or DC Metro Area this week, I encourage everyone to come out this Friday, March 28 and check out CyberPatriot VI. Tours will be given all day at the competition venue (Gaylord National Center)