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May the workForce be with Black Tech Experts

If you are a Star Wars fan, then you have heard of May the 4th.

On this day, it’s not uncommon for Star Wars fans to say, “May The Fourth be with You,” a play on words from “May the Force be with you,” a common saying among Jedi and believers in the “Force” in the Star Wars franchise.

To help all you non-fans, Obi-Wan Kenobi (character in the series) said to Luke Skywalker, “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

The Jedi were crucial in the Star Wars series to fight the deceptive efforts of Darth Vadar (voiced by James Earl Jones) of the Galactic Empire. Before the world of AI or artificial intelligence, smartphones, and flashy tech gadgets, Star Wars was already introducing the community to cyber threats and what we could look forward to in the future.

For instance, the Rebel Alliance, along with the Jedi (the good guys), was able to get the enemy’s top-secret plans because they captured a robot (R2-D2) that held the Empire’s plan for the ultimate weapon. Like any good hacker, they tapped into the robot and wrinkled the plans.
The world of hacking or ethical hacking—identifying security vulnerabilities that can then be resolved before a malicious attacker has the opportunity to exploit them—is big business in San Antonio. State and federal organizations hope to build San Antonio’s cyber security infrastructure to become a hub for combating cyber threats.

For starters, San Antonio is home to the 16th Air Force, known as Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – which now all have specific cyber defense and investigation teams, according to the San Antonio Report.

Local community colleges and universities are also ramping up their Information Technology or IT course offerings to build the next generation of Jedi masters or analysts. The University of Texas at San Antonio was selected to join the U.S. Cyber Command Academic Engagement Network, one of 11 combatant commands of the U.S. Department of Defense. San Antonio’s only HBCU, St. Philip’s College, will offer a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Cybersecurity starting this fall semester. Northwest Vista College will also offer a bachelor’s degree in Cloud Computing in the fall. Both St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista are a part of the Alamo Colleges District.

Texas is also number three in the nation’s employment levels of information security analysts. National salaries for an entry-level cyber security analyst with an associate’s degree is $66,286 – $69,879, according to Salary.com. And for students who continue to a bachelor’s degree, the entry-level wage in the Alamo region is $75,017. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career field is expected to grow 32% (much faster than average). Another indicator is that Cyber Seek provides a snapshot map of the demand and supply of cybersecurity jobs, which is available on its website. In Texas, it reports a little over 36,000 online job openings.

However, the Black community has some catching up to do if it wants to be considered for those 36,000-plus jobs. Hiring managers told Axios magazine in 2023 that the industry is still behind in creating a workplace that ensures new African American hires stay in the field long-term. Only 6.8% of chief information security officers identified as Black or African American in 2021, according to recruiting site Zippia. And Black talent makes up 15% of the overall cybersecurity workforce, according to a McKinsey report.

Thankfully, several small to large nonprofits have been springing up that focus on bringing more Black workers to the technology space. From Aug. 19-21 in Houston, the 6th Annual Black Is Tech Conference takes place. This conference includes speaking stages with over 150 speakers and an expo with over 50 companies recruiting. This year, organizers are expecting 6,000 attendees in person for the conference’s main event and 10,000 attendees across all of Houston for the Black Is Tech Week.

So there’s hope for the Black “Work Force” (let’s bring it back to Star Wars) in fighting cyber crime. If Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) was fighting with the good guys in the Star Wars franchise’s “Empire Strikes Back,” and Samuel L. Jackson was a head honcho in the Jedi High Council, then there’s hope for more Black Jedi tech experts.

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