When Tim Byrd took the job as TIAA Chief Information Security Officer in 2019, he faced a major challenge: Hiring and keeping employees. But he wasn’t surprised. Competition for talent has been stiff for several years.
“Cybercrime is growing exponentially, and businesses are facing a critical shortage of cybersecurity talent due to a lack of skills and a highly competitive market,” he said. “In 2021, the global shortfall is about 3.5 million unfilled jobs.”
To address the issue Byrd and a team of cross-functional leaders developed a program where any TIAA employee with a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree can apply to earn a master’s degree for virtually free, and any TIAA employee can attain an introductory certificate in the field for a low cost.
The innovative partnership with NYU Tandon recently earned a CSO50 Award, which recognizes organizations for security projects and initiatives demonstrating outstanding business value and thought leadership.
“This program has been a game-changer for us, and it’s gratifying to have our work recognized in this way,” Byrd said. “Turnover has been a significant problem throughout the industry, and we’ve been able to mitigate the cybersecurity talent shortage by developing skills internally and creating a pipeline of future resources to help us meet our clients’ high expectations.”
How we’re investing in our people
Currently, 50 TIAA employees are participating in the program with NYU Tandon, which has two components:
- Cyber Fellows program – This initiative is only for those with STEM degrees. NYU Tandon offers a scholarship that covers 75 percent of the tuition. TIAA offers a tuition reimbursement program that could cover the rest.
- Bridge to NYU Tandon – An employee without a STEM degree can earn a certificate through a NYU Tandon non-credit course that introduces computer science and prepares students for the Cyber Fellows program or one of NYU’s other master's programs. The cost: $1,850. Cybersecurity’s training budget covers the cost for existing cybersecurity employees.
Ron Barthel, Director of Cybersecurity Awareness at TIAA, is currently enrolled in the Cyber Fellows curriculum. He raves about it and its mission to help close the talent gap.
“I began classes in September 2019 and have been taking one to two classes each semester,” he said. “I am about to finish my seventh course and am on track to earn my degree in a few more semesters. The program is demanding, especially with three boys, ages 1, 8, and 9, but I actively apply what I learn each day at work. I’ve also really enjoyed mentoring and networking with others across TIAA who are just getting started in the program.”
The program has also been a new-employee recruitment tool, paying off in unexpected ways.
“In addition to developing a pipeline of future talent, improving morale, raising engagement scores, and helping with retention, we recently had a recruitment event, attracting more than 50 potential candidates. When we can have the pick of the best, that’s a win for everyone, including our clients,” Byrd said.